Religion: The Deuce

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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Jave D » Fri Nov 25, 2011 6:08 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:Jave D I offered just one fact, that at 22 or so weeks a baby can be born alive. That is the only fact in the debate. And that is a fact of convenience, it's not what I want, it's what I can live with. The belief is where each of us think a thing that is important to us happens at, when a baby becomes human or has a soul or whatever metric you might choose.. I don't care what I believe, it's not important, and neither is what you believe or geunther, or DSenette or Zcorp or Azreal or anybody.


Well... if that was the only fact you offered, what was everything else you said? You don't seem to believe it was belief (and certainly, I presume, not faith), and you dismiss opinion and belief as unimportant. So what was it?

If we can't find a place were we all can say, we can live with this, then what outcome would you expect. Recorded history has more examples than you can shake a stick at when we have fought over much less.


Finding that place is not a matter of agreement with each other, it's about changing what we feel to be acceptable. If you wait for us to all agree, you will be waiting a long time. If you wait only to accept that not everyone has the same beliefs you do, you're already there, and dire warnings against fighting will be, at best, only prophecies that can and historically do become self-fulfilling ones.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby morriswalters » Fri Nov 25, 2011 9:32 pm UTC

It's the only fact in the discussion about abortion. As to your second
Jave D wrote:Finding that place is not a matter of agreement with each other, it's about changing what we feel to be acceptable

You don't have to find it acceptable for you, you have to realize that it's a place where our beliefs diverge from fact.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Earl Grey » Fri Nov 25, 2011 10:11 pm UTC

guenther wrote:My point is that faith is not what's causing the problem with poor thinking. If it is causing the problem, then we'd need to get rid of it to improve performance. So this is where I'm predicting, where I'm putting out a testable claim.


This test has been done countless times with conclusive results. Take faith out of the process and performance improves dramatically. It consistently yields less ambiguity and exponentially more objective knowledge (products of better thinking). This process which specifically forbids applications of faith (religious or otherwise) is called: science.

But I'm challenging if in practice faith is corrupting this process. Like if the church had a looser policy on faith or if the person was areligious, would they be better at thinking critically (presuming we control for things like training)? If we were inherently good at this skill, then faith would likely be trouble. But we aren't inherently good at it, and thus I say such a claim of faith causing problems needs to be tested.


Faith does corrupt it in practice. I'm not claiming all faith practices corrupt it to the same degree, but it does happen in practice. If it wasn't clear enough on how, I'll reiterate: It corrupts critical thinking by

- Being by the definitional opposite of uncertainty (the essence of critical thinking). If you have faith in a premise, you are not thinking critically about it.
- Being a neurological form of certainty, which has been proven to be the neurological opposite of uncertainty (the essence of critical thinking). If you have faith in a statement, your brain marks it as fact without need of a vetting process.
- Explicitly engaging cognitive heuristics which result in natural biases which work to distort contradictory evidence (which you must consider accurately when thinking critically).
- With faith as a key to group identity, it corrupts the process by increasing the risks associated with skepticism by tying status within a group to faith premises (making thinking critically unpalatable because it may lead to being outed from your social group)

Correct, we are not inherently good at thinking critically. There are biological realities that impede this. Acts of faith activate many of these areas of fallibility in our thinking, because all acts of certainty, justified or otherwise, activate them. Religious faith activates them as a systemic necessity, which other systems (like political) cannot claim. It is necessary because religion deals with things that exist outside nature. Because they are outside nature, you cannot evaluate them critically. Faith here literally limits the ability to think critically by making non-evaluable referents part of people's decision making processes.

I don't agree here. In fact morality, as you point out with Sam Harris's quote, is often built on unfalsifiable claims that get treated as factually true. And there are certain moral positions that if you challenge, you will get treated as someone bad. And I think you get similar things in politics.


Give me an example of an unprovable and unfalsifiable claim which is required for group membership in a non-religious group and I will be able to respond to this area of disagreement. For clarity, unfalsifiable means actually unable to falsify, not just practically unable to do so.

Faith is not required for this problem to occur, and we can fix the problem without eliminating faith.


I'm not saying these problems are caused by faith. I am saying the religious necessity of faith has the consequence of kicking cognitive biases into gear, thereby improving the chances that problems can arise. When the scientific revolution compartmentalized faith humanity saw undeniable improvements. It didn't eliminate faith, but they correctly identified it as a barrier to good thinking, and so created a process which specifically didn't allow it within that process. The problem comes when religious groups don't compartmentalize faith, and to be fair, it can be very difficult to compartmentalize. But I have yet to see any reason to doubt that faith impedes critical thinking. Dissonance theory explains how individuals can have good critical thinking skills and live by faith in some areas of their lives, but this doesn't negate the conclusion, because our brains reducing dissonance by methods other than changing the challenged belief to fit new evidence is not an example of critical thinking, it is an example of cognitive bias.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Jave D » Fri Nov 25, 2011 10:30 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:It's the only fact in the discussion about abortion.


Well, it doesn't seem that way at all. You offered plenty of other facts, namely about your beliefs and opinions; and you offered those beliefs and opinions too. The point we are both illustrating currently here is that nothing is about simply facts, and that none of our facts are divorced and separated from belief and opinion. As much as one might prefer it to be otherwise. And faith and belief are effectively synonymous here.

My advice, and I hate to offer advice but whatever, is to not put too much faith in having nothing but reason to guide you.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Jave D » Fri Nov 25, 2011 11:29 pm UTC

Earl Grey wrote: Religious faith activates them as a systemic necessity, which other systems (like political) cannot claim. It is necessary because religion deals with things that exist outside nature. Because they are outside nature, you cannot evaluate them critically. Faith here literally limits the ability to think critically by making non-evaluable referents part of people's decision making processes.[//quote]

Religion deals with things that exist in nature. Only in more recent 'definitions' is God considered "supernatural," and certainly every religion deals with issues directly from our gritty, every day lives. Nature is more than simply what can be tested scientifically. (And thank God, too. Else it would be a fucking boring-ass world and scientific tests and results would determine all there is to know about everything.)

And it's interesting you suggest that political systems do not activate "faith" (or certainty) as a necessity, yet any religious grouping, be it a party, an ideology, a nation or state, or faction, are seemingly infested with a lack of critical thinking. It is held by liberalism that liberalism is preferable to conservatism; conservatism hold the opposite. Being a liberal in a conservative social group is less like the threat of being 'expelled' from a religious group and more like the threat of being ripped to pieces and maybe pepper-sprayed. Each group holds its own ways to be preferable; no political group I know of humbly suggests they could be completely wrong about everything they say or publish or believe. Such a notion is an implied and surely systemic lack of willingness to critically examine their own precepts. Evaluating concepts like "vote for Bob So And So" is non-evaluable. And yet you do not suggest that political groups are as limited or unable to think critically as religions are - simply because religions' claims are (I would guess) more "supernatural" and "outlandish" (to your personal tastes).

When the scientific revolution compartmentalized faith humanity saw undeniable improvements.


And undeniable calamities. Which improvements are you choosing to focus on, at the expense of ignoring others, so that science can in this rosy historical picture you're painting be seen as the light that ends the darkness of faith?

But I have yet to see any reason to doubt that faith impedes critical thinking.


Have you looked for reasons to doubt what you believe? Have you looked honestly for a way to prove that the cornerstone and pride of your intellectualism is wrong? I commend you if you really have and urge you to keep looking, because you sound really, really certain right now.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby guenther » Fri Nov 25, 2011 11:41 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:No, I think that there should be separation between Church and State. If some Church is pushing to make their core religious beliefs as law, that is a violation of that principle, and laws to that effect should be struck down. I don't care what the specific belief is; it's irrelevant. It is no longer a question of conscience, but is a question of religious practice.

