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Author Topic: Dawkins, Pinker, Ramachandran, Dennett, and more...
Chris Bridges
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To be perfectly frank, by this point I don't care at all what you demand. I'm more concerned with the "willing to kill to get it" part.
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Tresopax
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quote:
I see I'm contradicting myself slightly here; let me clarify. What I outlined to BlackBlade is my actual position. What I said to Tres is a hypothetical, intended to demonstrate the circumstances in which his compromise will not work. I don't in fact demand freedom from religion, although that would certainly be very nice; but I do demand freedom from non-evidentialism.
Obviously compromise will not work if one side is unwilling to compromise. But there is nothing unique abour religion in that regard; that's true for any possible dispute. If you want chocolate ice cream and I don't want you to have it, and you are so unwilling to compromise that you're willing to kill, then compromise on the ice cream issue will probably not happen.

Fortunately, most people are willing to compromise on most issues - even on religious issues. Historically, peace by compromise has been far more common than peace created by one side presenting evidence to the other side and the other side saying "Oh, now that we see your evidence we drop our dispute."

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King of Men
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quote:
Fortunately, most people are willing to compromise on most issues - even on religious issues. Historically, peace by compromise has been far more common than peace created by one side presenting evidence to the other side and the other side saying "Oh, now that we see your evidence we drop our dispute."
I do not think that is true, actually. There are three kinds of peace: Compromises, eg freedom of religion; conquests, eg the creation of Israel - although this is not yet complete, obviously; and evidence, which occurs mainly in science. There have been a really large number of issues in science settled by evidence, from the existence of meteorites to continental drift. For every agreed fact now taught in our schools, there was once a contrary opinion - or five - which their holders eventually gave up in the face of the evidence. I think you'll find that, counting science, this is much the most common way of settling disputes.
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Chris Bridges
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Counting individual human disputes, compromise wins out easily. In the majority of day-to-day disputes between people - family members, friends, coworkers, neighbors, etc - I submit it is more common for the parties involved to compromise on a livable solution.
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fugu13
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Yeah, the number of scientists, and the number of things settled by facts (which is rather smaller than most of the things scientists study, which are usually just "likely true"), is tiny in comparison to the number of times people have compromised about things.
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King of Men
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Ok, that's a reasonable point; but if someone is willing to kill over which side of the toilet paper the end shall hang on, then even I am not going to call that "courage of his convictions". That's plain crazy.
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fugu13
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There's something very amusing about that sentiment coming from you.

And anyways, it is easy to come up with a huge list of things arguably far more serious that people compromise on routinely. For instance, which parent gets custody of children in a divorce.

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Tresopax
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quote:
Ok, that's a reasonable point; but if someone is willing to kill over which side of the toilet paper the end shall hang on, then even I am not going to call that "courage of his convictions". That's plain crazy.
No more crazy than killing someone over which scientific theory is true.
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King of Men
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quote:
Originally posted by fugu13:
And anyways, it is easy to come up with a huge list of things arguably far more serious that people compromise on routinely. For instance, which parent gets custody of children in a divorce.

A conflict which is routinely resolved by court orders, backed ultimately by all the power of the state, seems to me rather a bad example of resolution by compromise.

However, I think this is a bit of a digression; presumably small conflicts are more common than large conflicts, and also more likely to be solved by compromise; this does not invalidate the existence of large conflicts. I suspect everyone here would be willing to kill for their freedom to criticise the government, for example. That you rarely get a chance to fight in such a conflict is good luck.

