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Author Topic: General thread drift SHOWDOOOWN June 1st 2:09 MST
kmbboots
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Again, we are falling into the trap of thinking that the scientif method is the only tool we have for understanding life.

TWW, If Bob doesn't believe science why would writing it down make any difference. And there is a whole host of written material about theology that isn't the Bible or even about the Bible.

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The White Whale
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If Bob doesn't believe science, show it to him. It can be demonstrated, with physical matter.

If Bob doesn't believe in God, what can you do but write it down for him. It cannot be demonstrated.

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swbarnes2
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
Again, we are falling into the trap of thinking that the scientific method is the only tool we have for understanding life.

It is the only method which reliably finds and discards false and erroneous claims.

You can't expect to find true things if you can't differentiate them from false.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Again, we are falling into the trap of thinking that the scientif method is the only tool we have for understanding life.[/quote[]

We are?

[quote]TWW, If Bob doesn't believe science why would writing it down make any difference.

You don't understand how going through the scientific method to discern testable things makes a difference in understanding science?

Overall I think the counterargument that says "Well if he doesn't believe it, how is it any different than religion?" is an extraordinarily weak equivalency argument. It is forced to ignore why they are really not equivalent at all.

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Tresopax
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quote:
Bob is ignorant. This is curable. By what reliable method would you suggest someone can become less ignorant about God?
In this example, neither Bob nor the doctor has time to extensively school Bob in science. Bob has to go farm his crops and the doctor has to go visit other people. Bob doesn't understand the pamphlets or books given to him. So, practically speaking Bob's ignorance of biology and science is not going to be cured. Given this, given that no material evidence is practically available to show Bob that would convince him that the doctor is speaking the truth, is Bob irrational to accept what the doctor is telling him about the HIV threat?
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TomDavidson
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It depends. Does Bob understand the difference between what makes the doctor a doctor and a shaman a shaman?
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Corwin
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Ok, Bob might not have the time to try and understand all that. So Bob might go to the shaman for his problems. And Pete might go to the doctor for his. If Bob, following the shaman's advice, becomes ill and dies while Pete, following the doctor's advice, will live, who do you think others will turn to? Sure, the shaman might tell them, it was Bob's turn to die and whatever we did couldn't save him. But people are not forced to believe him on that. And they will remember that and the next time the doctor tells them they're sick they will probably not turn to the shaman.

And, you know, Pete might die too. After all, doctors can't cure everything. But multiply the Bob/Pete situation by 10, 100, 1000. When 900 out of 1000 shaman's patients die, and 100 out of 1000 doctor's patients die, who do you think people will turn to? They might not see the virus, but they can see the two methods' effects. Even someone with no medical understanding is more likely to choose the solution that gives him the best odds to live from the evidence he's seen.

So Bob might still be screwed. But after a while there won't be too many Bobs left, people who have had no first hand experience of a doctor's work or its effects.

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Tresopax
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quote:
Does Bob understand the difference between what makes the doctor a doctor and a shaman a shaman?
We'll say he knows there is a difference, but doesn't know what a med school is or exactly what process doctors go through to become doctors. He does know that doctors use "science" to heal sick people, and that shamans do not.
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TomDavidson
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Well, then, no, Bob is not behaving rationally. He has failed to obtain the bare minimum of data necessary to make a rational decision; he lacks the ability to evaluate the quality of any datum put before him, precluding the rationality of any decisions he might be called upon to make.
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Tresopax
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So, you think that if Bob is to behave rationally, given he doesn't have more data or understanding, he should ignore the doctors warnings about the HIV threat?

The problem here is that I'd wager the vast majority of people in the world, even most people in America, are a lot like Bob. They don't have time to go research things on their own, they don't really have a firm grasp on how science operates, they wouldn't understand how to interpret the results of a scientific reasearch paper if given to them to read, etc. Studies also seem to suggest this lack of understanding of science.

Given that, and given that these people aren't about to all go spend significant amounts of time taking courses in science so they can understand how to interpret scientific evidence, your standard of rationality seems to suggest that these people shouldn't trust the advice given to them by doctors and other experts. I'd think that would result in many of them getting dangerously sick.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
So, you think that if Bob is to behave rationally, given he doesn't have more data or understanding, he should ignore the doctors warnings about the HIV threat?
No. If Bob is to behave rationally, he should educate himself before making a decision. He is not equipped to make a rational decision with his current faculties.

Note that Bob might just choose to educate himself about what a doctor is, relative to what a shaman is; it is not necessary for him to fully understand the science to understand the difference in the quality of the recommendations he's received.

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Tresopax
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What do you mean educate himself about what a doctor is? What sort of things would he need to learn? And why would that make a difference? Earlier you said that "material evidence" is necessary. Looking up what a doctor is and how a doctor is different from a shaman does not give you anything "material" at all.