A church pushing or not pushing is irrelevant. And this irrelevance gives everyone an equal voice. The text of the law and the implications of the law are what matters. (Someone with more legal expertise, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.)

morriswalters wrote:
guenther wrote:We don't all agree that the unborn baby should have the right to live, but from birth forwards we all agree, and thus this is the point of tolerance in the law.
Change "but from birth forwards we all agree" to "but from the point where we know a fetus could be born alive, we can all agree that it is alive," and you have it. As I said, a unsatisfying point where we all can agree.

The number you gave before for this is 22 weeks. So are you saying that number (or something around there) is the cutout that you support for the law? Pregnancies after that should be illegal? If that's the case, I really misread your position before. I thought birth has been the point you've been talking about.

But anyway, there's a point where we know a fetus can be safely delivered, and from that we can all agree that that's when a fetus can be safely delivered. It does not mean we all agree when the fetus should have a right life. A law here is about moral beliefs just like any other point. I.e. it's subjective, it's not about facts.

I'm not sure how much further we want to go on this tangent. I thought I had a good handle on your abortion position, and I was responding to that to talk about the point of tolerance and it's relationship to religion. But now I'm not sure I understand your position anymore, and it seems like the significance to religion has waned.

Earl Grey wrote:This test has been done countless times with conclusive results. Take faith out of the process and performance improves dramatically. It consistently yields less ambiguity and exponentially more objective knowledge (products of better thinking). This process which specifically forbids applications of faith (religious or otherwise) is called: science.

Science consistently yields less ambiguous and more objective knowledge because people know that they should apply it to areas where we can run experiments and get objective data. This is key, and when we can't do this, science becomes a lot weaker. And I agree that faith can be problematic for science, though not necessarily. But I'm not talking about the quality of a process, I'm talking about the quality of a person, specifically the quality of their thinking ability. I'm open to the idea that this has been tested with respect to faith, but I haven't seen it yet.

Earl Grey wrote:Give me an example of an unprovable and unfalsifiable claim which is required for group membership in a non-religious group and I will be able to respond to this area of disagreement. For clarity, unfalsifiable means actually unable to falsify, not just practically unable to do so.

First of all, is there any meaningful difference between something impractically hard to measure and something impossible to measure. Does the neurological process work any differently? My thought is no, but perhaps you're more familiar with this.

But to answer your question, people consistently put normative claims into the realm of untestability. It gets compartmentalized as something you either need to accept or reject, not something that needs to be defended with evidence. And in that light, they frame moral issues in ways that are not testable, like with unqualified statements of what people should do, or by describing them with objectively vague terms like right and wrong. And there are a lot of examples where rejecting these gets you socially isolated within a group pretty quickly. A straightforward one is "Rape is wrong". And one with more modern-day controversy is "Homosexuality is OK".

Earl Grey wrote:I'm not saying these problems are caused by faith. I am saying the religious necessity of faith has the consequence of kicking cognitive biases into gear, thereby improving the chances that problems can arise.

You are making a testable claim about consequences. Who has measured the likelihood of cognitive biases causing problems and connected this with faith?
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby morriswalters » Sat Nov 26, 2011 12:15 am UTC

guenther wrote:The number you gave before for this is 22 weeks. So are you saying that number (or something around there) is the cutout that you support for the law? Pregnancies after that should be illegal? If that's the case, I really misread your position before. I thought birth has been the point you've been talking about.

Yes and no. Putting my personal beliefs aside, this is the point I would write law to. The argument from my perspective is, we all agree that a baby who is born alive deserves protection. We know that at around 22 weeks a baby can be born alive and survive. This then is the point where everyone can operate from fact.

Before or after this we must be guided by belief, or opinion if you will. What I actually believe is that there is no point where you can say this child is not a person. I'm not comfortable with abortion at all. But I can offer no definitive proof, so the point I have chosen is what I can know something about.

Jave D I have offered opinions about what I believe. I don't confuse what I believe with fact. From my perspective this discussion is not about abortion at all. It's about defining tolerance, giving meaning to the question, how can we reconcile our beliefs?
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby jules.LT » Sat Nov 26, 2011 4:35 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:we all agree that a baby who is born alive deserves protection

Don't take that for granted. Remember the Peter Singer link from last page?
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby morriswalters » Sat Nov 26, 2011 5:21 am UTC

I read it, but that is an opinion or a belief. I don't say that a baby is conscious or anything other than that it can exist as a separate life and can have a point of view. I don't state that as anything other than a observable fact, independent of belief.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby guenther » Sun Nov 27, 2011 8:33 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:I read it, but that is an opinion or a belief. I don't say that a baby is conscious or anything other than that it can exist as a separate life and can have a point of view. I don't state that as anything other than a observable fact, independent of belief.

Maybe jules.LT's point is that regardless of why Singer believes what he does, not everyone agrees that a baby born alive deserves protection from post-birth abortion.

To the rest of your previous post, thanks for helping me understand. I don't personally have any issue with the 22 week mark. However, we can operate from various facts throughout the pregnancy. At conception, there's the fact that a sperm and an egg have combined to make a future human. And all through out, there are a number of facts regarding women and the repercussions of legally forcing them to full term. But it's all a matter of opinion about which of these facts are relevant, and of those which take priority. So I don't think the ground upon which you stand is more fact-based than any other.

Anyway, as I said before, I'm all for finding common ground. But I'm not holding my breath on that happening anytime on this issue. You've mentioned tolerance, and I think the key is that we promote this even when (and especially when) there seems to be no common ground on the law. This is not a point of maximum legal tolerance, but rather a tolerance of how we regard and treat people. And I am all for holding religious groups to this.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby morriswalters » Sun Nov 27, 2011 4:18 pm UTC

guenther wrote:Maybe jules.LT's point is that regardless of why Singer believes what he does, not everyone agrees that a baby born alive deserves protection from post-birth abortion.

To the rest of your previous post, thanks for helping me understand. I don't personally have any issue with the 22 week mark. However, we can operate from various facts throughout the pregnancy. At conception, there's the fact that a sperm and an egg have combined to make a future human. And all through out, there are a number of facts regarding women and the repercussions of legally forcing them to full term. But it's all a matter of opinion about which of these facts are relevant, and of those which take priority. So I don't think the ground upon which you stand is more fact-based than any other.


We can operate from our various beliefs about the facts. This is the salient difference. The fact that the sperm and the egg have combined is the fact, our belief is about what that represents is the point of conflict. What Singer is saying is that he believes something about the fact, rather than the fact itself. The 22 week point is completely arbitrary. But at this point you can no longer debate the fact that the baby could exist as an individual, apart from its mother. That doesn't require belief, it can be demonstrated. At that point it shares something we accept as fact about ourselves. That we exist independently of anyone else, as individuals. I can tolerate any ones belief if we can agree that this point represents our commonality, the only point where our beliefs about the facts coincide. This is where tolerance is, and as such where the law should be. If you can't understand this then I haven't helped you understand anything, and for that I am sorry.