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Strider
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quote:
I suspect everyone here would be willing to kill for their freedom to criticise the government, for example.
Kill, no. Die, maybe.
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King of Men
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Well then, it appears that you are very well suited to life - short but merry! - in a repressive dictatorship. What the government wants to do and what you are willing to do match up perfectly!
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Mucus
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Could just leave.
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Strider
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KoM, you are again falsely assuming we live in a black and white world. Where things either go the way they do in your mind, or not at all. Where killing is the only way to enact change and solve disputes.
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King of Men
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Some things genuinely are black and white.
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Chris Bridges
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Let's try this. I go and have a lovely dinner with a leprechaun-believer, and I enjoy it. Please explain to me, step by step, without offering more questions in return, how this inevitably leads to me being killed. Make me understand.
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King of Men
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I do not think I have made that claim. Is this another one of those things that's ok to believe without evidence if it makes you happy?
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Chris Bridges
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quote:
Most people, I think, would at least profess that they would rather know truth than believe a lie. I'm inclined to take them at their word; if the one says, "I wish to be a better person", who am I to contradict them? Now, if someone is willing to stand up in public and say "I would rather believe a comfortable lie", then fine, we have no common ground and will eventually have to settle our differences by violence.
And, quoted in full:
quote:
Actually, I may be guilty of a slight overstatement there. It's not theists, as such, I would be sending to the biodiesel vats, but the ones who do not consider evidence paramount in forming beliefs. Lisa and BlackBlade would survive my purges; Chris and kmb would not. The former two are only guilty of evaluating evidence wrongly; a mistake, but not a killing matter. The latter have turned to the Dark Side. It seems possible that you will consider this outcome ironic; please feel free.
Italics mine. My wife would, by your definitions, rather believe a comfortable lie, as you have exhaustively determined. I have no problem with her continuing to hold this belief. According to you, we therefore have no common ground with you. According to you, I have turned to the "Dark Side," which apparently is a killing matter. According to you, in your own words, sir, we will eventually have to settle our differences by violence. Not "we may have to" or "if you force such belief on me we will" or any other qualified statement, but "we will." According to you, in your own words, sir, I would not survive your purge.

Explain to me, step by step, how this inevitable progression goes. Explain to me why, even though I bear no threat to you, will likely never meet you in person or impact your life in any meaningful way, it will become necessary to confront me with violence.

[ August 06, 2009, 07:23 PM: Message edited by: Chris Bridges ]

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King of Men
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Oh, I see. Well, there isn't anything complicated about it: You have expressed opinions which I find intolerable, and which make you rather more dangerous than the average nuclear bomb. For my own safety, I feel obliged to get you first. No steps, as such; hence my confusion.
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Chris Bridges
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Explain to me why, even though I bear no threat to you, will likely never meet you in person or impact your life in any meaningful way, it will become necessary to confront me with violence.
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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by King of Men:
quote:
Originally posted by fugu13:
And anyways, it is easy to come up with a huge list of things arguably far more serious that people compromise on routinely. For instance, which parent gets custody of children in a divorce.

A conflict which is routinely resolved by court orders, backed ultimately by all the power of the state, seems to me rather a bad example of resolution by compromise.
I think you've been watching too much Court TV. Statistically, in my state at least, something like 75% of all custody disagreements are completely resolved via (obligatory) mediation. That's right, compromise!
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King of Men
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I disagree with this part of your statement:

quote:
I bear no threat to you
Humans are dangerous to other animals out of all proportion to our size, because we are intelligent. But we are dangerous to each other mainly when we cripple our intelligence by tolerating muddy thinking. To state that beliefs of fact may be held without evidence, is to say that you deliberately turn off your mind on certain subjects; historically, those who do this are extremely dangerous to the ones who don't. What would you say of a man who had decided to believe in global warming regardless of the evidence? (Note that the question has nothing to do with the actual, real-world threat of global warming.) I do not think you would like him to vote on a carbon-tax scheme. And before you protest that it is the voting and not the non-evidentiary belief you object to, just how are you going to distinguish the two? On the other side of the political spectrum, what of a man who has decided that gay marriage is harmful, evidence be damned? How will you stop him from acting on his belief, short of violence? Here is real harm to real people, founded on nothing more than someone's ick-factor at thinking of teh buttsechs. That your wife's religion does not contain this particular belief is no excuse; can you claim that she does not act in accordance with its non-evidentiary claims of fact?