And even more problematic, what if it isn't possible for him to learn more details about what a doctor does that makes a doctor a doctor? Are you suggesting that unless someone is around to teach him, it is impossible for him to act rationally?

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swbarnes2
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quote:
Originally posted by Tresopax:
What do you mean educate himself about what a doctor is? What sort of things would he need to learn? And why would that make a difference?

Doctors are the people who keep almost all diabetics from ending up like Kara Neumann. Doctors don't succeed 100% of the time, but usually if they say they can make you better, they succeed. And if they say they can't, no shaman will be able to do any better.

So if you want your child who's in a diabetic coma to live, it makes a very big difference that the doctor will probably be able to make that happen, and the shaman won't.

quote:
And even more problematic, what if it isn't possible for him to learn more details about what a doctor does that makes a doctor a doctor?
Tom is arguing that part of the definition of a rational decision is that it's made in light of relevent evidence. So by that definition, a completely ignorant decision isn't rational. It just can't be.

If you want to define rational as being a process that has nothing to do with evidence, I suppose you can try. But by doing so, you've sucked all the virtue out the term. It's like saying that you don't see why Rolls-Royces are such great cars, because Ford Pintos are Rolls-Royces too, so what's the big deal?

It's blatent equivocation.

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Samprimary
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Yeah, I mean, you can't use bob as an example that makes the equivocation possible, no matter how strictly you maintain Bob's denseness and scientific illiteracy.
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Tresopax
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quote:
Doctors are the people who keep almost all diabetics from ending up like Kara Neumann. Doctors don't succeed 100% of the time, but usually if they say they can make you better, they succeed. And if they say they can't, no shaman will be able to do any better.
Bob has heard that this is said to be the case, from friends and neighbors. However, being a farmer in rural Africa, he has never done a scientific study of the success rate of doctors, so he certainly has no material evidence regarding whether or not advice from doctors usually works.
quote:
Tom is arguing that part of the definition of a rational decision is that it's made in light of relevent evidence. So by that definition, a completely ignorant decision isn't rational. It just can't be.
Tom has essentially defined ignorance as lacking evidence to answer the question, and has limited the term "evidence" to include only material scientific evidence. By those standards, most people are ignorant about most things they have to decide in life. All children would be. All uneducated people would be. Even highly educated people who read sci-fi books and frequent internet forums would be ignorant on many issues that they have not studied closely.

I haven't offered any alternative definition. I'm simply pointing out that the concept of rationality that Tom is advocating directly would imply (1) that acting rationally is practically impossible for most people in most situations, and (2) that an average person trying to act rationally by Tom's definition would have to ignore the advice of countless experts, resulting in all sorts of dangerous decisions such as Bob's decision to assume AIDS isn't real.

If that were the true meaning of rationality, then rationality appears far less than it is cracked up to be, at least for us non-omniscient folks who don't have material evidence available for every possible question in the world.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
that acting rationally is practically impossible for most people in most situations
Rather, acting rationally is harder than being a lazy, stupid lump of know-nothingness.

If Bob's so uninterested in actually being able to judge for himself the truth of any given situation, my opinion of him is the least of his worries.

(It's worth noting, by the way, that I have not universally limited the word "evidence" to material, scientific evidence. But you're welcome to play dumb and pretend that you think I have, since it really doesn't appear to be working for you. Let me just point out, though, that this is an argument you have resoundingly lost.)

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Tresopax
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quote:
Rather, acting rationally is harder than being a lazy, stupid lump of know-nothingness.

If Bob's so uninterested in actually being able to judge for himself the truth of any given situation, my opinion of him is the least of his worries.

Uninterested? Bob is a farmer. If he goes off to school his crops will die, and the tuition would be far more than he could reasonably afford. He could sell the farm and go off to school, but it wouldn't be enough for even a year's worth of education, and he'd be left with nothing afterwards. Bob would love to understand what science is all about, but he can't. Not everyone in the world has the luxury of possessing all the knowledge that you seem to think everyone should have.

quote:
(It's worth noting, by the way, that I have not universally limited the word "evidence" to material, scientific evidence. But you're welcome to play dumb and pretend that you think I have, since it really doesn't appear to be working for you. Let me just point out, though, that this is an argument you have resoundingly lost.)
In a way similar to how the doctor resoundingly "lost" his argument with Bob when he failed to convince Bob that HIV exists, perhaps... I'm not sure my goal is necessarily to "win" so much as come to the correct answer though. [Wink]

However, if you are not limiting "evidence" to only material, scientific evidence in the context of rationality, then please tell me what it is you consider evidence to be - because you are ambiguously switching back and forth whenever it suits your point. For instance, you did just say this:

"I have material evidence that people can make testable claims about vaccines.

I have no material evidence suggesting that people can make testable claims about God. If you do, you're welcome to present some.

Until then, it is perfectly rational to assume that no such evidence exists, in the same way that it is perfectly rational to assume that there are no unicorn horns to be found in the wild."


