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Be Careful What You Believe In

By brain in a jar in Op-Ed
Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 05:56:40 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

Beliefs are powerful, because they are not only the basis for our decisions, but also filters through which we view the world. We are constantly bombarded with huge volumes of information from our senses. Our eyes take in a full 120 degree sweep, much of this at a very high resolution, our ears are constantly responding to sounds, our sense of smell always probing the air around us for food or threats. The vast majority of this torrent of information is effectively ignored. Based on the information we get from the senses, we form a model of the world and it is this model, which forms the basis for our decisions. Absolute truth is out there, but in our heads everything is to a greater or lesser extent an interpretation. For any set of sensory data more than one interpretation is possible, and it is our beliefs, implicit and explicit, which we use to decide between the interpretations available.


Optical illusions provide an analogy for the way that beliefs shape our world. Take for example the classic glass/face illusion. As we look at the image we either see two faces looking at each other or a goblet with a fluted stem. If you sit still and look at the image, the sensory information you receive through your eyes will remain the same, but you may see either the goblet or the faces. Generally you cannot see both at the same time. Once an interpretation has been made, other interpretations are suppressed for a while. This is particularly the case for the illusion lower on the page which can be either a young woman or an old maid.

The power of interpretation is not limited to seeing, it is universal and applies just as much to our interpretation of news stories as it does to the motivations we attribute to other peoples actions.

The power of belief to effect our perception is at its most visible when we argue. Two sides can argue forever, both amazed at the stupidity of their opposition who are apparently unable to perceive that which is obvious. The long held beliefs of each side act as filters preventing them from perceiving things which would contradict their beliefs. Their opponents arguments effectively come from another world.

These are some of the more obvious effects of belief, but perhaps the least important ones. More important are the subtle ways in which our beliefs shape our worlds. Depending on what we believe the world in which we exist can seem to be welcoming or cold, benign or malign, because the world in which we live, is an interpretation of reality, not reality itself.

So assuming the reader now accepts that belief is important, the question is what to believe. I have no intention of trying to tell anyone what they should believe. For the reasons stated above this is rarely a productive strategy. Instead I will propose a method which can be used to rationally decide what to believe, even in the face of a complete lack of good evidence either way.

The two grounds for belief

At the simplest level there are only two reasons we might believe in something. The first is that there is good evidence for its truth or existence. The second is that the belief is held for its own sake, because of the effect that holding the belief will have on ourselves and on others.

Most people should be familiar with the idea of evidence, either in the context of a trial, or in the context of a scientific experiment. There are clearly many occasions when evidence is and should be the main criterion we use to judge whether a belief is sensible or more importantly whether it is good. When deciding whether water is safe to drink is better to subject is to a thorough chemical and microbiological analysis than it is to take its cleanliness as a matter of faith. This and a great many other things are relatively easy to test, and can be proven to a fair degree of certainty within a reasonable amount of time. But we don't have to look too far to find examples where evidence and experiments are of limited usefulness. Imagine you are in a bar, and an attractive man or women (reader's choice) looks towards you and smiles. Imagine also that you are interested in them. If the bar is even somewhat crowded, you can never really be sure whether he/she was smiling at you or at the person next to you. Worse, maybe he/she wasn't actually smiling, but was in fact struggling to suppress manic laughter at your ridiculous choice of clothes. It would certainly possible to devise some experiments which might help you decide on way or another, but the chances are that the opportunity will have passed long before any real certainty is achieved.

In this situation you can never be sure where the truth lies, until you risk rejection and go and talk to them, or at least smile back. If you are confident, or just a born optimist, you will probably see them as smiling at you, and interpret this as an invitation to start a conversation. If you are desperately insecure, you might think that they were laughing at you, you probably won't go and talk to them, and even if you do you may come across as being uncomfortable, defensive or hostile.

Even in this everyday situation, a situation which we wouldn't normally think of as lying in the realms of belief or faith, the outcome is very strongly dependent on what you believe. Because of this it starts to be the case that the balance of evidence is no longer the only thing to consider when deciding what to believe. In this situation, it also makes sense to consider the effect that the belief itself will have on you and on those around you. Clearly the positive belief is better for you, it is better to be surprised by a few unflattering responses to your attempts at conversation, than it is to go around believing that everyone is ridiculing you. Not to mention the non-zero chance that you might get to go home with the man/woman of your choice.