Will you promise me never to vote on any subject that can possibly be influenced by beliefs of fact? I don't think you can. We all affect each other, like it or not. To act on beliefs not as accurate as we can make them is the height of anti-socialness.

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King of Men
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quote:
Originally posted by rivka:
quote:
Originally posted by King of Men:
quote:
Originally posted by fugu13:
And anyways, it is easy to come up with a huge list of things arguably far more serious that people compromise on routinely. For instance, which parent gets custody of children in a divorce.

A conflict which is routinely resolved by court orders, backed ultimately by all the power of the state, seems to me rather a bad example of resolution by compromise.
I think you've been watching too much Court TV. Statistically, in my state at least, something like 75% of all custody disagreements are completely resolved via (obligatory) mediation. That's right, compromise!
Right... compromise by obligatory mediation; in other words, enforced from outside. This does not look like voluntary agreement to me, it's more like negotiations between states ending in a treaty that reflects the real balance of military power, modulo the skill of the negotiators.
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rivka
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First of all, that would still be a compromise. Second of all, as someone who has actually been through the process, I can conclusively state that you are completely wrong on how it works. I was actually pleasantly surprised and very impressed with how skilled they were at finding points of agreements and building on them.

Also, the mediation is obligatory. Progress is not. [Wink] (Hence the 25%)

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King of Men
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Right, that's when the negotiations break down and the armies, or in this case the lawyers, have to find out what the real balance of power is.
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rivka
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But in your model, that would happen 100% of the time.
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King of Men
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There is a difference of degree, but not of kind, between actual fights and negotiations backed by threats; they both depend on the weapons available, and neither belongs to the same category as making small concessions out of actual goodwill, or because the issue is not important. Perhaps I should have added a fourth kind of peace: Negotiated truces reflecting an armed balance of power.
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rivka
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I still reject your description of custody mediation, regardless of how many times you restate it.
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fugu13
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Strangely, numerous negotiations don't involve threats. Furthermore, you have specifically asserted people will be killed, which is not just a "difference of degree" even with negotiations backed by threats.

edit: actually, I should be more specific. You have asserted repeatedly that there will be violent warfare, not just the occasional killing.

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King of Men
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quote:
Strangely, numerous negotiations don't involve threats.
I don't think this is true; can you give an example?

quote:
Furthermore, you have specifically asserted people will be killed, which is not just a "difference of degree" even with negotiations backed by threats.
Ok, the threats do not have to be threats of violence, that's true. But this seems to stray rather far from the original issue, which is what happens when one side is unwilling to compromise at all. The number of conflicts resolved other than by violence is not terribly relevant to that.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
But this seems to stray rather far from the original issue, which is what happens when one side is unwilling to compromise at all.
Which side is unwilling to compromise, again?
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Tresopax
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quote:
But we are dangerous to each other mainly when we cripple our intelligence by tolerating muddy thinking.
King of Men, when your muddy thinking is pointed out to you, how do you react? Do you say "Thank you for pointing out how muddy my thinking was - now I am going to think differently"? No, that's not how you react. Instead, you normally try to defend your thinking, and convince yourself that there was nothing muddy about your thinking at all.

There lies the problems with "not tolerating" muddy thinking. Firstly, ALL of us (including you) commit muddy thinking on a frequent basis, and on any given topic there is no absolute way to determine which person is thinking wrongly. Secondly, the person committing muddy thinking rarely can recognize and rarely is willing to admit to thinking wrongly. And thirdly, even when they do recognize they are thinking wrongly, it is often difficult for them to alter the way they think. Thus, the problem is not that we "tolerate" muddy thinking. The real problem is that muddy thinking is in our nature, whether it is tolerated or not. Being intolerant of it will not make it go away.