Do see why that might lead me to believe you believe material evidence is the only sort of evidence that counts?

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Raymond Arnold
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quote:
Uninterested? Bob is a farmer. If he goes off to school his crops will die, and the tuition would be far more than he could reasonably afford. He could sell the farm and go off to school, but it wouldn't be enough for even a year's worth of education, and he'd be left with nothing afterwards. Bob would love to understand what science is all about, but he can't. Not everyone in the world has the luxury of possessing all the knowledge that you seem to think everyone should have.
This is sort of getting into a "sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" type argument. Which is true. But I'm not sure exactly what point you're trying to make. If you have no idea what science is and don't have the opportunity to learn and no one bothers to teach you and the shaman and the doctor are equally respected members of the village then of COURSE it's going to be irrelevant which one you go to.

That doesn't change the fact science is completely based around the notion that anyone CAN understand it if they approach it from the bottom up, and once they do it's going to become clear that it works. Whereas mysticism will always be shrouded in mystery and regardless of whether it has truth to it, one will never be able to distinguish it from placebo-smokes-and-mirrors.

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Tresopax
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The shaman and doctor and not equally respected though. The village considers the doctor to be much more of a valid authority. They just have no material evidence to back that conclusion up.

My point is that it is perfectly rational to accept an expert's opinion as strong evidence itself, even if you have no material evidence to back it up. In fact, it would be irrational of Bob not to.

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Paul Goldner
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I am an expert in the field of determining whether someone is being rational or not.
Bob is not being rational if he accepts the shaman as an expert. You should accept my opinion as strong evidence, and not doing so would be irrational.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
The shaman and doctor and not equally respected though. The village considers the doctor to be much more of a valid authority.
Oh, Lord, if only that were true.

quote:
My point is that it is perfectly rational to accept an expert's opinion as strong evidence itself...
My point is that the shaman is not an expert. And it is not rational to accept someone's opinion as an expert opinion unless you have a solid rationale for doing so, which Bob does not. Moreover, you have created a hypothetical situation in which Bob is unable to do so.
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Tresopax
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My situation is not all that hypothetical; I'd bet there's over a billion people in the world that are practically unable to establish what you are calling "a solid rationale" for trusting medical experts.

But beyond even that, I'm guessing that even you trust experts for which you have no material evidence of their expertise. Which experts have you trusted recently? Ever call a help line without establishing anything about the person on the other line giving help? Ever trust something told to you by a Hatracker on this forum whose identity you've never verified? I suspect that there's plenty of times where even you have trusted the expertise of people with no material evidence and no "solid rationale" other than that they appear to be an expert.

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TomDavidson
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Tres, you really don't realize how thoroughly your point has been dismantled here, do you?
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Samprimary
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This whole Bob thing is being tortured to death by now. All Bob really establishes is that it is very possible for people to be incredibly ignorant, especially when they are hypothetical people in extraordinarily contorted hypothetical conceptualizations custom-tailored for ignorance.

re: the material evidence/help line thing: I can't open Office one day. I call up Microsoft's technical help number and rationally expect for them to be more likely to help me solve my software problem than my friend Greg. I can do this without the whole "establishment" or "material evidence" related to who is going to be on the other end of the line. I can make this rational assessment with a solid rationale, without having to do anything like witness the person on the other end of the line solve other computer problems first.

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TomDavidson
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Well, I would argue that in your Microsoft situation you are relying on an establishment of sorts to make your determination. It's also worth noting that, as your example calls into sharp relief, sometimes this sort of more casual decision does fail; certainly, in my experience, calling a random friend of mine has been more helpful than calling Microsoft's technical support hotline. This is one of the reasons that third parties are so important; they help check the otherwise unverifiable assertions of fact.
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Tresopax
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quote:
Tres, you really don't realize how thoroughly your point has been dismantled here, do you?
Tom, if you want to go the route of claiming "victory", I'll point out that by your own admissions your original point has been refuted. You were originally claiming that you needed direct material evidence for all beliefs you hold in order to be rational, but now you've granted (1) it's okay to trust experts as long as they have direct material evidence even if you don't have the evidence yourself, (2) it's okay to trust experts even if they are merely trusting a long chain of experts with material evidence only at the beginning, (3) you don't even have to confirm the material evidence exists, as long as you understand what makes the expert an expert and have material evidence that it is possible for the expert to have material evidence. You are still holding off on admitting that it's okay to trust an expert when you don't understand exactly how they became an expert, but that has put you in the awkward position of concluding that uneducated people around the world shouldn't trust anything their doctors tell them. Even if you won't admit that, it's still true that we've confirmed a person does not personally need material evidence in order to rationally believe something.