Now having seen the intermediate, we can look at the complete opposite end of the spectrum. There are some sets of beliefs, including those corresponding to religion, which are constructed in such a way that they are impossible to prove or disprove. They make no predictions which can be tested. One approach toward such beliefs would be to state that they are all equally valid since no evidence can ever be given which would suggest that one belief is better than the other. As some hardcore atheists have pointed out if we restrict ourselves to the use of evidence, then we might just as well believe in an "invisible pink unicorn (IPU)" as in the existence of a god or gods. The amount of evidence for the IPU is exactly the same amount as that which we have for the existence of a god who refuses to prove his existence because he requires faith on the part of his followers.

This is clearly a rather silly result, and to deal with it we need another basis on which we can evaluate beliefs. That is, we can evaluate the beliefs based on their effects. If the effect of a belief on those who hold it and on those around them is good, the belief itself is good, if the effects of the belief are bad, the belief itself is bad. Bear in mind, this is not intended to give anyone carte blanche for huge flights of wishful thinking, it is merely the only rule which can be sensibly applied in situations where evidence is impossible.

Clearly this rule can lead to loops of logic. For example imagine that group A decides to believe that everyone that they kill in battle in the next fifteen days will be taken up to paradise. From their point of view, the very best thing they can do is to massacre as many people as possible within the fifteen day paradise window. The problem being that the people being killed don't share group A's beliefs and object most strenuously to being slaughtered in their thousands. The only solution to this problem is to evaluate the effects of a belief, from the perspective of those who do not subscribe to it. Thus before embarking on their beneficent murder tour, group A must consider if it the best thing for the potential victims/beneficiaries, based on their own beliefs, not those of group A. Essentially, since there is no evidence, group A must consider that they might well be wrong.

This may seem a little over strict, but most of the worst excesses which have been attributed to one religious group or another in history, arise from the kind of circular thinking which group A was tempted to indulge in above.

Optimism and Pessimism: Meta Beliefs

Optimism and pessimism are meta-beliefs. If we return to the bar in our example earlier the optimist will interpret what he sees differently to the pessimist because he believes that the positive interpretations are more likely to be true than the negative ones. Hence the name "meta beliefs" i.e. beliefs about beliefs. We can even take this one level deeper, and get to something fundamental about the personality of the optimist and the pessimist. Both the optimist and the pessimist tend to view each other as fools. The optimist sees the pessimist as a man who, without good reason, makes his world into a dark and unfriendly place. As someone who is always getting everybody down. Conversely the pessimist sees the optimist as a fantasist, who lives in a world of his own which bears little relation to reality and expects that at any moment the optimists world will fall apart around him as the ugly merciless truth puts a knife through the neck of his dreams.

Naturally as with all other disagreements, both sides claim the moral high ground. The pessimist states that the optimist never has the truth, that the optimist has an ulterior motive but he does not. This is however a conceit, the ulterior motive of the pessimist, is the feeling of superiority he gets from freely choosing a painful and difficult path. The optimist sees himself as the bearer of hope, the one who dares to believe and to try knowing he may fail but continuing regardless. The danger is of course that his hopes may truly be unfounded, and that he wastes his own efforts and those of others in pursuit of a mirage.

Neither optimism nor pessimism is consistently the right choice. Both are biases, but when the truth is uncertain, and evidence scant, being biased one way or the other is unavoidable. Thus the real question is when to be an optimist and when to be a pessimist. Once again, this comes down to considering the consequences of our beliefs. An engineer building a bridge or an aeroplane must be professionally pessimistic, if he is to produce a structure which will withstand as far as possible the worst that nature and chance can throw at it. Conversely to be pessimistic about human nature, is hugely destructive. For a true misanthrope kindness appears to stem either from weakness or hidden self-interest and fidelity is the preserve of the ugly. In short the misanthrope lives in a hell entirely of his own construction, with self-importance as his only consolation.

Can we really choose what we believe?

This whole piece has been an attempt to provide the reader with the tools to decide what they should believe. So if we cannot choose what we believe then it has been a waste of time. It is a common belief, that our beliefs are fixed, that we are not free to choose what we believe. We have already discussed how beliefs persist and arguments continue because our beliefs act as filters for our perception. So how can we ever change our minds, and rationally decide what to believe?

The solution to this is simpler than you might imagine. Simply being aware of the effects that our beliefs have on our perception, frees us to some extent from their power and enables us to view the world from other perspectives. Once we have decided what to believe, we can then fix that belief by examining the world in the light of the new belief and looking at the form which it takes on. If we so decide then we can further fix the belief by acting at all times as if it were true. The mind does not deal well with contradictions between thought and action, and after sufficient time the actions will cement the belief. In this way, we can decide rationally on what to believe and thus shape for ourselves the world in which we live.