I don't really think you have thought through the ramifications of this and how it would impact all the players in this debate. By implication all abortions after 22 weeks would be banned for any reason. If the pregnancy had to be terminated after 22 weeks to protect the mother, you would have to try to save the baby even if it endangers the mother. No exceptions for rape or physical defect after this point. No restrictions on stem cell research, no judicial possibility of accusing the perpetrator of an assault against the mother of murder if the fetus dies as a result of the assault if it is less than 22 weeks and no way to escape it after 22 weeks. And if Science can move the point back before 22 weeks then the law would have to move with it. Think about what tolerance implies for everybody.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby guenther » Sun Nov 27, 2011 4:49 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:This is where tolerance is, and as such where the law should be. If you can't understand this then I haven't helped you understand anything, and for that I am sorry.

Thank you for being patient. Throughout this I have moved from understanding and disagreeing, understanding and agreeing, to just not understanding what you're talking about. Now I'm somewhere in the middle. :)

This is really as far as I want to carry the abortion debate in the religion thread. If you want to continue it, feel free to point me to the appropriate thread, or you can PM me. On the point of tolerance, it's fine to talk about some legal point of tolerance, but from a moral perspective, this is not what I consider to be the most important type of tolerance. I tried to lay out my view on this as clearly as I could, and I don't know what else to say on the matter.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby morriswalters » Sun Nov 27, 2011 6:16 pm UTC

I suppose I haven't been clear enough that this is not about abortion. It's about tolerance, which is about finding a place in the world where we can decide that, at that place, we have found the minimum that we must require of others, so as to respect, both our own beliefs, as well as theirs.

Morals are a product of your beliefs. Everything you are is a product of your beliefs. This is true for me as well. It's finding a way to reconcile those two positions. that we are discussing. Abortion merely provides a focus to investigate it. However you are correct, continuing is pointless. If I haven't been able to convey my point than it either doesn't exist or there isn't a way for me to convey it. However, it has been illuminating for me as it has helped crystallize certain ideas for me.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby guenther » Sun Nov 27, 2011 11:34 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:It's about tolerance, which is about finding a place in the world where we can decide that, at that place, we have found the minimum that we must require of others, so as to respect, both our own beliefs, as well as theirs.

I understand what you're saying about tolerance; I just don't think that place you describe is well-defined. And I don't think the process of offering respect has to start by finding that place. We have to deal with the fact that we currently can't reconcile our different positions, but how we treat each other still matters a great deal.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby morriswalters » Mon Nov 28, 2011 1:02 am UTC

guenther wrote:We have to deal with the fact that we currently can't reconcile our different positions, but how we treat each other still matters a great deal.


That's called coexistence not tolerance. I agree that we can't reconcile our positions. At no point have you said anything that would indicate that you are willing to reconcile them. I don't criticize that, because it was never about you or what you believe. The conversation could just as well have been about finding out if I could tolerate the fence my neighbor built over my property line, or my finding out how much pain in my knees I can tolerate before I'm driven to surgery. Anyway, I hope you had a good Thanksgiving, I did. And just this once it looks like I will finish my Christmas shopping early. :lol:
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby guenther » Mon Nov 28, 2011 6:37 am UTC

My willingness or lack thereof can be part of another thread.  And my day of heavily overeating went pretty well.  I did in fact overeat.  :)  And my wife and I seem to have started a tradition of being up at stupid hours to be a part of the Black Friday frenzy.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Nem » Tue Nov 29, 2011 7:52 am UTC

Jave D wrote:Have you looked for reasons to doubt what you believe? Have you looked honestly for a way to prove that the cornerstone and pride of your intellectualism is wrong? I commend you if you really have and urge you to keep looking, because you sound really, really certain right now.


Uhm - that one's actually fairly easy, at least assuming that his beliefs in this regard relate to evaluable referents. (Which they should, given it's his intellectualism you're criticising.) Such beliefs can be used to predictive ends, they say something about the way the world got to how it is today and, consequently, about how it will be tomorrow. If his beliefs are wrong (or inaccurate in some major way), then whenever he makes predictions based on them there'll be a very good chance those predictions will be wrong.

If it is a corner-stone of his intellectualism, then you imagine that he'll be using it to make predictions quite a lot. So, he should have been able to develop a high degree of confidence in it by now....
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Earl Grey » Thu Dec 01, 2011 7:46 pm UTC

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving weekend (and a good larger-part-of-this-week). Time to resume, I guess.

guenther wrote:You are making a testable claim about consequences. Who has measured the likelihood of cognitive biases causing problems and connected this with faith?


The tobacco industry once adopted a PR policy that sounded similar to this. They said, "We don't believe smoking causes cancer because no one has done a specific and controlled test to prove it." It's a form of the Burden of Proof fallacy. In the tobacco case, the study they would accept as evidence wouldn't be done because it's unethical. Nevertheless, valid evidence came from related studies. In our case a narrowly focused study is also not needed and valid evidence still exists. Harris' fMri data shows us that, in his words, "belief is belief is belief", and beliefs are subject to cognitive bias (I've tried to avoid 'plugging' Michael Shermer's recent book 'The Believing Brain' too much, but it really is a great distillation of a lot of research which supports this conclusion. If you don't want to take my word for it, it is a well cited, well written book that's worth your time). The fact that cognitive biases are problematic to decision making and ascertaining the truth is also not in question. The scientific method was developed to combat this. Also, there is a significant body of academic writing on the subject of bias in the justice system, for example, from police officers to jurors, and nearly all of it discusses how and why it causes problems and how it might be reduced in the process.

guenther wrote:First of all, is there any meaningful difference between something impractically hard to measure and something impossible to measure[?]


The initial reason I included the stipulation of practicality was to head general silliness off at the pass, even though I didn't think it was likely to come up. For example, someone can hold the belief that in a thousand years it will be raining in location X, or the belief that 9.2 billion raindrops will fall on a city over the course of the day. These statements are technically falsifiable, but the efforts required to obtain the evidence are well beyond the limits of practicality. Again, I didn't think these sorts of things were likely to be a problem (and it doesn't look like they will) but I wanted to be clear anyway.

But now that you've got me thinking about falsifiability some more, and given that it's part of an important section in my argument, an even greater degree of clarity will probably be helpful.

After poking around the web for a few minutes, I've found someone else has written a great description of falsifiability, the relevant bits of which I'll include in spoiler now:

Spoiler:
(i)Any claim that could not be falsified would be devoid of any propositional content; that is, it would not be making a factual assertion — it would instead be making an emotive statement, a declaration of the way the claimant feels about the world. Nonfalsifiable claims do communicate information, but what they describe is the claimant’s value orientation. They communicate nothing whatsoever of a factual nature, and hence are neither true nor false. Nonfalsifiable statements are propositionally vacuous.

(ii)There are two principal ways in which the rule of falsifiability can be violated — two ways, in other words, of making nonfalsifiable claims. The first variety of nonfalsifiable statements is the undeclared claim: a statement that is so broad or vague that it lacks any propositional content. The undeclared claim is basically unintelligible and consequently meaningless. Consider, for example, the claim that crystal therapists can use pieces of quartz to restore balance and harmony to a person’s spiritual energy. What does it mean to have unbalanced spiritual energy? How is the condition recognized and diagnosed? What evidence would prove that someone’s unbalanced spiritual energy had been — or had not been — balanced by the application of crystal therapy? Most New Age wonders, in fact, consist of similarly undeclared claims that dissolve completely when exposed to the solvent of rationality.

(iii)The second variety of nonfalsifiable statements, which is even more popular among paranormalists, involves the use of the multiple out, that is, an inexhaustible series of excuses intended to explain away the evidence that would seem to falsify the claim. Creationists, for example, claim that the universe is no more than 10,000 years old. They do so despite the fact that we can observe stars that are billions of light-years from the earth, which means that the light must have left those stars billions of years ago, and which proves that the universe must be billions of years old. How then do the creationists respond to this falsification of their claim? By suggesting that God must have created the light already on the way from those distant star at the moment of creation 10,000 years ago. No conceivable piece of evidence, of course, could disprove that claim.