And that, in turn, means that if you want to claim it is irrational to believe in God then you're going to have to come up with a much better reason than "they have no direct material evidence of God."

quote:
re: the material evidence/help line thing: I can't open Office one day. I call up Microsoft's technical help number and rationally expect for them to be more likely to help me solve my software problem than my friend Greg. I can do this without the whole "establishment" or "material evidence" related to who is going to be on the other end of the line. I can make this rational assessment with a solid rationale, without having to do anything like witness the person on the other end of the line solve other computer problems first.
I agree completely. This illustrates that having a solid rationale for trusting someone does not require the sort of material evidence Tom was talking about an the beginning of this discussion. Rational people trust others if they think those others know what they are talking about.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
You were originally claiming that you needed direct material evidence for all beliefs you hold in order to be rational
No, see, as I said earlier, that's what you thought I was claiming. Do you understand now why I've been maintaining a ginormous eye-roll in your direction? [Smile]

quote:
And that, in turn, means that if you want to claim it is irrational to believe in God then you're going to have to come up with a much better reason than "they have no direct material evidence of God."
If you're back to this, Tres, you're either playing dumb or you really, genuinely, had no idea what people on this thread were talking about when they were talking about the differences between a doctor and a shaman. I mean, seriously, do you understand the distinction? Do you agree that there is one?

quote:
This illustrates that having a solid rationale for trusting someone does not require the sort of material evidence Tom was talking about an the beginning of this discussion. Rational people trust others if they think those others know what they are talking about.
Whereas I would say that this only goes to prove my point, since no truly rational person would call Microsoft technical support for help with an Office product when they have a friend named Greg available.
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Tresopax
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In that case, I'm glad we've clarified that we are in agreement that direct material evidence is not personally needed to rationally hold a belief. Please know that this is why Christians consider their religion to be rational, even though most cannot pull any kind of direct material evidence out of their pocket when requested to prove it.

Of course there's a difference between a priest and a doctor. There's also a difference between a doctor and a tech support guy. And a difference between a doctor and a shaman. And a difference between a priest and shaman. There's all sorts of types of potential experts who go about supposedly getting expertise in different ways. I'm well aware that that you personally don't consider a priest to be an expert on the truth about God. However, that is not what most Christians believe. Most Christians believe that priests do have some degree of expertise that has been gained through personally observing, studying, and meditating on God's influence on the world (including material things that priests and other religious individuals have concluded to be evidence of God's hand.) I'm well aware that you personally don't agree with that assumption, but as long as Christians DO accept that assumption, it is rational for Christians to give weight to what a priest, or the Church as a whole, says.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
Please know that this is why Christians consider their religion to be rational... I'm well aware that that you personally don't consider a priest to be an expert on the truth about God. However, that is not what most Christians believe.
Oh, I know. But this is, in and of itself, irrational for the reasons given earlier. There is no demonstrable evidence of any kind that priests are experts on the truth about God. In fact, rival groups of priests dispute that other groups of priests are experts on the truth about God. There is no research that can be performed by any human being alive that will show that any given group of priests is more qualified than any other given human beings to speak to the truth about God.
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Samprimary
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quote:
In that case, I'm glad we've clarified that we are in agreement that direct material evidence is not personally needed to rationally hold a belief. Please know that this is why Christians consider their religion to be rational, even though most cannot pull any kind of direct material evidence out of their pocket when requested to prove it.
And please know that we've already discussed why that's not rational.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
Bob might not see why scientific evidence is evidence...
Except that while Bob might not see it, your evidence is "evidence" that Bob cannot see.

quote:
To clarify, the evidence I'm referring to is mostly lives that were improved significantly through their interaction with the church.
Well, that's just silly. I know you already know enough about this sort of thing to know that that evidence amounts to "lives that were improved (according to a given set of standards for improvement) during interaction with the church." You'd have to actually show a mechanism by which church membership improved lives -- where the absence of church membership, or belonging to a contrary church, did not -- to even start to have a conversation about causation.

Like I said: irrational.

But, seriously, does it bother you to hold an irrational belief? If so, why?

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Tresopax
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Hmmm... ok I deleted my post because I had wanted to write it more clearly, but it looks like you caught it before I did so!

But seriously, imagine that Bob, being in the situation described earlier where he lacks information to verify the doctor's expertsie, went around the village to find out about his fellow villagers' interactions with the doctor. He discoveres that with many different villagers, he was able to diagnose and successfully cure their diseases. He did a quick tally and found 10 people the doctor was successfully able to help, and 2 people he could not. Would you not consider this any evidence at all in favor of the idea that the doctor has some kind of medical expertise?

As I'd said, I've seen plenty of people whose lives were improved through the church. When asked, many of these will report that it is because their relationship with God has improved. If you'd prefer I be more scientific, we could have a study in which a large sample of people who went to church were compared with another sample of people who didn't go to church, and asked about their relationship with God. I suspect the people who regularly went to church would report a better relationship with God. And I suspect if we only included religious theists, that result would still hold true. So if the question is whether the church has some expertise on God, I'd consider that to be significant evidence in favor, at least if my goal is to improve my relationship with God. It'd be more evidence than I have for my dentist's expertise, for instance. I suspect it's at least as much evidence as you have for trusting your "random friend" on tech questions.