There is no simple piece of evidence that Chris could show his wife that would suddenly change her thinking. Presumably, she has seen essentially all the evidence he has. She simply comes to a different conclusion, and thinks her conclusion is more accurate than his. He could become "intolerant" of her "muddy thinking", but she could just as easily become intolerant of HIS "muddy thinking".

On that note, the fact remains that people see all the same evidence regarding religion that you do, King of Men. Most look at it all and come to an opposite conclusion than you do. Most see the lines of thinking that you use as muddy thinking. They point out all of their religious texts, experiences, and other evidence of religion and expect you do see why their religion is true. Then, when you don't accept their evidence, they think you are just being stubborn - that you can't accept the truth. You seem to be arguing that they should consider you a threat and should not tolerate your atheism. I think it is clear that if all sides act in that manner, the most popular and most powerful would win out, not necessarily the most truthful. Your position on religion would not win out if everyone stopped tolerating the thinking of anyone they disagreed with.

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King of Men
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
But this seems to stray rather far from the original issue, which is what happens when one side is unwilling to compromise at all.
Which side is unwilling to compromise, again?
This one. (Points to self.) What of it?
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Raymond Arnold
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quote:
What of it
All of the problems you point to come specifically because of people who refuse to compromise, not people who think or believe certain things. People who are unwilling to compromise cause problems regardless of how well thought their position is.

I largely agree with Tres' last post. The way you approach people does more harm than good to atheism (and probably rationality) as a whole. Richard Dawkins (who I assume you're trying to emulate) can accomplish something with it because he's a famous ringleader who helps draw atheists out of the woodwork and make them feel part of a community, and even when he is being confrontational with theists he's more clever about it.

I think I saw a TED talk recently talking about how high school math is currently slated towards preparing people for calculus, which is something most people don't use, when it should be preparing them for statistics, which is something everyone can benefit from. I think most of the muddy thinking that results in people thinking their religious has logical/empirical support is because they don't understand probability and the human tendency to find patterns where there is none.

Requiring high school classes that encourage critical thinking and applying statistics would probably do a lot to improve the human race (and also happen to increase the ratio of atheists, but I'd consider that more of a side effect than an end goal). Yelling at people that their beliefs are wrong only makes them more stubborn no matter how wrong they might be.

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King of Men
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quote:
King of Men, when your muddy thinking is pointed out to you, how do you react? Do you say "Thank you for pointing out how muddy my thinking was - now I am going to think differently"? No, that's not how you react. Instead, you normally try to defend your thinking, and convince yourself that there was nothing muddy about your thinking at all.
That'll teach me to use pithy phrases. You appear to think that by "muddy thinking" I wanted to indicate "bad reasoning from the evidence, reaching a wrong conclusion". That's a bad thing, but not a mortal sin; we are all fallible (except me, obviously), and would have a small population indeed if we were shot for making mistakes. No, the muddy thinking I will not tolerate is the belief that evidence is not necessary. I trust I have never made any such assertion, nor do most theists. Only the ones who are clever enough to notice that hey, they don't actually have any evidence, but they still want to believe. This is a pretty small subset of theists "in the wild", as it were, but much larger among the educated and well-read, hence it looks rather bigger here on Hatrack - maybe ten or twenty percent of our theists are of this class. And one of our atheists, apparently, which I admit I find very disappointing, but does demonstrate that even muddy thinkers are capable of reaching the right conclusion - the two traits are, if not orthogonal, at least not perfectly parallel.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
No, the muddy thinking I will not tolerate is the belief that evidence is not necessary.
Not necessary for what?
If Chris' wife believed she were being told by God to jump off a bridge, she'd probably look for more evidence; I'm confident Chris would insist on it, too, if she shared her plans.

