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Author Topic: General thread drift SHOWDOOOWN June 1st 2:09 MST
Kwea
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
[QB]
quote:
I don't thnk the "fruits" of religion is best described as that which gives the people of that religion an advantage.
Why not? If they claim to hear the voice of God, it seems reasonable to assume that God is offering them good advice that is better than what other people are receiving.


That assumes that God (if he existed in this argument) has the same priorities as you do, or as other people do.

It would be his message has little if anything to with the usual ways of measuring success.

[Big Grin]

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TomDavidson
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That's certainly possible. In that case, I'd argue that worship of such a god is irrational.
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kmbboots
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Unless, God's priorities are better than yours.
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TomDavidson
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Always possible. Except that, as defined by the previous statements, it is impossible to verify this.

I mean, God might -- just as an example -- have a really good reason for telling me to chop off my left leg at the knee. But under this model, I have absolutely no way of determining that, or even evaluating after the fact whether that action was really necessary.

-----

That said, Kate, I'm surprised you made that observation, as I have no idea how in your worldview it would be possible for God to express a priority that you had not already concluded He had and you shared.

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Tresopax
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Sort of like how doctors recommend I get a flu vaccine and yet I have no way of determining, even after the fact, whether the vaccine actually prevented anything from happening?
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MrSquicky
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quote:
That said, Kate, I'm surprised you made that observation, as I have no idea how in your worldview it would be possible for God to express a priority that you had not already concluded He had and you shared.
That's a bizarre thing to believe about boots' beliefs. That's not at all consistent with what she has said about them.
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kmbboots
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Tom, I have already answered the "what did I change when I became Catholic" question. On the other hand, I have been my own weird brand of religious since almost as far back as I can remember so I am not usually too puzzled by my understanding of God's priorities. And still I have my own priorities that are in conflict with what I understand to be God's priorities. For example, my priority for spending my money is on books and stuff for my apartment. I believe that God's priority is charity. Often, my priority wins, but not always.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
Sort of like how doctors recommend I get a flu vaccine and yet I have no way of determining, even after the fact, whether the vaccine actually prevented anything from happening?
Yes, absolutely! Except that you can actually apply vaccines in other situations and see why they work, and moreover can research reliably reproducible data on what it is that vaccines actually do.

quote:
For example, my priority for spending my money is on books and stuff for my apartment. I believe that God's priority is charity.
I dispute this. Your ideal priority is charity. In practice, you fail to live up to that ideal, but that does not mean the ideal is necessarily at odds with your own. Your God is not a mirror; He is an idealized mirror.
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Tresopax
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quote:
Yes, absolutely! Except that you can actually apply vaccines in other situations and see why they work, and moreover can research reliably reproducible data on what it is that vaccines actually do.
Given I have no lab, no vaccines, no flu viruses, only a basic knowledge of science, limited time, and other priorities, how can I do that? Or by "can actually" do you mean "could in theory"?
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TomDavidson
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Sure. You could, if you trusted the people who wrote down (and then the people who verified) the raw data, also obtain the raw data and review it.

Note that none of this is possible under religious epistemology, which lacks data in general.

Of course, you could just ask somebody you trust about what they think vaccines do. I understand that this is the sort of approach that has led directly to the whole "vaccines cause autism" flap.

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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:


quote:
For example, my priority for spending my money is on books and stuff for my apartment. I believe that God's priority is charity.
I dispute this. Your ideal priority is charity. In practice, you fail to live up to that ideal, but that does not mean the ideal is necessarily at odds with your own. Your God is not a mirror; He is an idealized mirror.
Well sure. I recognize that is better because it is God's priority and I recognize that God's priorities are better than my selfish one. So I try to make it my priority as well. (Sometimes.)
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TomDavidson
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quote:
I recognize that is better because it is God's priority...
If it were not God's priority -- if God, for the sake of argument, did not exist -- would you not believe that charity is a higher ideal priority than your CD collection?
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kmbboots
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How would I know?
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TomDavidson
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Well, I'm capable of imagining what I might believe if I believed in a variety of different gods. You can't speculate on what you might believe if you didn't?
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kmbboots
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I"m still having a hard time understandin this question. Could you give me an example?
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TomDavidson
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Sure, I'll elaborate. (I don't think an example would help.) If you didn't think that God existed, would you still consider charity to be a higher ideal than adding to your CD collection? Or is it only because you think God values charity that you value charity so highly, to place it above increasing the size of your collection as an ideal priority?
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kmbboots
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If God weren't God and I didn't believe in God, I have no idea what I would believe or who I would be.