Again, I'd guess you disagree. But disagreeing with something is different from thinking it is irrational. Or do you think they are the same? What is the difference between "wrong" and "irrational" in your mind?

quote:
Except that while Bob might not see it, your evidence is "evidence" that Bob cannot see.
I believe Bob likely could see my evidence as well as I can, if Bob came to church, etc. But convincing a dedicated atheist of religious evidence sometimes seems like convincing a dedicated creationist of evolution. A creationist can be shown the evidence of evolution but often doesn't interpret the evidence in the way most interpret it. I'm not going to accept there is no evidence of evolution just because some creationists aren't convinced by it. Most people are - and I am.

[ June 08, 2009, 08:06 AM: Message edited by: Tresopax ]

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TomDavidson
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quote:
Would you not consider this any evidence at all in favor of the idea that the doctor has some kind of medical expertise?
No, not really. Certainly not in and of itself. The only "evidence" here is that 10 out of 12 people visited felt better later.

quote:
If you'd prefer I be more scientific, we could have a study in which a large sample of people who went to church were compared with another sample of people who didn't go to church, and asked about their relationship with God.
Except you're still measuring at this point how good someone thinks his relationship with God is. There's a reason that, when recording cancer rates, we don't record the number of people who think they have cancer. I would be completely unsurprised if the percentage of people who think they have a good relationship with God is higher among people who specifically think they're cultivating such a relationship. I'm sure the number of people who think they're growing radishes is made up significantly of people who bought planted the contents of packets labeled "Radish" on the front.

quote:
A creationist can be shown the evidence of evolution but often doesn't interpret the evidence in the way most interpret it.
Show me some evidence of God, evidence that actually meets evidentiary standards. I'll wait. Take all the time you like.
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Corwin
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
Would you not consider this any evidence at all in favor of the idea that the doctor has some kind of medical expertise?
No, not really. Certainly not in and of itself. The only "evidence" here is that 10 out of 12 people visited felt better later.

I'd say the likelihood that the doctor is doing the healing improves with this sort of evidence. Of course both the doctor and the shaman could scam their way to being perceived as best healers: the doctor could chose only people who he knows he can heal and the shaman could chose people he knows are not sick but that would require some cooperation from the subjects. Otherwise how could the doctor explain that the ones he turned away as healthy would die, or continue to suffer? Or how could the shaman convince other people that his "patients" who don't feel any pain actually suffer from the same disease as the ones who do feel pain?
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swbarnes2
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quote:
Originally posted by Tresopax:
He discoveres that with many different villagers, he was able to diagnose and successfully cure their diseases. He did a quick tally and found 10 people the doctor was successfully able to help, and 2 people he could not. Would you not consider this any evidence at all in favor of the idea that the doctor has some kind of medical expertise?

Does it surprise anyoen that Tres has no idea what a control group is?

No Tres, this information in a vacuum tells you nothing. Because of 10 out of 12 people who don't see a doctor get better on their own, then the doctor isn't actually doing anything.

quote:
As I'd said, I've seen plenty of people whose lives were improved through the church. When asked, many of these will report that it is because their relationship with God has improved.
No control group. People "feel better" about their relationship about God in churches which teach completely opposite things about God. If Mohammad is the last prophet of God, the Joseph Smith can't be one too. So those churches can't both be right. Both are claiming expertice about whom is a true prohpet of God, and at least one of them is wildly, fatally off the mark.

Are you counting completely, wildly false beliefs as "expertice"?

quote:
So if the question is whether the church has some expertise on God, I'd consider that to be significant evidence in favor, at least if my goal is to improve my relationship with God.
You would. But without a real control group, you would be wrong to draw that conclusion. And you still have the problem of dueling 'expertice'. Are the Muslims right, or the Mormons? They can't both be right. So if people in both churches report being happier with their relationship to God (as mediated by their understanding of God's prophet's legitimate teachings), how do you determine which expertice is actually correct?

Or are you somehiow defining the word "expertice" to include believing things which are utterly false?

quote:
A creationist can be shown the evidence of evolution but often doesn't interpret the evidence in the way most interpret it.
Do you honestly think that that is the real reason that people are Creationists?

Do you really, honestly think that the evidence of Creationists' understanding of evolution, as demonstrated by their statements supports that take?

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Tresopax
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quote:
Show me some evidence of God, evidence that actually meets evidentiary standards. I'll wait. Take all the time you like.
Whose standards? Show me some evidence of evolution that meets a creationist's standards. They can come up with "standards" to deny your evidence just as easily as you can come up with "standards" to deny mine. I just cited evidence that meets my standard for evidence.

