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Huh. Via utforsker. Equally offensive to mainstream Monotheists and Pagans. Yet possessed of a very discomfiting bit of truth. Thoughts, anyone?

Also, today is the 7-year anniversary of my first day working at this organization. Why does this make me queasy?

Some people get motion-sick; I get inertia-sick.

Comments

_blackjack_
Feb. 24th, 2005 01:03 am (UTC)
Re: I ramble for too long
How does one go about making an "emotional decision" about an external phenomenon? What happens when the things you believe without evidence come into conflict with things for which there is evidence? Can you even distinguish the two if they are equally valid? What is the criterion for external truth other than consistancy with evidence? How do you decide which emotions are "right" where the material world is concerned?
chadu
Feb. 24th, 2005 02:11 am (UTC)
Re: I ramble for too long
What happens when the things you believe without evidence come into conflict with things for which there is evidence? Can you even distinguish the two if they are equally valid?

You weigh the two, and make a choice.

What is the criterion for external truth other than consistancy with evidence?

I'd say there isn't much of one, but note that most external areas (as I see it) where the weighing of faith vs. evidence come into play are areas where there isn't much evidence. Hard evidence belongs to the external world; there's precious little evidence -- save reportage -- for the internal world.

To turn your question around, one could just as well ask "what is the criterion for internal truth other than consistency with belief?"

But let me actually answer your question.

A handy example is "when does human life begin: conception, birth, or somewhere in between?" Since there's a variety of opinions of what consititutes "human life" here (strictly biological, emerging consciousness, presence of a soul, etc.), and there's varying amounts of evidence for each (mitosis, strong; consciousness, sketch but increasing as the fetus comes to term; soul, none whatsoever), this is one of the questions that faith can come into play on.

How do you decide which emotions are "right" where the material world is concerned?

You think about it, you weigh them, you make a decision. And, in a perfect world, you take responsibility for that choice.

Again, easy to say, hard to do.

CU


_blackjack_
Feb. 24th, 2005 03:16 am (UTC)
Re: I ramble for too long
You weigh the two, and make a choice.

Yes, but weigh them based on what criteria? That's what I'm getting at. When I make a judgement about the likelyhood of a proposition, I make that judgement based on that propositions consistancy with observable phenomena. What, if not that, makes any one proposition more likely than another?

I'd say there isn't much of one, but note that most external areas (as I see it) where the weighing of faith vs. evidence come into play are areas where there isn't much evidence.

If there is not much evidence, then why make a judgement at all?

To turn your question around, one could just as well ask "what is the criterion for internal truth other than consistency with belief?"

Internal truth carries no information, because it has no effect on the material world, by definition. If it affects the material world, it produces evidence on which it can be evaluated. This is the ultimate folly of Deism: a god which does not intereact with the universe is indistinguishable from a god that doesn't exist at all. To exist is to interect, to interact is to cause change, and to cause change is to produce evidence.

You think about it, you weigh them, you make a decision.

OK, let's break this down. By what criteria would you evaluate the likelyhood of this proposition:

"There is an invisible pink unicorn under Jack's desk."
chadu
Feb. 24th, 2005 04:37 am (UTC)
Re: I ramble for too long
Yes, but weigh them based on what criteria? That's what I'm getting at. When I make a judgement about the likelyhood of a proposition, I make that judgement based on that propositions consistancy with observable phenomena. What, if not that, makes any one proposition more likely than another?

It really depends upon what "the likelihood of a proposition" is all about. When you're talking about making a judgement on something -- specifically a moral judgement (to a smaller degree, you could also be talking about an ethical judgement, I think, but moral judgements are what I'm addressing) -- it's necessarily subjective.

I'm really not sure that if you're looking for, say, the odds that a chemical reaction will have outcome X, or a coin will come up tails, or the explanation for why peas breed in certain ways has anything to do with faith, except in the weak sense of having or not having faith in a hypothesis.

If there is not much evidence, then why make a judgement at all?

To strip it down to brass tacks: for emotional or spiritual comfort, if needed. In the absence of facts -- and in situations where external facts may never be forthcoming -- one can support oneself on hope.

Just because it's phenomenal and subjective doesn't mean it's not real and useful for the individual perceiving it.

Internal truth carries no information, because it has no effect on the material world, by definition. If it affects the material world, it produces evidence on which it can be evaluated.