ETA: The first real recollection I have of hearing about Jesus and God was when I was about 5 and I found some book. I'm sure there were other things, I had Catholic great aunts and I went to a Lutheran parochial kindergarten. I think this was before that, though, and I don't remember anything clearly from kindergarten.

When I came across this book (I don't remember where) it put a name to something I already recognized. "Yes, that's right. Oh that is what that is called and where it comes from."

[ June 02, 2009, 03:19 PM: Message edited by: kmbboots ]

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TomDavidson
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Is it likely that you would be, for example, a transsexual businessperson in Perth, Australia, who regularly (and illegally) hunts koalas for sport? Using only his teeth?
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kmbboots
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Ha! Not that likely. But who I would be in terms of doing charity and so forth? I don't really know.

I do go through phases where I am less religiously active (in fact I am in one now) and I do find that make me less apt to do other things that I believe God wants me to. But it doesn't change my belief any.

If I had never heard of Christianity, I believe I would have a similar sense of a good God but less information to shape the details of my relationship with God. Or at least different information. Not as good, I think.

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Tresopax
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quote:
Sure. You could, if you trusted the people who wrote down (and then the people who verified) the raw data, also obtain the raw data and review it.

Note that none of this is possible under religious epistemology, which lacks data in general.

Of course, you could just ask somebody you trust about what they think vaccines do. I understand that this is the sort of approach that has led directly to the whole "vaccines cause autism" flap.

Which of those two options do you think would be the more rational course for the average person who knows only an average amount about science and has only average resources, limited time, etc.:
1) Get vaccines if and only if you've obtained the raw data yourself, trust it, analyzed it, and have shown that the vaccine will do something productive for you.
2) Trust your doctor when he says you should get the vaccine.

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0Megabyte
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Somewhere I get a strange feeling that we're missing a step somewhere here in the distinction between a doctor giving a prescription/recommendation and a supernatural force which appears to be God giving you the order to amputate your foot for no immediately visible reason.
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TomDavidson
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It's also worth noting, too, that doctors have been certified by other experts in the fact-based field of medicine as being familiar with medical facts. By contrast, clergy are not certified by other clergy as being demonstrably more familiar with God. (And, of course, the Voice of God you hear in your head hasn't even taken a single proctored exam.)
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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
By contrast, clergy are not certified by other clergy as being demonstrably more familiar with God.

Aren't they in some religions?
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TomDavidson
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I don't think so. Are there clergy for whom a demonstrable, working relationship with God is one of the actual prerequisites?
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rivka
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That's not what you said.
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TomDavidson
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What's the distinction?
To become a doctor, other medical experts have to agree that you have demonstrated a familiarity with medical procedure. As far as I know, to become a clergyperson, other theologians do not require that you demonstrate a familiarity with God. (In other words: clergy are expected by other clergy to be familiar with theology, not necessarily God. They can thus be considered to have demonstrated their expert knowledge of their own religion's beliefs, but not any expert knowledge of the divine.)

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
clergy are expected by other clergy to be familiar with theology, not necessarily God.

For those who believe the theology to be true, you are making a false distinction.

You seem to want the med students to be tested by the local chiropractic board. Or the herbalists.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
You seem to want the med students to be tested by the local chiropractic board.
No, not at all. Because theologians do not themselves claim to be able to demonstrate their relationship with God. (In fact, you might be able to make a quick, dirty distinction between cults and legitimate religions by noting that cult leaders often do claim to be able to demonstrate a relationship with God, whereas reputable clergy generally do not.) Note, by the way, that I'm using the word "demonstrate" and not the word "have." Without demonstration, it'd be like walking into the Bar Exam, saying "No, really, my expensive suit proves I'm a lawyer," and all the other lawyers going, "Oh, yeah, okay."
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rivka
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Interesting you mention the bar exam. A written test -- not unlike the tests many religions require of their potential clergy.
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TomDavidson
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And how many of those written tests for clergy include questions intended to determine not how much doctrine or philosophy a clergyperson knows, but how well the clergyperson knows God?

Because, bear in mind, the value of a religion is not in its doctrine; it is in its doctrine as informed by an unimpeachable authority. Any Tom, Dick or Harry can come up with doctrine; the only thing that makes a religious doctrine special is its origin, and that's unverifiable.

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by rivka:
For those who believe the theology to be true, you are making a false distinction.


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TomDavidson
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Yes, I'm aware of that. That is in and of itself one of the most useful arguments for the uselessness of religious epistemology.