To summarize, unfalsifiable statements boil down to three categories: emotive statements (which are "propositionally vacuous", not factual in nature), undeclared claims (so vague it can be interpreted to fit any evidence), and multiple-outs (endless explanations to explain away falsifying evidence).

Your examples of "rape is wrong" and "homosexuality is ok" are clearly in the emotive category. They are moral statements that likely stem from factually examinable experiences somewhere, but they are not factual claims by themselves. By contrast, "rape is psychologically damaging to victims" and "homosexuality is not directly psychologically damaging to homosexuals" are falsifiable claims whose soundness or unsoundness should probably be considered when adopting moral stances on these issues.

Secondly, the spoilered section contains an example of the undeclared claim: the vague metaphysics of New Age crystal treatments. These are not factual claims by virtue of not actually getting specific enough. If you say that crystals harmonize energy, but don't define 'harmonize' or 'energy', you may as well have said "crystals snuffleupagus the doohickies". You can't falsify what you have no hope of understanding. As soon as you force specifics (such as, crystals improve blood flow or ph-balance your urine) you will have falsifiable claims to work with.

Lastly, the spoilered section uses a religious example for the multiple-outs, but a non-religious example might be "the reason there's no evidence of alien visitation to earth is because there's a government conspiracy that withholds all evidence". The absence of evidence is conveniently explained away behind an inaccessible wall, or worse, any evidence that does come up is actually part of the cover-up conspiracy. This case actually does deal with factual claims which are specific enough to deal with, if you could access the evidence. You can't examine the missing evidence, but you can at least look for evidence of a cover-up conspiracy. People who are irrationally committed to the idea of such a cover up usually end up arguing that government agents execute the covering-up so flawlessly that they must actually have supernatural powers for it to have taken place.

Unfalsifiable statements are examples of faulty reasoning. They are factually bankrupt. You can't confirm their veracity, and yet New Age healers and UFO Conspiracy theorists hang on to their faulty conclusions and live their lives as if the conclusions were true. People can only hold these beliefs if they disregard the conclusions critical examination would yield.

In theology, both of these kinds of unfalsifiable statements are employed, with a heavy reliance on the latter. The 'multiple-out' in religion's case isn't a a cover-up conspiracy, but an omnipotent supernatural being who is ultimately unknowable, and can manipulate reality in ways undetectable by us. In terms of verifiability, God is effectively the same as secret government agents who never leave a shred of physical evidence.

Where religion differs is important. Because government agents (human beings) are known to be fallible, we know it's impossible for a 100% success rate at suppressing evidence. A deity faces no such restriction, and this is the only reason religious belief can be deemed more reasonable than conspiracy theory. Also, while it is entirely possible to imagine a conspiracy theory group or other secular institution precluding membership if faith (or faith-like acceptance) requirements are not met, invoking the supernatural is the only truly unassailable unfalsifiable. You can take someone being vague (the undeclared claim) to task. You can eventually corner the multiple-out as long as it doesn't deal with magic (or sufficiently advanced technology indistinguishable from magic, which is still technically falsifiable unlike magic).

Does the neurological process work any differently? My thought is no, but perhaps you're more familiar with this.


No, it doesn't work any differently. People who irrationally put stock into falsifiable statements and people who put stock into unfalsifiable ones face the same kinds of obstacles. The difference is, religious unfalsifiables are a systemic necessity, and ultimately unassailable. This makes theology-based worldviews riskier than worldviews that can at least theoretically be corrected by objective, critical examination.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby morriswalters » Thu Dec 01, 2011 8:25 pm UTC

Earl Grey wrote:Where religion differs is important. Because government agents (human beings) are known to be fallible, we know it's impossible for a 100% success rate at suppressing evidence.


You don't know any such thing. The only exemplars are of failure. By definition if anyone had been able to do so you wouldn't know. All you really know is that Government agents that you aware of are fallible and have never had a 100 percent success rate. Which is why conspiracies thrive. That shows that conspiracy theories are almost certainly hokum. You can never show that they absolutely are false.

Earl Grey wrote:(iii)The second variety of nonfalsifiable statements, which is even more popular among paranormalists, involves the use of the multiple out, that is, an inexhaustible series of excuses intended to explain away the evidence that would seem to falsify the claim. Creationists, for example, claim that the universe is no more than 10,000 years old. They do so despite the fact that we can observe stars that are billions of light-years from the earth, which means that the light must have left those stars billions of years ago, and which proves that the universe must be billions of years old. How then do the creationists respond to this falsification of their claim? By suggesting that God must have created the light already on the way from those distant star at the moment of creation 10,000 years ago. No conceivable piece of evidence, of course, could disprove that claim.


Be sure to understand what this means. It means that things that can't be falsified shouldn't be studied, not that they are true or false. What I said to myself while shaving happened but it's not worth studying. And if I had stated a theory which connected all the dots in Cosmology, it still wouldn't be worth studying unless I live to repeat it or to record it.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Earl Grey » Thu Dec 01, 2011 11:27 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:Which is why conspiracies thrive. That shows that conspiracy theories are almost certainly hokum. You can never show that they absolutely are false.


You are correct, and I am corrected on my absolute percentage. The key point is that regardless of likelihood, dealing with unfalsifiables does not produce knowledge. It's important to recognize that producing the feeling of knowledge (conviction) and producing actual knowledge are not the same thing, and holding unfalsifiable premises up so high in importance can cause mutual exclusion between conviction and real knowledge. When real knowledge is relegated to the lower position in the hierarchy (which cognitive heuristics can do unconsciously for us) it is problematic.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby morriswalters » Fri Dec 02, 2011 12:38 am UTC

I just wanted to be clear, I'm not being picky. In terms of facts I agree. But IMHO the further away we get from what is in front of our eyes the further from fact. Quantum Physics is magic to some people and not unreasonably so. The point is that knowledge past a certain point is magic in any practical sense. I will never be able to test that knowledge. I have to accept it on faith. I recognize that it is different from Religious faith. But not that much different. Most people will never be able to access that knowledge in a useful way or to connect the dots when practical uses become common.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby guenther » Fri Dec 02, 2011 2:20 am UTC

Earl Grey wrote:The tobacco industry once adopted a PR policy that sounded similar to this. They said, "We don't believe smoking causes cancer because no one has done a specific and controlled test to prove it." It's a form of the Burden of Proof fallacy. In the tobacco case, the study they would accept as evidence wouldn't be done because it's unethical. Nevertheless, valid evidence came from related studies. In our case a narrowly focused study is also not needed and valid evidence still exists. Harris' fMri data shows us that, in his words, "belief is belief is belief", and beliefs are subject to cognitive bias (I've tried to avoid 'plugging' Michael Shermer's recent book 'The Believing Brain' too much, but it really is a great distillation of a lot of research which supports this conclusion. If you don't want to take my word for it, it is a well cited, well written book that's worth your time). The fact that cognitive biases are problematic to decision making and ascertaining the truth is also not in question. The scientific method was developed to combat this. Also, there is a significant body of academic writing on the subject of bias in the justice system, for example, from police officers to jurors, and nearly all of it discusses how and why it causes problems and how it might be reduced in the process.