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Strider
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quote:
Requiring high school classes that encourage critical thinking and applying statistics would probably do a lot to improve the human race
agreed. I always thought high schools should have required courses in statistics, logic, finance, ethics, and comparative religion. Those few courses in my mind would have a more positive affect on people's lives than most things that are learned in all 4 years of high school. And better prepare them for life. While much of the specific knowledge we learn is important, of supreme importance is the ability to think critically and rationally that is severely lacking from our education system.
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King of Men
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Not necessary for belief. And in fact, I think you are mistaken about your hypothetical; it seems to me that people who believe their gods speak to them are rarely inclined to look for separate evidence. That's why we call them 'insane' and lock them up so they won't hurt themselves or others.
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Chris Bridges
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Actually, in overwhelming numbers, we don't. We lock those up who have demonstrated danger to themselves or others.

Actions, not opinions, not methods of thought. Actions.

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Chris Bridges
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quote:
I always thought high schools should have required courses in statistics, logic, finance, ethics, and comparative religion.
Very much agreed. Also first aid.
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Strider
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yes, with you on that one too.

I also think classes in general should focus on more project oriented work. I think it's a more efficient way of learning material than memorization. And helps teach kids about applying theory to practice.

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Tresopax
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quote:
No, the muddy thinking I will not tolerate is the belief that evidence is not necessary.
I can't speak for all religions, but I can tell you that the following is said every single service at my church following silent prayer:

"Hear the good news: Christ died for us while we were yet sinners; that proves Godís love toward us."

Evidence is important to Christianity - that is, in many respects, what Christ's story is. Your disagreement does not stem from any reality that evidence is unimportant in religion. Instead, the disagreement stems from the fact that you throw out most of the evidence in the world, and don't count it as evidence.

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King of Men
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Did you read the sentence just after the one you quoted?

quote:
I trust I have never made any such assertion, nor do most theists.
The question of how reliable the Gospels are as evidence is entirely separate from whether evidence is needed in the first place.
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Chris Bridges
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quote:
Will you promise me never to vote on any subject that can possibly be influenced by beliefs of fact? I don't think you can. We all affect each other, like it or not. To act on beliefs not as accurate as we can make them is the height of anti-socialness.
But apparently it's not my belief that warrants my death. As you said,
quote:
It's not theists, as such, I would be sending to the biodiesel vats, but the ones who do not consider evidence paramount in forming beliefs. Lisa and BlackBlade would survive my purges; Chris and kmb would not. The former two are only guilty of evaluating evidence wrongly; a mistake, but not a killing matter. The latter have turned to the Dark Side.
Since Lisa and Blackblade, and presumably other theists, would vote according to their beliefs they should be just as dangerous to you.

Instead you have singled me out for the unforgivable crime of not thinking the way you want me to think. Doesn't matter, apparently, what decisions I make because the way I arrive at them, which you are assuming to be evidence-free in all things, since obviously people think exactly the same way about every single aspect of everything they encounter. Doesn't matter how scientifically rigorous I would be in every other field as long as I refused to rule out an unprovable fact that I believe has no bearing on my day-to-day life. No, it is my open-mindedness on facts that cannot be proven or disproved that is so abhorrent to you that you would be pleased to see me gone.

So, basically, you're hoping for an incredibly repressive government with the habits of a spoiled child. You can't convince me to think as you do, so I can't be allowed to think at all. Much easier to force me to think correctly, send me to the death camps you've mentioned twice, wish me out of existence then learn to get along with me.

You mentioned earlier the fight for freedom of speech, but you would deny me and others the freedom of thought. If you really want to know the courage of my convictions, I assure you I will fight for that one.

[ August 07, 2009, 04:58 PM: Message edited by: Chris Bridges ]

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King of Men
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quote:
You mentioned earlier the fight for freedom of speech, but you would deny me and others the freedom of thought. If you really want to know the courage of my convictions, I assure you I will fight for that one.
That is, indeed, what I have been saying all along: This difference will eventually be settled by violence. All your outrage is wasted on me, because I already feel its exact mirror image: How dare you hold this disgusting, immoral, relativistic belief? There is no compromise between my position and yours that does not involve one of us giving up cherished moral positions. Perhaps you'd like to consider thinking my way instead? No? Well, no more does your 'freedom of thought' argument move me.