You don't catch doctors saying, "Oh, there's no difference between medical knowledge and my familiarity with the history of medicine. This person here who can name seventy famous neurosurgeons is himself qualified to perform neurosurgery." There is a quantifiable, demonstrable skillset involved, not least because there are actual, real-world consequences.

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rivka
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Theology is not history.
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TomDavidson
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Most theologians claim first-hand knowledge of what God wants?

I'm certainly willing to grant that the profession of clergyperson incorporates elements of sociology, philosophy, psychology, etc. But I see theologians, in an effort to determine what God wants, generally applying philosophy to history. You would disagree?

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kmbboots
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Doctors don't have first hand knowledge of all the medical information they use. They study what other people have learned, add to that knowledge with their own insights when they can, use their judgement to weigh sometimes contrary information and opinions.

That is not so different from what theologians do.

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Teshi
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quote:
Sure, I'll elaborate. (I don't think an example would help.) If you didn't think that God existed, would you still consider charity to be a higher ideal than adding to your CD collection? Or is it only because you think God values charity that you value charity so highly, to place it above increasing the size of your collection as an ideal priority?
I think one of the things that makes many religious people so wary of atheism is that they think that to not believe in God is to change everything, whereas I don't act very differently from someone who believes in God.
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Ron Lambert
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We are talking about ultimate reality, not ephemeral theory. If God does truly exist, then that changes everything. It is the most important fact there is. It affects absolutely everything. Conversely, if God does not exist, then that changes everything, too. That is, it makes everything have no meaning. Only with God can there be any meaning for anything. Without God, all that is left is random chance with no purpose or intent.

There is a record of God communicating with our race. In it He says to us: "What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor." (Psalms 8:4-5; NKJV) And: "For thus says the Lord of hosts: 'He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye.'" (Zech. 2:8; NKJV) And: "'I have loved you,' says the Lord." (Mal. 1:2; NASB) And: "Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love." (John 15:9; NASB) And: "I do not say to you that I will request the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from the Father." (John 16:26-27; NASB)

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Strider
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quote:
if God does not exist, then that changes everything, too. That is, it makes everything have no meaning. Only with God can there be any meaning for anything. Without God, all that is left is random chance with no purpose or intent.
wow, I had no idea. And here I was trying to lead a good ethical life. Thanks for clearing things up for me. I'm going to go out and start murdering my neighbors now. Have an awful day!
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TomDavidson
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quote:
That is, it makes everything have no meaning. Only with God can there be any meaning for anything.
Prove it. I'll wait.

quote:
There is a record of God communicating with our race.
Even better news! There are multiple records of multiple, often mutually exclusive, gods communicating with our race! Surely, with all these gods proven to show an interest, our lives must be fully replete with meaning! [Wink]
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Teshi
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Satire aside, although "random chance without purpose or intent", as you describe it, seems like it would feel meaningless, it doesn't. [Smile]

Assuming that you regard yourself as having no epic purpose related directly to God, all the other forms of purpose, intent and meaning remain intact.

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Tresopax
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quote:
Most theologians claim first-hand knowledge of what God wants?
As far as I know, I've never had a doctor who has first hand experience analyzing the raw data from flu vaccine experiments or conducting such experiments to determine whether flu vaccines work. I'm presuming the person who gave me the shot last time had never actually conducted any such first hand experiments either. She appeared to just be repeating what she had learned from others. Am I irrational to trust them?
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TomDavidson
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quote:
She appeared to just be repeating what she had learned from others.
Do you really not see the distinction, Tres, or are you just engaging in empty rhetoric? Because having to take you step by step through the differences, frankly, seems like it would get tedious pretty quickly. And I know you're smart enough to see them on your own.
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Tresopax
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I see the distinction, but I don't think it is what you're suggesting it is. So, back to the question, am I irrational to trust a medical expert with no first-hand experience whose expertise only comes from what he or she has learned from others?
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TomDavidson
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No. But, of course, the distinction accounts for that, since it is irrational to trust a priest who tells you what God wants you to do.
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kmbboots
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If the priest told me something that didn't make any sense, sure. Of course, if a doctor told me something that didn't make any sense, I would probably get a second opinion on that as well.
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Tresopax
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So, just to be clear, you've said:
1) It can be rational for me to get a vaccine even if I've never conducted a first-hand experiment to see if it will do what it is supposed to.
2) It can be rational for me to get a vaccine even if I've never personally analyzed data from experiments designed to see if it will do what it is supposed to.
3) It can be rational for me to get a vaccine even if the only reason I'm doing so is on the advice of a medical expert who has never conducted a first-hand experiment or personally analyzed data from an experiment to see if it will do what it is supposed to, and who is only giving me the advice he's been told to give.