So be careful who you pretend to be and be careful what you believe.

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Display: Sort:
Be Careful What You Believe In | 232 comments (189 topical, 43 editorial, 0 hidden)
Dogma (2.50 / 2) (#5)
by Armada on Mon Mar 07, 2005 at 07:00:13 PM EST

"I don't believe, but I have a pretty good idea."

how interesting (1.00 / 4) (#6)
by Cat Huggles on Mon Mar 07, 2005 at 07:07:45 PM EST

that a lump of chemicals can believe in anything at all.

Wonderful complexity of chemistry... (none / 0) (#230)
by Niha on Tue Mar 22, 2005 at 11:18:42 AM EST

Until you have to study it. Then, it sometimes doesn´t look that good...
 Wait, you are a lump as well, aren´t you?

[ Parent ]
Turtles. It's turtles all the way down. (3.00 / 8) (#12)
by SocratesGhost on Mon Mar 07, 2005 at 08:25:10 PM EST

Stephen Hawkings' Brief History of Time had the anecdote of a woman who theorized that the belief that the universe rested on the back of a turtle. When asked what the turtle rested on, she replied another turtle. When asked what that turtle rested on, she said, "Turtles. It's turtles all the way down."

The same can be said of belief. In the movie "All of Me", Steve Martin calls his Yogi sitting in a hotel room. The Yogi, unfamiliar with hotel rooms and phones, at the time is exploring the room and flushes the toilet. At the same moment, the phone rings. Immediately, he associates the two experiences so that every time the phone rings, he runs into the bathroom to flush the toilet. Absurd as it sounds, this is the human condition.

Take an orange. You see it and you make an association between what you see and how it smells. You make other associations, too, such as the way it will taste if you bite it, and weigh if you lift it. But all of this is conjecture even when you go through the acts of lifting, smelling, and eating it. The most reasonable scientist would, at best, point to a very (he'd hesitate to say 100% although that is his experience) strong correlation between the confluence of this sense data.

Our theories even go earlier than that, when we are forming as babes. Suppose our earliest sense is of a big pale thing outlined across a background of white. It makes some motions. We hear a sound of "mama". "Mama," we hear again. Overtime, we come to believe that it is the shape that makes this sound and we'll assign the name of "Mama" to this combination of sense data. I react (not completely sure how, but I do) and I see this other pale thing cross my field of vision. I react in the same way and it happens again. OK, this is weird, but I'll call this thing "arm". If it happens every time I react, I'll expand my theory about the phenomena and call it "my arm". Sometimes this "arm" thing doesn't work but I develop a theory about that: there's something preventing it such as this "mom" thing.

In no time, we develop a highly sophisticated set of beliefs about the world. I'll come to associate these various colors with things called "objects". I'll employ this "arm" technique I've invented to determine more information about them. I realize when I manipulate it this way, I feel it in this thing I've called "my hand" and when "my hand" manipulates it that way, I can translocate it to a thing I'll call "my mouth".

The fact is, the only thing we experience is correlation. We experience this correlation so much that when we see things about which we are not familiar (more of those highly theory laden objects, for example), we'll immediately begin ascribing qualities to it even though we have little sense data to back that up. The ones that prove true in this way the most often will become increasingly central in our belief system about all of these phenomena that we see. For example, all objects have shape, dimension, and color. We'll even make guesses about things that we don't see: what's on the other side of that curtain of sky? Let's call it "the rest of the universe" and see how far that theory carries us.

We live in a world of incomplete information. Theories/beliefs are the only way to navigate it. So, when I see statements such as:
    At the simplest level there are only two reasons we might believe in something. The first is that there is good evidence for its truth or existence. The second is that the belief is held for its own sake.
When I see statements like this, I think you've already gotten too far ahead of yourself. I understand what you are saying but you'll have to admit one prior acknowledgement: everything which leads you to make such statements are themselves beliefs. Even treasured bastions of rationalism, then, can be invalidated because at best they can only be considered theories: things like numbers, logic, even the concepts of space and time. While the brain in a vat is an extreme example of this possibility, that theory is no less consistent than the one we've spent our (I assume there's a we here) entire lifetimes developing. It is, however, just not one that we find very aesthetically pleasing to accept.