At the moment, your position is the socially tolerated one, and I am therefore the aggressor, the one who has to initiate violence to get his way, and consequently is restrained by tactical considerations. I acknowledge this asymmetry between our positions, but no other, unless of course you count my position being right and yours wrong. If society had instead been built to my specifications, you would be the one considering violence to overthrow the current order, although admittedly you would be unwise to do so out loud on an Internet forum that the Mental Hygiene Police might read.

It may occur to someone to ask me, in the spirit of my challenge "what does it mean to believe" above, what positive actions I have taken towards this goal I espouse. I admit I would find this rather an embarrassing question. Perhaps I'm only a loudmouthed - loud-keyboarded? - sub-pontifical lifeform after all, only attached to the evidential way of thinking because it allows me to make outrageous statements. Or perhaps that's what I want you to think? But then, if I were serious about armed insurrection, I would certainly be rather stupid to even mention it in passing in public; while the US doesn't have a Mental Hygiene Police, it does have a Homeland Security department which likely takes a dim view of such things. Alas, I shall perhaps have to acknowledge that I do not really have the courage of this conviction, even aside from the excuse of tactical considerations. Thus time and chance happen to us all.

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Strider
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quote:
There is no compromise between my position and yours that does not involve one of us giving up cherished moral positions.
Emphasis mine. That's really the crux of it. Because there IS compromise between mine and Chris's positions, and Chris's and lots of other people, and mine and lots of other people. You're the odd man out here because you are UNWILLING to compromise. Only because YOU see no other possible course of action other than violence is violence the inevitable result.
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King of Men
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That appears to be no more than a restatement of my "your position is the socially acceptable one". If the situations were reversed, and everyone thought like me or some variant thereof, then Chris (and you, presumably) would be the aggressor, the one whose position was an outlier; and I could reasonably say "it is only your unwillingness to compromise that makes violence inherent in this system." You would not find that convincing, nor should you.
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fugu13
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Except the situations aren't parallel. He's not trying to force you to do anything other than not kill people. You'd be trying to force him not merely to avoid infringing on others' lives, but to give up his beliefs entirely.
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King of Men
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quote:
Since Lisa and Blackblade, and presumably other theists, would vote according to their beliefs they should be just as dangerous to you.
Well, yes; but they can at least be argued with, in that they admit the primacy of evidence. We always pose some threat to each other, by virtue of having fists and teeth if nothing else. You have to draw the line somewhere; I draw it between 'theist' and 'non-evidentiarist', while you draw it between "thinking about killing others" and "started in on the killing". Consider this question: If evidence is not important, what besides violence can move someone's position? (Discounting random, quantum fluctuations in their brain; such events are just as likely to make them rabid, unstoppable killers as to make them agree with reasonable people on facts.)
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fugu13
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quote:
If evidence is not important, what besides violence can move someone's position?
Why is it a presumption that we must, except in certain very extreme cases where people are forcefully moving others' positions (such as by killing)?
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Chris Bridges
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quote:
All your outrage is wasted on me, because I already feel its exact mirror image: How dare you hold this disgusting, immoral, relativistic belief?
Not quite. It would never occur to me to threaten violence at you to force you to think my way. And I have no problem with your existence or your evidentialism. I am alarmed at your constant reiteration of an inevitable violent future, but as long as it remains talk I have no problem with that.

quote:
At the moment, your position is the socially tolerated one, and I am therefore the aggressor, the one who has to initiate violence to get his way, and consequently is restrained by tactical considerations
No, you don't. You really, really don't. You have the power of your words, you have time, you presumably have facts on your side, you presumably have others who think as you do. Keep working to convince people and maybe you'll end up with a place you can tolerate.
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