Based on this, it's clear that at least in practical life you accept simple trust as a rational mechanism through which to justify beliefs and choices. By that I mean that it's clear that you consider it possible for a rational person to come to beliefs without any first-hand experimental evidence whatsoever, basing the belief solely on the word of an expert who himself may be basing the advice solely on some other expert's word. That's exactly what normal people do when they get a vaccine - they don't experiment on it themselves to confirm the vaccine work and most normal people probably wouldn't even have any idea how to properly go about testing whether a vaccine is effect.

Given all this, what are you now claiming is the distinction between a patient trusting a doctor vs. a religious person trusting a priest?

---

If you want to know what I think the distinction is, I think the distinction is that TomDavidson accepts scientists as experts whereas TomDavidson considers priests to lack the knowledge they claim to have. Or in other words, the distinction is in the eye of the beholder. It has very little to do with how much experimental evidence the person has, and almost everything to do with what assumptions the person is initially bringing to the table about who can be trusted and who can't. To someone who thought science is a sham and religion has all the verified answers from God, it would seem irrational to ever trust a scientist but rational to trust priests. If you come in with assumptions that lead you to believe person X is an expert, then it seems rational to trust them. If you come in with assumptions that led you to believe person X is not an expert, it probably seems crazy to trust them. In either event, "trust" is the main piece of evidence being weighed, not any experimental data.

[ June 04, 2009, 08:09 AM: Message edited by: Tresopax ]

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Valentine014
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quote:

Given all this, what are you now claiming is the distinction between a patient trusting a doctor vs. a religious person trusting a priest?

Or hey, why not a superstitious person trusting their horoscope? Is that rational too?

The distinction, to me, is that one chain is just more and more people claiming "God is like this, trust me" going back a thousand years and at the end of the other chain is a crap-load of experimental data and repeatable studies.

Seems obvious to me.

Edit: Dammit, this is Xavier again. Gotta stop surfing on Niki's laptop in the morning.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
Given all this, what are you now claiming is the distinction between a patient trusting a doctor vs. a religious person trusting a priest?
So you're saying you don't see the distinction?
*sigh*

The distinction is that there is a long chain of observation and expertise between the claims made by a medical doctor and the people who initially established those claims. (Heck, there's a pretty firm chain linking the people who agree that any given individual can call himself a doctor. There are standards there which -- unlike the standards for clergyhood -- relate directly to the main role of the profession. ) At any point, any of the links in that chain can be rigorously tested and plumbed -- by anyone. In fact, established convention actually rewards this behavior.

If you doubt the character of a doctor, or if new developments give you cause to doubt a piece of an underlying theory, it is absolutely possible for anyone else with the appropriate training to double-check the truth.

Compare the assertion "vaccines can prevent disease" with the assertion "God can raise the dead." Compare how one might go about obtaining information regarding the validity of either. If you don't see my point, you're being willfully blind.

quote:
I think the distinction is that TomDavidson accepts scientists as experts whereas TomDavidson considers priests to lack the knowledge they claim to have.
Not necessarily. In fact, I consider that priests do not, in general, even claim to have this knowledge. Most priests, in my experience, claim to know that someone else said "X" about God. There is no mechanism by which the assertions of that "someone else" can be tested; those assertions have not been tested in the history of mankind. In other words, the claims of priests about God hinge completely and solely upon the character of historical figures whose own lives have been heavily mythologized. Priests cannot be considered experts on the will of God precisely because there is no way to actually determine the quality of their expertise on that subject.
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Tresopax
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quote:
At any point, any of the links in that chain can be rigorously tested and plumbed -- by anyone. In fact, established convention actually rewards this behavior.

If you doubt the character of a doctor, or if new developments give you cause to doubt a piece of an underlying theory, it is absolutely possible for anyone else with the appropriate training to double-check the truth.

First you say "anyone" can test any link of the chain, but then you say only people with "appropriate training" can double check.

How can *I* (with no lab, only a basic knowledge of science, and no time to do extensive research) test each link on the chain that leads to the assertion that I should get a flu vaccine? How am I supposed to know what is at the end of the chain?

And keep in mind there are people with far less knowledge than me. Imagine a person in a third world country who has no formal education in science whatsoever, who is told by a doctor to get a vaccine. How is that person going to test each link of the chain?

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Teshi
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At least there's a chain to test somewhere.
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