The problem is that I strongly suspect your standards aren't consistent with how even you act in your life with anything other than religion. I don't believe you apply the same evidentiary standard before accepting your dentist, or your accountant, or your child's teacher, etc. Or perhaps you do, but virtually everyone else I know plainly does not. If I say I saw "Up" this weekend and it is a good movie, most people I know will simply trust that I did actually see the movie and thus have some degree of expertise about it - I doubt most people would think rationality pevents them from accepting my review on the grounds that I am unable to prove that I went to the movie. Or if that's not subjective enough for you, if I go to the doctor and complain that I had a throat that hurt yesterday, the doctor is going to accept that I know what I felt; he's not going to say that rationally he can't believe me unless I am in some way able to prove that my throat actually felt sore.

A rational person acts in a way that will give them the most benefits at the lowest cost. Accepting expert opinion allows us to gain knowledge without the extensive costs of researching it ourselves. A person who actually acted in the way you are suggesting would end up spending tons of time doing research, and yet ends up with fewer benefits because they are not allowed to trust anyone that they can't confirm with research. A person acting in the way I am suggesting spends far less time researching yet ends up with more knowledge. There is a risk to this, since the knowledge is less confirmed, and you seem to be suggesting a rational person would choose the option with zero risk. But that doesn't follow - a rational person would take a risk that the person concluded was outweighed by the likely benefits.

[ June 08, 2009, 10:54 AM: Message edited by: Tresopax ]

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Corwin
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Well, people who have seen "Up" can ask you about specific things in it. You can try to fool them by saying you've forgotten most of it, or tell them things from the trailers or other reviews. But in the first case no one could take your review as serious as someone's who can actually talk about some scenes in the movie. And you can easily check whether the reviewer knows what he says by watching the movie! If your review seems pertinent after I watched the movie, should I care whether it's really yours, or if you read it somewhere?!

As for the doctor, actually, I don't think they believe anything you tell them... You can try to skip school by saying your head hurts, but he's gonna try to talk more about it and find out why. Sure, you can fool him once; you can do it several times with several different doctors. But try to come to the same doctor 10 times in a short time-frame and tell him your head hurts and see if he gives you a prescription for painkillers and a note saying you can skip school each time without checking to see what the problem is. Without you paying him to do it, that is. [Wink]

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Corwin
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Come to think of it, I'm not sure anymore what you're trying to prove here... Yes, we sometimes accept things from experts without checking them. Yes, sometimes we can be wrong about them. Yes, we take (and sometimes weigh) the risks when doing this. That is simply rational: if you're facing imminent death from an unknown disease you won't turn away the person who says he's a doctor and will save you. If waiting to check his credentials *will* get you dead and not checking his credentials *might* get you dead, you'll choose the later. I don't see a problem with that.
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Tresopax
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Tom does seem to see a problem with that, though. Or at least he seems to have a problem with it when it comes to religion. He's argued that it isn't rational to accept things from religious experts without checking them.

I'm saying that if that is truly the standard for rationality, it should apply just the same to everything, not just to religion. If we can't reasonably apply that standard to other facets of life, then it isn't a good standard for rationality.

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swbarnes2
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quote:
Originally posted by Tresopax:
[QB]
quote:
Show me some evidence of God, evidence that actually meets evidentiary standards. I'll wait. Take all the time you like.
Whose standards? Show me some evidence of evolution that meets a creationist's standards. They can come up with "standards" to deny your evidence just as easily as you can come up with "standards" to deny mine. I just cited evidence that meets my standard for evidence.
But your standards for evidence are pathetic. Ignoring control groups will give you wrong answers.

quote:
The problem is that I strongly suspect your standards aren't consistent with how even you act in your life with anything other than religion.
No, the problem is that you are refusing to listen when people are telling you what standard are actually used. A belief that the sun will rise tommorow is not a decision based on faith, as you think it is. At least not as anyone else on this board uses the term. It is soundly based on evidence. I don't have to have the evidence right at my fingertips for it to be rational to believe it, all I have to know is that it was at some time at someone's fingertips, and that if I doubted this, I could get the same inforamtion myself at my own fingertips.

That standard works. It works very well.

You can't do this for religion. There's no hard evidence to go back to. Either the Muslims or the Mormons are wrong about who the last prophet of God is. What data could you possibly collect at your fingertips that would tell you which is right? What data could other people collect that their fingertips which would have the potential to prove your conclusion false?

quote:
If I say I saw "Up" this weekend and it is a good movie, most people I know will simply trust that I did actually see the movie and thus have some degree of expertise about it - I doubt most people would think rationality pevents them from accepting my review on the grounds that I am unable to prove that I went to the movie.
Sure they would trust you...in part becuase if you were lying, someone would detect it. The amount of trust is proportional to the ease with which you could be shown to be wrong.

quote:
Or if that's not subjective enough for you, if I go to the doctor and complain that I had a throat that hurt yesterday, the doctor is going to accept that I know what I felt; he's not going to say that rationally he can't believe me unless I am in some way able to prove that my throat actually felt sore.
I'm sorry, but when patients come in wanting prescription meds to treat their undectable ailments, doctors shouldn't just give in. 99 times out of a hundred, the guy with no detectable illness has no illness.

quote:
A rational person acts in a way that will give them the most benefits at the lowest cost. Accepting expert opinion allows us to gain knowledge without the extensive costs of researching it ourselves.
But the point is that the research was already done and externally verified. It doesn't matter that you yourself didn't do it, or even that the expert didn't do it, what matters is at the core, the expertise is supported by verifiable evidence.