I'm not disputing that beliefs are subject to cognitive biases, or that cognitive biases can cause problems. You said that faith increases the chance that the problems can arise. I want to know how you know this. Does Harris' study show this? Does Shermer's book make that case? Who has measured the likelihood of this phenomena and shown that it increases with faith? What is the baseline that this increase is measured against? And how is this phenomenon even measured to begin with?

Maybe to you my position seems to be "You can't prove it so, ha!". But that's not what I'm doing. First, your whole case is based on the need for evidence to back up beliefs, so I'm really just holding you to that standard (which I largely aim to hold myself to as well). But second, my position is based on the idea that religious faith gets picked on because it openly exposes the practice of having beliefs without evidence and because the claims are supernatural in nature. You've made a case for how faith can be part of a chain that leads to poor thinking. And while that may be true, how much of that is due to faith causing problems, and how much is due to the fact that we're poor at building good chains, and thus people will stick all sorts of bad stuff in there? If faith is causing problems, then we should be able to demonstrate this by comparing in some way a group that has faith and another group that rejects faith.

And this is not a burden of proof fallacy. You are making the claim about faith causing problems with thinking, and thus it should be on you to back up that claim. There's no ethical constraints keeping anyone from actually looking at this.

Earl Grey wrote:Your examples of "rape is wrong" and "homosexuality is ok" are clearly in the emotive category. They are moral statements that likely stem from factually examinable experiences somewhere, but they are not factual claims by themselves.

Regardless of whether they contain factual information, do people that use them believe they do? People don't simply say "rape is awful" and "homosexuality is fine by me", where the language clearly denotes that it belongs in the emotive category. Rather, they often cloak morality in the language of objective truth, as if these moral claims are facts. And if our language reflects that, might our brain also process it that way? You said exactly this earlier when you noted Sam Harris' statement that people process "torture is wrong" and "2+2=4" in the same way.

These sorts of moral statements are factually bankrupt and they promote faulty reasoning. They make people think in terms of objective morality, when we have no evidential reason to believe it exists. Why do people do this? I suspect that part of the reason is because it makes a stronger case for why we can enforce our morality on others. If moral claims were clearly expressed as feelings, then naturally people would say, "Why should your feelings dictate how I should live my life?" So instead we have language that blurs the line.

And this doesn't just happen with morality. I first started thinking about this stuff in politics. There seems to be a complete lack of interest in building certain kinds of cases out of factually meaningful statements. This is especially true for claims about other people or about what other people are doing. For example, people say things like "They're motivated by hate", or "That's racist/sexist/etc." Regarding the latter, when I was newer here I would consistently challenge charges of racism by citing the definition in the dictionary. That definition was widely rejected (sometimes very explicitly because it was not "useful" enough). So I would ask people to define racism. And while there was broad consensus on whether something should be classified as racist, the definitions they provided were quite diverse. One person simply said it meant a treatment of race that we socially disapprove of. Talk about devoid of facts; that's just overtly cloaking a moral statement as fact! In the end I stopped doing this because people were annoyed and would say "Oh great, we can't discuss racism without talking about how to define it!" They didn't want to be pinned to a definition, to some objective standard. But it didn't stop them from promoting it like objective truth. (As with any generalization, this doesn't apply to everyone. There were definite and numerous exceptions. But I feel this is a fair description of the main vocal objections to what I was saying.)

Earl Grey wrote:No, it doesn't work any differently. People who irrationally put stock into falsifiable statements and people who put stock into unfalsifiable ones face the same kinds of obstacles. The difference is, religious unfalsifiables are a systemic necessity, and ultimately unassailable. This makes theology-based worldviews riskier than worldviews that can at least theoretically be corrected by objective, critical examination.

Religious claims are not unassailable, and people assail them all the time. You are assailing them by calling them risky. Just because you can't falsify something doesn't mean you can't challenge it. And I'm not convinced that if people can theoretically challenge the various elements in their worldview, that they're more likely to do it.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby rhetorical » Tue Dec 06, 2011 8:30 pm UTC

What is the definition of "religion" for this thread? Is it "any faith-based worldview" or "any worldview requiring an entity outside the physical" or something else?
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby guenther » Tue Dec 06, 2011 8:54 pm UTC

The thread doesn't have a definition as far as I know. If you or anyone else wants to make a statement about religion, then just specify to whom it applies. Or if you don't explicitly specify, then people will probably assume that it includes the major religious groups and doesn't include atheist or secular groups. If there's an undefined grey area at the boundaries, then people can ask for clarification.

Personally I use the Dictionary.com definition: "a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs." It's more about the external entity than about the application of faith. Thus you could have religion without faith, and faith without religion.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby rhetorical » Tue Dec 06, 2011 9:22 pm UTC

In that case, it seems that (macro)evolutionary theory is a religion, or at least a faith-based system.

I have never seen any satisfactory evidence or logical argument addressing any of these assumptions of evolutionary theory:
[*] Spontaneous generation occurred sometime in the past.
[*] Bacteria, plants, and animals are all related.
[*] Protozoa gave rise to metazoa.
[*] Various invertebrate phyla are interrelated.
[*] Invertebrates gave rise to vertebrates.
[*] Within the vertebrates, fish gave rise to amphibia, amphibia to reptiles, and reptiles to birds and mammals.

Has there been any evidence presented for these points?
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby guenther » Tue Dec 06, 2011 10:26 pm UTC

rhetorical wrote:In that case, it seems that (macro)evolutionary theory is a religion, or at least a faith-based system.

The existence of gaps in the science doesn't make science a faith-based set of beliefs. Faith is more about how we deal with the gaps. If we acknowledge a lack of ability to validate something yet declare it as true anyway, then that's faith. If we express uncertainty where the evidence is lacking, then that's not faith.

Evolution is a tough thing to study because it's a very slow process, and much of the record of it has been destroyed by time. But there is still a lot that has been preserved, and crafting a theory that describes what we can measure doesn't get diminished by the fact that we can't describe the whole process perfectly from start to finish. The key is that scientific claims of truth need to stay squarely over ground that can be defended by the evidence. And when that ground is shaky, the language switches more to guesses, hypotheses, and theories. Or at least that's how it's supposed to happen.

I think it's fair and good to go poking at evolution and digging into the areas that don't make sense to you. But regardless of the truth of evolution, what scientists are doing with this theory is very different than what religious groups are doing with their theology. I think it muddies the water to try to claim them both as faith.

On your specific points, I'll let someone more knowledgeable cover those details. That's beyond what I know.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Xeio » Tue Dec 06, 2011 10:32 pm UTC

rhetorical wrote:In that case, it seems that (macro)evolutionary theory is a religion, or at least a faith-based system.

I have never seen any satisfactory evidence or logical argument addressing any of these assumptions of evolutionary theory:
The key difference between a theory and a religion is that the latter claims itself to be true. Evolution is a working theory, in that there is a lot of evidence to support it, but it's not complete (hence "theory") or entirely proven. Science is always challenging its own assumptions through experimentation, and if a theory does not line up with the facts then it is discarded or corrected. As guenther said, it's a bit disingenuous to call both "faith", especially since science is willing to throw away its assumptions if they're proven wrong, I don't know many religions that are willing to do the same.
rhetorical wrote:[*] Spontaneous generation occurred sometime in the past.
[*] Bacteria, plants, and animals are all related.
[*] Protozoa gave rise to metazoa.
[*] Various invertebrate phyla are interrelated.
[*] Invertebrates gave rise to vertebrates.
[*] Within the vertebrates, fish gave rise to amphibia, amphibia to reptiles, and reptiles to birds and mammals.