Faith often makes people feel better -- or worse. Isn't that information, an effect on the material world? Or, if you consider feelings as purely an internal effect that doesn't bleed out into the external world, does that still mean that no information is passed? Something changed internally (happy to sad, anxious to comforted) -- what is that if not information?

This is the ultimate folly of Deism: a god which does not intereact with the universe is indistinguishable from a god that doesn't exist at all.

I think many Deists would argue that rather than a folly, theistic non-interaction is Deism's greatest strength as a rational faith.

OK, let's break this down. By what criteria would you evaluate the likelyhood of this proposition:
"There is an invisible pink unicorn under Jack's desk."


Note that this is a different proposition than "I believe there is an invisible pink unicorn under Jack's desk."

In rough order, this is what comes to me:
1. Why would I care? I might opt not to make an evaluation because it doesn't affect me.
2. Who sez? By what means was this brought to my attention? Is the reporter credible?
3. Say what? What did they say?
4. What's the point? Why is this person saying this?
5. How can that be? Is the subject of the report possible? By what methods?
6. What does this report mean?
7. How do I feel about it?
8. Could it be? Is the report credible at all? (If yes, move on; if no, go back to question #4.)
9. Do I do anything about it?

Let's step through both propositions; I will assume you as the reporter for both:

"There is an invisible pink unicorn under [my] desk."
1. Hm, that's interesting. I wonder what he's getting at.
2. Jack is saying this. I know Jack doesn't actually believe in IPUs.
3. He said there's an IPU under his desk.
4. Why did he say this, when I know he doesn't believe in IPUs? Might be a joke.
5. If the PU is I, how did Jack know it was there, if it exists at all?
Maybe he could hear it or smell it or touch it. Anyway, there's a paradox in it being P and I simultaneously.
6. Given all that's been said up to this point, I'm inclined to think it's a joke.
7. Depending upon context, I could find the report amusing or flat.
8. Give all that's been said to this point, I doubt there is an IPU under his desk. Thus, joke.
9. Per #7, I either laugh or ignore the report.

CU
chadu
Feb. 24th, 2005 04:37 am (UTC)
Re: I ramble for too long
"[Jack] believe[s] there is an invisible pink unicorn under [his] desk."
1. Hm, that's interesting. I wonder what he's getting at.
2. Jack is saying this. I know Jack to this point has said that he doesn't actually believe in IPUs.
3. He said that he believes (feels or emotionally perceives) that there's an IPU under his desk.
4. Why did he say this, when I know he doesn't believe in IPUs? Might be a joke, might be a hallucination, might be a statement of changed belief.
5. If Jack says that he believes this report, either he's telling the truth or lying. Since there's a logical paradox in the U being both P and I, and -- knowing Jack -- there's more credence to the possibility of a joke (and thus a lie). However, if the statement is taken at face value, either a hallucination or a statement of new belief, the report is true: he does believe that there's an IPU under the desk.
6. Given all that's been said up to this point, I'm inclined to think it's either a joke, a breakdown, or -- slimmest chance -- some sort of change of belief.
7. Depending upon context, I could react to the report differently. As a joke/lie, I could laugh, ignore, or get peeved. As a hallucination/truth, I could be concerned. As a new belief/truth, I become interested.
8. Give all that's been said to this point, it's possible that Jack believes that there is an IPU under his desk (for one reason or another). Without more information, I cannot determine if you're taking the piss or making a forthright statement.
9. If I become convinced from further context that it's a joke, I either laugh or ignore the report. If I become convinced that it's a hallucination, I urge Jack to seek help. If I become convinced that Jack actually believes such a thing and is otherwise lucid, I either talk to him about this insight, or I ignore it.

Does that help?

CU
_blackjack_
Feb. 24th, 2005 05:40 am (UTC)
Re: I ramble for too long
It really depends upon what "the likelihood of a proposition" is all about. When you're talking about making a judgement on something -- specifically a moral judgement (to a smaller degree, you could also be talking about an ethical judgement, I think, but moral judgements are what I'm addressing) -- it's necessarily subjective.

I'm not talking about moral judgments. I'm talking about matters of fact. At issue here is the tendency for people to rely on non-empirical, laregly emotional criteria like "faith" for knowlege of matters of external, material fact.

I'm really not sure that if you're looking for, say, the odds that a chemical reaction will have outcome X, or a coin will come up tails, or the explanation for why peas breed in certain ways has anything to do with faith, except in the weak sense of having or not having faith in a hypothesis.