How can you verify whom the last true prophet of God was?

quote:
A person who actually acted in the way you are suggesting would end up spending tons of time doing research, and yet ends up with fewer benefits because they are not allowed to trust anyone that they can't confirm with research.
This is absurd. Belief in the efficasy of vaccines, for example is already confirmed with research. Everyone can rely on the same research, once skeptics have checked it for errors.

quote:
There is a risk to this, since the knowledge is less confirmed, and you seem to be suggesting a rational person would choose the option with zero risk.
There is no such zero-risk option. It doesn't exist. No one is claiming that being rational is 100% infallible

But the rational path is right 99 times out of a hundred. The religious way? You've got a million religions with their so-called expertise, and they all disagree with each other. That means at best 999999 out of a million are wrong. Maybe all million are wrong.

So a 99% chance of being right, or at best a 0.000001% chance of being right. Sorry, but the former is the better choice.

[edited for misspellings]

[ June 08, 2009, 11:32 AM: Message edited by: swbarnes2 ]

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Tresopax:
quote:
Show me some evidence of God, evidence that actually meets evidentiary standards. I'll wait. Take all the time you like.
Whose standards?
Heh. Not very familiar with epistemology, are you?
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Corwin
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"Expertise", not "expertice". It hurts a bit every time you write it. [Wink]
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Tresopax
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quote:
Heh. Not very familiar with epistemology, are you?
Hmmmm.... well, I got an A in epistemology, but I suppose one would be free to reject that as valid evidence of anything too. [Wink]
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MightyCow
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quote:
Originally posted by Tresopax:
Tom does seem to see a problem with that, though. Or at least he seems to have a problem with it when it comes to religion. He's argued that it isn't rational to accept things from religious experts without checking them.

I'm saying that if that is truly the standard for rationality, it should apply just the same to everything, not just to religion. If we can't reasonably apply that standard to other facets of life, then it isn't a good standard for rationality.

I'd say that almost all of us DO use that standard for every day things. If you walked into a restaurant with no chairs, and everyone just squatting, telling you that they were using invisible chairs, which you couldn't feel until you've been a member of the restaurant in good standing for many years, would you buy one of those invisible chairs, to practice (not)sitting on at home?
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TomDavidson
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quote:
A rational person acts in a way that will give them the most benefits at the lowest cost
This is not actually how I'd define "rational." Is it how you're defining "rational?"

Seriously, though...
Had you seen "Up" and then come to this forum to report that, now that you'd seen "Up," we were all required to give you fifty bucks and sleep with someone of your choice, we'd probably want a little more information.

If religion were a consequence-free decision, no one would care how the religious came by their beliefs.

As it stands, religions make multiple extraordinary claims to justify multiple demands, and can offer no reproducible evidence to validate the rationales given for those claims. If it really mattered to me whether or not you had seen "Up," there are ways to determine -- within reason -- that you have. If it didn't matter, there's certainly no cost to me to do you the courtesy of believing you -- unless of course I planned to have you give a presentation on the movie to a room full of my peers, in which case I'd probably want to get a plot summary from you at the very least.

This is another reason, by the way, that qualia don't actually exist. Things that matter matter in ways that can be detected. [Wink]

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Tresopax
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quote:
I'd say that almost all of us DO use that standard for every day things. If you walked into a restaurant with no chairs, and everyone just squatting, telling you that they were using invisible chairs, which you couldn't feel until you've been a member of the restaurant in good standing for many years, would you buy one of those invisible chairs, to practice (not)sitting on at home?
No, but only because I think I have plenty of evidence that invisible chairs don't exist.
On the other hand, if I walked into a restaurant where everyone was eating X, which looked disgusting to me, I might believe them if they all said that after trying X it would taste really good. Even if they had no demonstrable evidence to back that up.

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swbarnes2
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quote:
Originally posted by Tresopax:
quote:
I'd say that almost all of us DO use that standard for every day things. If you walked into a restaurant with no chairs, and everyone just squatting, telling you that they were using invisible chairs, which you couldn't feel until you've been a member of the restaurant in good standing for many years, would you buy one of those invisible chairs, to practice (not)sitting on at home?
No, but only because I think I have plenty of evidence that invisible chairs don't exist.
But you wrote a long paragraph a few days ago about how you can never actually know that flu vaccines/elephant repellant/tiger stones don't work.