Has there been any evidence presented for these points?
Several of them, yes. In particular the fossil record and DNA are fairly clear indicators of at least the last and second. Though that's if my recollection is mostly accurate, I fear that wikipedia would be a better source than me. :mrgreen:

Ambiogenesis (the first point, if you want google-able term) is one of a bit of contention, and there is no current dominant model. It also makes it tricky in that we can't exactly go back and look. :P
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby rhetorical » Wed Dec 07, 2011 1:57 am UTC

Xeio wrote:
rhetorical wrote:[*] Spontaneous generation occurred sometime in the past.
[*] Bacteria, plants, and animals are all related.
[*] Protozoa gave rise to metazoa.
[*] Various invertebrate phyla are interrelated.
[*] Invertebrates gave rise to vertebrates.
[*] Within the vertebrates, fish gave rise to amphibia, amphibia to reptiles, and reptiles to birds and mammals.

Has there been any evidence presented for these points?
Several of them, yes. In particular the fossil record and DNA are fairly clear indicators of at least the last and second. Though that's if my recollection is mostly accurate, I fear that wikipedia would be a better source than me. :mrgreen:


I've heard "fossil record" cited before, but I've never seen an actual example of "here, this is obvious evidence of evolution." Could you (or someone else) direct me to a specific piece of evidence?

Ambiogenesis (the first point, if you want google-able term) is one of a bit of contention, and there is no current dominant model. It also makes it tricky in that we can't exactly go back and look. :P


But isn't most of evolution based on the fact that life can come from non-living sources? It seems like evolution is a little like "Let's assume abiogenesis, which we have no conclusive evidence for, and then work from there" rather than "We see abiogenesis clearly happened, so what happened from there?"
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Xeio » Wed Dec 07, 2011 4:27 am UTC

rhetorical wrote:But isn't most of evolution based on the fact that life can come from non-living sources? It seems like evolution is a little like "Let's assume abiogenesis, which we have no conclusive evidence for, and then work from there" rather than "We see abiogenesis clearly happened, so what happened from there?"
It's closer to "well, we see evolution happening, and we see evolutionary changes in the fossil record, so how far back does it go?". At some point you reach the "well, where did life begin?" question, and currently the best theory is ambiogenesis, given that there is no more better hypothesis. The origin of life, while an important question along that vein, is not necessary to the evolutionary process except at its earliest stages.

Also, what makes you think scientist have just given up and said "ambiogenesis forever"? That'd be a pretty big hole in the entire theory if they just left it lie without further research. The wikipedia article lists ongoing experiments at least as of 2010 (and I'd assume that's just one of the more notable ones).
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby LaserGuy » Wed Dec 07, 2011 5:22 am UTC

rhetorical wrote:In that case, it seems that (macro)evolutionary theory is a religion, or at least a faith-based system.

I have never seen any satisfactory evidence or logical argument addressing any of these assumptions of evolutionary theory:
[*] Spontaneous generation occurred sometime in the past.


This is not an assumption in evolutionary theory. If anything, evolution and spontaneous generation are mutually incompatible.

rhetorical wrote:[*] Bacteria, plants, and animals are all related.
[*] Protozoa gave rise to metazoa.
[*] Various invertebrate phyla are interrelated.
[*] Invertebrates gave rise to vertebrates.
[*] Within the vertebrates, fish gave rise to amphibia, amphibia to reptiles, and reptiles to birds and mammals.

Has there been any evidence presented for these points?


I recommend you start here. Some of it is a bit technical, but I think it should be enough to answer most, if not all, of your queries.

I'll add in this one too. It gives some examples of observed instances of speciation (evolution of new species) within the last hundred years or so.

[edit]Here's one discussing abiogenesis...
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby nitePhyyre » Wed Dec 07, 2011 11:45 am UTC

rhetorical wrote:[*] Spontaneous generation occurred sometime in the past.

Awesome video talking about abiogenesis in the lab. I used to be skeptical, too. I thought 'Hey, life just happens, ok?' was just a place holder like 'dark energy' is. I'm not anymore.
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It's sooooooooo kewl.

guenther wrote:I'm not disputing that beliefs are subject to cognitive biases, or that cognitive biases can cause problems. You said that faith increases the chance that the problems can arise. I want to know how you know this. Does Harris' study show this? Does Shermer's book make that case? Who has measured the likelihood of this phenomena and shown that it increases with faith? What is the baseline that this increase is measured against? And how is this phenomenon even measured to begin with?

Maybe to you my position seems to be "You can't prove it so, ha!". But that's not what I'm doing. First, your whole case is based on the need for evidence to back up beliefs, so I'm really just holding you to that standard (which I largely aim to hold myself to as well). But second, my position is based on the idea that religious faith gets picked on because it openly exposes the practice of having beliefs without evidence and because the claims are supernatural in nature. You've made a case for how faith can be part of a chain that leads to poor thinking. And while that may be true, how much of that is due to faith causing problems, and how much is due to the fact that we're poor at building good chains, and thus people will stick all sorts of bad stuff in there? If faith is causing problems, then we should be able to demonstrate this by comparing in some way a group that has faith and another group that rejects faith.

And this is not a burden of proof fallacy. You are making the claim about faith causing problems with thinking, and thus it should be on you to back up that claim. There's no ethical constraints keeping anyone from actually looking at this.
I've been following this thread for awhile, and I'm completely lost as to what evidence you are looking for. Take any statement that can be evaluated as true or false. You can use any number of thought processes to decide if the statement is true or not. You can use critical thinking. You can use faith. You can flip a coin. It doesn't matter which one you use, once you've made your decision based on it, it makes using the others impossible. Even if you decided to take an average of every different method known to man, it wouldn't be the same method as flipping a coin. By definition, using faith precludes you from using critical thinking. I don't understand what exactly you are looking for when you ask for evidence. It seems to me like asking "If I turn left, what evidence do you have that I didn't turn right?"

What am I missing?

As to:
You've made a case for how faith can be part of a chain that leads to poor thinking. And while that may be true, how much of that is due to faith causing problems, and how much is due to the fact that we're poor at building good chains, and thus people will stick all sorts of bad stuff in there? If faith is causing problems, then we should be able to demonstrate this by comparing in some way a group that has faith and another group that rejects faith.
People are bad at forming chains, and faith is one of the bad links we use. Here is a list of others. In all honesty, if you take confirmation bias, clustering illusion, Just-world hypothesis, Observer-expectancy effect, Forer effect, and probably some others, and wrap the in a bow, you get faith.

I'd say that the case is more 'faith is bad thinking' rather than it being a step in the chain of bad thinking.

Let's do those comparisons.
Pre-enlightenment Europe vs Post-enlightenment Europe?
After 1000 years of squalor, Europe rejects faith for reason, the birth of the modern world ensues.

Golden age of Islam
After 1000 years of relative prosperity, Islamic nations furiously embrace religion, the collapse of empires and squalor ensues.

Iran in the 70s
After a brief modernization period, Iran creates a religious theocracy, the oppression of the Iranian people ensues.

Rates vis religiosity vis-a-vis Wealth
Image

Same thing, but within the states itself
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby morriswalters » Wed Dec 07, 2011 5:53 pm UTC

nitePhyyre wrote:Pre-enlightenment Europe vs Post-enlightenment Europe?
After 1000 years of squalor, Europe rejects faith for reason, the birth of the modern world ensues.