Hypotheses don't require faith; they can be tested. At best, they require trust that the laws of physics will continue to function as they have for recorded history, which is a safe bet, as such things go.

Faith often makes people feel better -- or worse.

My pet hamster makes me feel better, but I recognize that my relationship with "Barfly the Hamster" essentially exists only in my brain. I don't for a moment believe that this pleasant fiction has an effect on the laws of physics or causality, or that it has any reity-in-itself.

Isn't that information, an effect on the material world?

The behaviors carry information; the ideas themselves do not. Now, some of these ideas may be the result of specific neurochemical states that could be measured and predicted, but the existance of a state of mammalian biological social-bonding does not make "love" an external res. Someone's brain may be wred to find the idea "there is a god" to be pleasing, but that idea has no predictive capacity in the material world. It tells the person nothing about the external universe.

I think many Deists would argue that rather than a folly, theistic non-interaction is Deism's greatest strength as a rational faith.

Only rational insofar as it doesn't violate logic. It is, however, a USELESS faith, in that the Deists' god is for all practical purposes the same as no god at all. It's like ordering a BLT, hold the bacon, lettuce, tomato and bread.

2. Who sez? By what means was this brought to my attention? Is the reporter credible?

Begging the question. You can't decide whether the reporter is credible without first defining the nature of credibility, which is what I was attempting to get you to do. How would you go about evaluating the following proposition given NO context:

"There exists a unicorn, which is pink, which is invisible, and which is under a desk."
chadu
Feb. 24th, 2005 07:16 am (UTC)
Re: I ramble for too long
I'm not talking about moral judgments. I'm talking about matters of fact. At issue here is the tendency for people to rely on non-empirical, laregly emotional criteria like "faith" for knowlege of matters of external, material fact.

Then I believe we're talking at cross-purposes here, because that's the end of the pool I was splashing in.

If you think I've been defending "the Grand Canyon was carved by the Deluge," then one of us is high.

My pet hamster makes me feel better, but I recognize that my relationship with "Barfly the Hamster" essentially exists only in my brain. I don't for a moment believe that this pleasant fiction has an effect on the laws of physics or causality, or that it has any reity-in-itself.

Do you feel I've been arguing the opposite? That a "pleasant fiction" has an effect on physics or causality?

It tells the person nothing about the external universe.

Fair enough. But it certainly helps many people live in it. . . and interferes with other people's ability to live in it.

It is, however, a USELESS faith, in that the Deists' god is for all practical purposes the same as no god at all.

No, it's quite useful. It explains "How did this all come to be?" in a way that satifies their need to believe and their observations of the world around them.

Actually, and correct me if I'm wrong, you seem to be arguing from a point that all faiths are a priori useless. Do you see the existence of (or the potential existence of) a useful faith?

You can't decide whether the reporter is credible without first defining the nature of credibility, which is what I was attempting to get you to do.

I'd say that credibility is based on past and current observances, plus any emotional responses stirred up by those observances, plus any standard operating procedures one follows (faith that all people are generally good, bad, self-interested, whichever). Thus, someone may have lied to me every time I've met them in the past, but then say something to me that I believe is true (based on what I'm currently perceiving and how I emotionally react to the person, the situation, and what is said).

How would you go about evaluating the following proposition given NO context: "There exists a unicorn, which is pink, which is invisible, and which is under a desk."

Given no context, it very well may be true. The person could be telling a fictional story or a dream (where for the purposes of the story, the statement is true); the person could be describing a game or other entertainment (where within the gamespace the IPU actually exists), the person could be lying, the person could be deranged, the person could be telling the absolute factual truth.

Without context, there's no way to tell, factually, since evidence relies on context.

So, absent absolutely all context (including if this occurence happened in external reality at all), I'd have to rely on my personal feelings and knowledge about the statement, as well as any assumptions I choose to make.

If I choose to believe the statement refers to a videogame, I feel an IPU could exist in such a state, therefore I believe that the statement is perfectly true.

If I choose to believe the statement refers to factual, external reality, I feel an IPU doesn't exist in such a state, therefore I believe that the statement is false.

If I choose to believe the statement is a parable or metaphor, I feel an IPU does exist in such a state, therefore I believe that the statement is true.

However, I'd like also to point out that this is a different question than if I personally experience meeting an IPU under a desk. That opens up a whole 'nother can of worms (though along the lines discussed above).

CU

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