-Soc
I drank what?


I'm an existentialist too nt (none / 0) (#18)
by JChen on Mon Mar 07, 2005 at 10:05:37 PM EST



Let us do as we say.
[ Parent ]
This isn't necessarily existentialism (none / 0) (#19)
by SocratesGhost on Mon Mar 07, 2005 at 10:07:14 PM EST

It's more like the pragmatic empiricism in the vein of Quine or Kuhn.

-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
I hear what you are saying (none / 0) (#23)
by brain in a jar on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 02:08:53 AM EST

but there is certainly a good deal more evidence for some models of reality than there is for others. There is certainly a huge spectrum between those ideas which are rather certain e.g. me being here in front of a computer, and the invisilbe pink unicorn which by definition defies proof or disproof.

The old chestnut that everything I see could be an illusion generated by a sufficiently powerful computer, or simply by my own imagination is true but irrelavent. Since I have no alternative to the reality that I experience, the fact that it might not be true has no consequences, there is no rational action which I can take based on it. I'm certainly not about to starve myself to death in an attempt to find out whether this is a dream or simulation rather than the one and only life I will ever get.

In fact, this is the kind of belief to which my second rule should be applied, because it is by definition impossible to prove. As such we can only judge it based on its effects and I don't feel that it is particularly useful. Though that is of course a value judgement and I'm willing to hear arguments for its utility.


Life is too important, to be taken entirely seriously.
[ Parent ]

"reality"=evidence=correlations (none / 0) (#36)
by killmepleez on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 09:41:27 AM EST

I fear you've rather missed his point.

__
"I instantly realized that everything in my life that I thought was unfixable was totally fixable - except for having just jumped."
--from "J
[ Parent ]
not sure that you do (3.00 / 2) (#37)
by SocratesGhost on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 10:16:29 AM EST

I can understand very clearly the desire to work from evidence, but this was the failing of the logical positivists. It ends up being an untenable position. I'm assuming that you're familiar with this, but for those who aren't, LP was a philosophical movement that had one deeply entrenched standard called the verification criterion: only things which are verifiable are true/valid. This is your position, no?

The problem with this is that the verification criterion fails its own test. That is, it is impossible to verify this standard. Why should we accept this standard as true, then? If the brain in the vat is a fanciful notion that cannot be proved and ought to be eliminated, ought not your verification criterion suffer the same type of consideration? That's a problem that the LPs couldn't square and I assume you will not.

This isn't a matter of everything being an illusion not having real consequences. Your second paragraph shows that you don't fully consider even that since a brain in a vat could not conceivably starve itself, you've assigned absolute consequence when there is no certainty of outcome. But setting that aside, let's assume that what we see is real. (as you can see, we're already theorizing) The only reason you choose to go along with this reality is not because of rational/irrational concerns but pragmatic ones. This is a key distinction. We realize early on that certain actions and thoughts resolve our own appetites and being creatures that are sensitive to feelings and appetites it is preferable to go along with that than not.

Further, we find that other things work tolerably well, such as the notion that 1 + 1 = 2. It's possible that this not be true, the universe could very well be organized a different way and this different organization has very real consequences in comporting with our experience. Our experience could be such that putting two things together created a third, and if that were the case it would have a very real consequence on all of our systems. The universe--as we experience it-- does not. Our choice in mathematic systems becomes a pragmatic concern and not one of rationalism.

We can even invent different systems of contradictory logic and geometry some of which prove useful in certain situations but not in others. Check out Lobachevskian geometry some time. It turns out that it very much applies to the theory of relativity but not to everyday experience. The reason it's incompatible? Lobachevski rejected Euclid's fifth postulate and proposed one of his own (The fifth postulate being the one saying that two parallel lines never met-if we postulate a universe in which parallel lines meet once, we find relevance in the general theory of relativity). We cannot simply chuck away euclidean math and embrace non-euclidean math, we choose one or the other depending on what we decide works best in that situation.

So, as you can see, it's not simply a mind game that I'm introducing. It's a very fundamental concern with this notion of verifiability.

If you want to embrace the verifiability criteria, go ahead. But know that there is no requirement that others embrace it and that you'll probably fail to make the case without resorting to an entirely theory centric pragmatism.

-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
Not just verifiability (none / 0) (#185)
by rodentboy on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 02:03:15 PM EST

He's not just insisting on verifiability. By adding his second reason for holding beliefs, a sort of measure of their utility, he has two categories.