Here's the important quote:

"If I keep doing that and still nothing, then I'd be unable to answer the question because it will always be possible that vaccines can prevent diseases in some way other than how I tested it. I would never be able to show that vaccines can't prevent diseases."

So if you try and try to sit in the chairs, and still nothing, you are still unable to answer the question because it will always be possible that the chairs can be sat in in some way other than how you tested it. You can never prove that you can't sit in those chairs.

So why is it unreasonable to trust the expertise of the people who claim to be sitting in them? Why are invisible chairs less reasonable than, say, religous claims that one can talk to God?

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Tresopax
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quote:
This is not actually how I'd define "rational." Is it how you're defining "rational?"
I'm not sure if that's how I'd actually define the term, but I do think a person who is rational in making decisions would act that way.

quote:
If religion were a consequence-free decision, no one would care how the religious came by their beliefs.
This is true. That makes the risk of accepting religion great. But the risks of rejecting religion are also presumably great too. Imagine if knowing the quality of "Up" was a life or death decision either way - perhaps you have been imprisoned by a madman who wants to know if "Up" is a good movie. If you give him the wrong advice, he'll kill you. I'm imprisoned with you and so I'm the only person available for advice. I say I've seen it, but you can't tell for sure. Would you trust my advice at all? Or would you count my advice as no evidence whatsoever, and just make a guess instead?

quote:
This is another reason, by the way, that qualia don't actually exist. Things that matter matter in ways that can be detected.
If that were true, then technically qualia would be the ONLY thing that exists. Everything else is only detected through qualia. But that's another topic entirely.
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MightyCow
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quote:
Originally posted by Tresopax:
No, but only because I think I have plenty of evidence that invisible chairs don't exist.
On the other hand, if I walked into a restaurant where everyone was eating X, which looked disgusting to me, I might believe them if they all said that after trying X it would taste really good. Even if they had no demonstrable evidence to back that up.

Except that you can see the food and taste it for yourself, which gives you ample reason to believe that the food exists. You know in your own experience that some people enjoy foods that other people don't enjoy - that's just personal preference.

By your analogy, I accept that different churches do have different services, and that some people find one service more enjoyable than another. I can see them enjoying the service, even though it does not give me a feeling of joy, I accept that they are enjoying it.

Further, I accept that the people at the restaurant are enjoying their sensation of sitting. I just don't accept that they are actually using invisible chairs, and I won't buy one any more than you will. Just like I won't buy an invisible God without proof, even though I accept that people enjoy the process of talking to the God they believe is there.

quote:
Originally posted by Tresopax:
Imagine if knowing the quality of "Up" was a life or death decision either way - perhaps you have been imprisoned by a madman who wants to know if "Up" is a good movie. If you give him the wrong advice, he'll kill you. I'm imprisoned with you and so I'm the only person available for advice.

For this analogy to work, there would have to be 100 people imprisoned with me, all of whom have completely different accounts of what "Up" is about, who voiced it, whether it's a cartoon or live action, whether or not it's based on a true story, if it's in color or black and white, and I have to guess which of those people is giving me the true version or the madman kills me.
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swbarnes2
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quote:
Originally posted by Tresopax:
Imagine if knowing the quality of "Up" was a life or death decision either way - perhaps you have been imprisoned by a madman who wants to know if "Up" is a good movie. If you give him the wrong advice, he'll kill you. I'm imprisoned with you and so I'm the only person available for advice. I say I've seen it, but you can't tell for sure. Would you trust my advice at all? Or would you count my advice as no evidence whatsoever, and just make a guess instead?

There really isn't an objective way to measure the quality of a movie. If your cellmate is going to kill you for your opinion, well, religious people have been burning each other over their opinions for centuries, so you'll probably get a better death than those guys and gals.

If one had to make a life or death decision based on the plot of the movie, the best thing to do would be to see the movie. If you didn't have time, you would find someone's blog, a blog that allows unrestricted comments, where the blogger answers your question. If the blog is well visited, you can be sure that there are Up viewers reading it, and they would have mentioned if the blogger were wrong. That's your best chance; it's not 100%, but nothing is. Your best chance for being right is to believe things that have been scrutinized by critics. If the critics failed to falsify the claim, the claim is probably right.

Of course, the thing about the movies is that there is a right anwer to a question about the plot. You can watch the movie. You can read the script. Maybe the answer is "it's ambiguous", but the evidence is all there, and everyone can agree on what the text of the movie is.

You don't have that agreement with religion. Someone says it's a life or death question, but you can't even verify that there was such a movie created. It's not playing anywhere, and there is no script. Lots of people claim to have seen it, but they all disagree violently about what it was about.

So if your cell mate says "If KooKoo the parrot concealed the Wicket of Morality from the Ubuntu tribesman in the movie 'Wickets for Wally', then slitting your wrists and bleeding to almost to death is the only way to earn your freedom", then I think the answer pretty clearly is "No thanks, I'm not going to do that on your say-so", not "Well, your say-so is better than nothing, where's the razor?"

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