I just got to ask. How can you possibly relate this to Religion? Just for clarity, how do you distinguish cause and effect? Here's the thing. You can make the argument that the advances are more closely related to gross population than anything else. Followed by the development of the close second, offline data storage, books. The ability to make knowledge widely available, cheaply, has done more to drive innovation than anything else. Good or bad, large populations, under some unifying banner, give you the freedom to have people not directly involved in just surviving. So they have time to look around. The only way to know for sure would be to see a rise to this level absent Religion. And it never happened.
nitePhyyre wrote:Golden age of Islam
After 1000 years of relative prosperity, Islamic nations furiously embrace religion, the collapse of empires and squalor ensues.

Not anywhere as clear as you seem to believe.

Chart one is interesting but not particularly enlightening. Which question does it answer? The obvious one is that poor people have more need of the solace that any kind of faith can bring. It certainly does not prove that they are poor because they are Religious.

Chart two is odd, but it looks like a normal distribution of wealth. No more, no less.

Thought I'd add a chuckler.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Earl Grey » Wed Dec 07, 2011 6:48 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:
Thought I'd add a chuckler.


Out of curiosity, why is the practice of atheist parents informing their children about religion humorous? It just seems sensible to me.

Religious claims are not unassailable, and people assail them all the time. You are assailing them by calling them risky. Just because you can't falsify something doesn't mean you can't challenge it. And I'm not convinced that if people can theoretically challenge the various elements in their worldview, that they're more likely to do it.


I'm going to take responsibility for getting lazy and failing to maintain consistent language. The majority of that post was about unfalsifiable statements. I should have stayed with 'non-evaluable', as in, unfalsifiable because the claims exist outside nature. I didn't mean un-critique-able, I just meant religious faith claims are in a unique category.

For the record, I did bring in a formal definition of religion into this thread not that long ago. I did so specifically because dictionary definitions just result in bogs of ambiguity. On that note, I wasn't privy to your discussions about racism, guenther, but failing to define your terms concretely is just... well, counter-productive. I get the point you were making about how normative claims, though:

guether wrote:So I would ask people to define racism. And while there was broad consensus on whether something should be classified as racist, the definitions they provided were quite diverse. One person simply said it meant a treatment of race that we socially disapprove of. Talk about devoid of facts; that's just overtly cloaking a moral statement as fact! In the end I stopped doing this because people were annoyed and would say "Oh great, we can't discuss racism without talking about how to define it!" They didn't want to be pinned to a definition, to some objective standard. But it didn't stop them from promoting it like objective truth.


This strikes me as an example of someone defaulting to an unfalsifiable to avoid having to cede ground in the discussion (which is poor thinking). The difference is, racism really exists in the world, and while it may be hard to pin down with language, it is examinable. The divine is not.

People do incorporate normative claims into ideologies. Cognitive heuristics affect the religious and non-religious alike. A lot of political rhetoric is designed to engage these heuristics to help solidify ideas (and hopefully actions in terms of votes, monetary support, etc) in people's minds. Again, the difference is if a politician presents a normative claim, they are still expected to be able to justify those claims. If the claim is bogus, you at least have a chance to present relevant evidence and demonstrate where they may have gone wrong in their thinking. The foundational claims religions are based on are not subject to this in the same way.

Even in the face of evidence, people often have a hard time changing their minds. These are examples of cognitive bias at work. I agree with nitePhyyre that faith is actually a form of cognitive bias (I don't honestly know why I didn't take that angle myself). A completely undetectable omnipotent being is, if nothing else, an idea, and it is an idea that permits so many doors off the path of critical thinking. We are neurologically wired for belief, not skepticism, and our brains don't like thinking about ambiguity. Given this biological truth, providing the perfect non-evaluable multiple-out of divine agents is providing the path of least resistance our brains crave. It takes a lot of effort to bypass these cognitive reflexes.

It is extremely difficult to isolate the interactions of different cognitive processes to fit 'laboratory ideal' conditions. But this isn't the only way to gather evidence. History, evolution, many aspects of astronomy, quantum mechanics, even crime investigation all rely on converging lines of evidence which are not laboratory neat to draw real and useful conclusions. We have some lab run tests about faith to work with, but largely, since this is relatively newly emerging field of study, we will have to rely on converging evidence from history and the present.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby morriswalters » Wed Dec 07, 2011 7:57 pm UTC

Earl Grey wrote:Out of curiosity, why is the practice of atheist parents informing their children about religion humorous? It just seems sensible to me.

Per se it's not. However given the amount of turmoil on this topic here, it's amusing to get a fresh breath of air that shows that reason has nothing to fear from looking an idea in the face. Those who believe in God, are what they are, but these parents truly aren't afraid of what their children might decide, by exposing them to it they run the risk of having their children choose a path different then theirs. This is strength in conviction, and true tolerance. It would be interesting to find what these children believe as adults.

edit
Almost missed this
Earl Grey wrote:I agree with nitePhyyre that faith is actually a form of cognitive bias (I don't honestly know why I didn't take that angle myself)


I truly wish that people would quit using cognitive bias like a pejorative. Cognitive bias is built in. It's a tool used by the brain to do the business of the brain. This whole discussion is a product of the biases of both sides. Does anyone truly believe that they escape them in any way. It's part of the decision making process. You can't choose between two brands of salt without using some form of it. Bah! Look around. Our whole society is founded on them.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Dark567 » Wed Dec 07, 2011 8:21 pm UTC

nitePhyyre wrote:Rates vis religiosity vis-a-vis Wealth
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It amazes me how much of an outlier the US is. Kuwait at least makes sense(ultra-high resources per capita).
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Earl Grey » Wed Dec 07, 2011 9:30 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:
Earl Grey wrote:I agree with nitePhyyre that faith is actually a form of cognitive bias (I don't honestly know why I didn't take that angle myself)


I truly wish that people would quit using cognitive bias like a pejorative. Cognitive bias is built in. It's a tool used by the brain to do the business of the brain. This whole discussion is a product of the biases of both sides. Does anyone truly believe that they escape them in any way. It's part of the decision making process. You can't choose between two brands of salt without using some form of it. Bah! Look around. Our whole society is founded on them.


There's nothing pejorative about the statement "faith is a form of cognitive bias". You've read it in. The fact that cognitive bias is built into a brains is central to my own argument, even.

I disagree that this discussion is the product of bias, but I am under no illusions that we're contending with it all the time. This doesn't mean you can't account for it.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby morriswalters » Wed Dec 07, 2011 9:51 pm UTC

@Dark567
Do you think that graph represents the fact that we basically took the resources that we took rather than anything religious?

@Earl Grey
I know you didn't mean it that way, but pointing it out as something somebody else is guilty of is somewhat misleading. Very seldom have I seen anybody overcome confirmation bias. Confirmation bias keeps us from being all over the place with our beliefs. The sad truth is that people like to think they have control and they don't. It's a net zero in terms of the discussion of Religion. We can overcome it in situations where the evidence is unequivocal, sometimes. Be the more uncertainty about the position in terms of facts the more difficult it is to change the belief.

It doesn't matter if there is one God, or many Gods. If he is evil or angelic. No matter if the Bible or Koran are books of fact or fantasy. There are not enough certain facts to attack the core position. Is there any God? Break that one and the rest fall, fail to break it and the best you can do is, just barely, maybe, insert doubt.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby guenther » Thu Dec 08, 2011 12:51 am UTC

nitePhyyre wrote:I've been following this thread for awhile, and I'm completely lost as to what evidence you are looking for. Take any statement that can be evaluated as true or false. You can use any number of thought processes to decide if the statement is true or not. You can use critical thinking. You can use faith. You can flip a coin. It doesn't matter which one you use, once you've made your decision based on it, it makes using the others impossible. Even if you decided to take an average of every different method known to man, it wouldn't be the same method as flipping a coin. By definition, using faith precludes you from using critical thinking. I don't understand what exactly you are looking for when you ask for evidence. It seems to me like asking "If I turn left, what evidence do you have that I didn't turn right?"

It's not "If I have faith in God, show me that I don't have faith in God". Rather it's "If I have faith in God, what evidence is there that this is problematic." Earl Grey made a claim about how it is problematic, and I was asking for evidence on that.

Regarding the rest of your paragraph, I agree that once you've made a decision based on certain thought processes, you can't go back in time and change it. But this doesn't in any way stop what you do going forwards in time. If you have lived by an unthinking faith, you could decide to start thinking about it. If you are unhappy with the uncertainty from critically thinking about God and other big questions in life, you can take on a belief by faith. What definition are you referencing when you say that faith precludes you from using critical thinking? What happens when a person with faith tries to use that process? You and others seem to just conclude that there is some inherent conflict, but take me inside what that conflict looks like.

nitePhyyre wrote:People are bad at forming chains, and faith is one of the bad links we use. Here is a list of others. In all honesty, if you take confirmation bias, clustering illusion, Just-world hypothesis, Observer-expectancy effect, Forer effect, and probably some others, and wrap the in a bow, you get faith.

Those same biases can lead to a belief that is not faith. How is that belief different than faith? And if these biases aren't what define faith, can one have faith that's not rooted in those biases?

Putting that aside, in general I'm not too bothered by people feeling that faith is poor thinking. I agree that it's not part of any intellectual process for evaluating truth, since declaring something as true doesn't really help us gain any ground. But if there's no clear answer for a question, then I don't think faith necessarily gets in the way. In the end, faith is what it is, and if people want to personally reject it and promote that others should personally reject it as well, that's they're right. We all are entitled to our own beliefs of how others should live their lives.

Regarding the data you cited, morriswalters responded to these. I don't think they give us much insight into the benefit/detriment of faith, though it might give us insight into religion as a whole, or at least how religion can be structured to cause problems.

Earl Grey wrote:People do incorporate normative claims into ideologies. Cognitive heuristics affect the religious and non-religious alike. A lot of political rhetoric is designed to engage these heuristics to help solidify ideas (and hopefully actions in terms of votes, monetary support, etc) in people's minds. Again, the difference is if a politician presents a normative claim, they are still expected to be able to justify those claims. If the claim is bogus, you at least have a chance to present relevant evidence and demonstrate where they may have gone wrong in their thinking. The foundational claims religions are based on are not subject to this in the same way.

So when churches set up their articles of faith, they're not expected to justify them in any way? Are you stating this based on your experience with churches? What happens when someone does ask for a justification? Do you think this just doesn't happen?

Earl Grey wrote:It is extremely difficult to isolate the interactions of different cognitive processes to fit 'laboratory ideal' conditions. But this isn't the only way to gather evidence. History, evolution, many aspects of astronomy, quantum mechanics, even crime investigation all rely on converging lines of evidence which are not laboratory neat to draw real and useful conclusions. We have some lab run tests about faith to work with, but largely, since this is pretty emerging field of study, we will have to rely on converging evidence from history and the present.

I don't have a problem with this. I just don't agree with the conclusions you've drawn. :) And if we're in an area where evaluating truth is difficult, could that mean we should apply more skepticism and uncertainty? If we can't demonstrate that faith is inherently problematic, do you think we should admit the possibility that it's not?

As I said above, I don't have a problem with people promoting what they think is better than faith. But I think there should be a higher bar of evidence before we start pointing at groups of people and saying that their beliefs or behavior is problematic or risky. Just because something is hard to measure doesn't mean we should accept a lower bar.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby nitePhyyre » Fri Dec 09, 2011 12:26 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:
Earl Grey wrote:I agree with nitePhyyre that faith is actually a form of cognitive bias (I don't honestly know why I didn't take that angle myself)
I truly wish that people would quit using cognitive bias like a pejorative. Cognitive bias is built in. It's a tool used by the brain to do the business of the brain. This whole discussion is a product of the biases of both sides. Does anyone truly believe that they escape them in any way. It's part of the decision making process. You can't choose between two brands of salt without using some form of it. Bah! Look around. Our whole society is founded on them.
When defending fallacy with a fallacy, are you being cleverly ironic or daftly ignorant?

guenther wrote:Regarding the rest of your paragraph, I agree that once you've made a decision based on certain thought processes, you can't go back in time and change it. But this doesn't in any way stop what you do going forwards in time. If you have lived by an unthinking faith, you could decide to start thinking about it. If you are unhappy with the uncertainty from critically thinking about God and other big questions in life, you can take on a belief by faith. What definition are you referencing when you say that faith precludes you from using critical thinking? What happens when a person with faith tries to use that process? You and others seem to just conclude that there is some inherent conflict, but take me inside what that conflict looks like.
When I said I didn't understand, I was talking about this. You've just agreed with me, then ask again?

So far, my contention is:
On subject-J, if you used method-X to decide, you haven't used method-Y. There is a inherent conflict between method-X and method-Y.
When travelling from point-A to point-B, if you take a car, you didn't walk. There is an inherent conflict between walking and taking the car.

Are you actually asking "On subject-J, if you used method-X to decide, what is to stop you from using method-Y or method-Z for subject-K?"

guenther wrote:Those same biases can lead to a belief that is not faith. How is that belief different than faith?
It's the same.
guenther wrote:And if these biases aren't what define faith, can one have faith that's not rooted in those biases?
I highly doubt it.

guenther wrote:Regarding the data you cited, morriswalters responded to these. I don't think they give us much insight into the benefit/detriment of faith, though it might give us insight into religion as a whole, or at least how religion can be structured to cause problems.
guenther wrote:If faith is causing problems, then we should be able to demonstrate this by comparing in some way a group that has faith and another group that rejects faith.
I made the comparisons you asked for. If you now feel the need to move the goal posts, tell me where you are moving them to, and we'll take it from there.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby guenther » Fri Dec 09, 2011 1:43 am UTC

nitePhyyre wrote:On subject-J, if you used method-X to decide, you haven't used method-Y. There is a inherent conflict between method-X and method-Y.

What if you use method-X and then use method-Y? Then you have used both on the same subject without conflict. When I agreed with you, I meant that if you made a decision in the past without using method-X, then you can't go back and change that because we don't know how to time travel. But using your car analogy, you can travel from A to B over and over again, and each time you can take a different mode of transportation. You seem to be assuming that people only travel once and never reevaluate why or how they landed on their conclusion.

nitePhyyre wrote:
guenther wrote:Those same biases can lead to a belief that is not faith. How is that belief different than faith?
It's the same.

Then we are working from different notions of faith. If fallacies make you think the evidence is there when it's not, this can foster belief. But faith is belief without evidence, as in you are hinging your belief on something other than evidence. If you are basing your belief on evidence, be it good quality evidence or poor quality, then it's not faith.

Well, I suppose we could get into a semantic argument about what is or isn't faith. But my point is that churches acknowledge that they can't prove that God is real, but they advocate belief anyways. This is different than working from fallacious arguments. And of course some churches do both, but that doesn't mean it's the same thing.

nitePhyyre wrote:I made the comparisons you asked for. If you now feel the need to move the goal posts, tell me where you are moving them to, and we'll take it from there.

You made a comparison, but you didn't demonstrate anything meaningful about faith. You are talking about macro-scale issues, and faith is in the mix somewhere. But how much of the effect is faith and how much is something else? That's not clear in what you presented.
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