Even if by taking the strictest defintion of 'verifiability' possible so that the first category shrinks to nullity, but then he still has his second category, and IMHO the platinum rule criterion (do unto others as they would have you do unto them) he applies to it is a pretty good heuristic.

BTW there is a real distinction his two categories: one relies on sense data and the other is populated by purely mental artifacts (gods, unicorns). Perhaps the word verifiability is the wrong word to use to distinguish them but almost everyone agrees that they are different experiences.

I'm sure you mean well and I'm not trying to attack you, but I do find it disturbing that every time an intelligent layperson tries to apply reason to his life there is always this tendency to indulge in 'angels on the head of a pin' type hair splitting to shoot him down.



[ Parent ]
I think you misunderstand (none / 0) (#227)
by SocratesGhost on Wed Mar 16, 2005 at 02:09:29 PM EST

If any thing, what I'm saying is that his second category is a superset of the first--that is, that verifiability is made possible because of pragmatic considerations. That's a difficult problem for him since he raises verifiability to a preferential position. Are we always to verify first and when verification isn't available, only then can we select pragmatically? What if pragmatism dictates that verification isn't desirable? We see evidence of this in the operation of a split personality: their psyche cannot tolerate their own tragedies so they retreat and let someone else take over.

Further, it's possible for a person to pragmatically change all of their beliefs so that very few of them are verifiable. It's the Don Quixote dilemma: he can see the windmill but he chose to see it as a giant. For a person facing the encroachment of change and technology on an ancient society, is there really a difference between a windmill and an ogre?

We often hear of people given a short time to live who somehow develop the will to outlast the prediction. Even in more mundane matters, there are times when we reject our experience: in order to make the doctor's needle more palatable, we ignore the pain.

All of these are cases where reality is less important than some desired goal. It's important to remember that we only choose to verify insofar as it assists in our desires. For an overwhelming number of times it is helpful, but it is by no means an absolute rule. My concern is that we too often forget this relationship and select a horrible reality when a different selection may be in everybody's best interest.

-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
Wrong source. (none / 1) (#46)
by aphrael on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 02:06:23 PM EST

That wasn't in _brief history_; it was in _cosmos_.

[ Parent ]
I stand corrected. (none / 0) (#49)
by SocratesGhost on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 02:13:15 PM EST

Haven't read either book in 20 years so that probably accounts for my confusion.

-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
wait, I take that back (none / 0) (#50)
by SocratesGhost on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 02:18:38 PM EST

It seems that it was in A Brief History of Time. It's the opening anecdote of the book.

-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
I wonder... (3.00 / 2) (#57)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 04:13:17 PM EST

...what the original source is for "its turtles all the way down." I first remember encountering it in an essay from anthropologist Clifford Geertz written, iirc, in the late fifties, in which he relates a personal experience involving the phrase from an unspecified number of years before.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
I always assumed it to be an apocryphal quote /nt (none / 0) (#58)
by Battle Troll on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 04:42:31 PM EST


--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
Oddly enough... (none / 0) (#65)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 06:17:10 PM EST

...I think there are a few variations on a basic story floating around--sometimes relayed in 1st person, sometimes in the 2nd--where an unnamed women in the audience brings up the turtle story in the course of asking a question of some academic lecturer. Isn't there a Feynman version of this story as well? So, the question remains, who was this turtle woman and what she really up to with her turtle story?

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Geertz (none / 0) (#69)
by SocratesGhost on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 07:40:55 PM EST

I had never heard of him until you mentioned him just now. Apparently, when he related this story in 1973 it became such a powerful image of how cultures and beliefs are built upon themselves that--according to one source--"turtles all the way down" is used by anthropologists to express what is now an article of dogma within their profession.

I'll have to take this up with my anthropologist friend to verify the accuracy of this, though.

-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
Really? (none / 0) (#73)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 08:09:12 PM EST

Geertz has arguably been, at least within the English speaking world, the most influential (and unquestionably one of the most widely read) theorist in the social sciences since Weber. 1973 was when The Interpretation of Cultures was published, but its a collection of essays, most previously published in journals, going back to the fifties.

IoC is one of those small numbers of books of which I can say, with complete honesty and no fear of overstatement, that it fundamentally changed how I look at the world. If you're interested in learning more about him and his work, the HyperGeertz Catalogue is an indispensible resource.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
My God. How did I miss this? (none / 0) (#78)
by SocratesGhost on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 08:36:48 PM EST

It seems like his ideas result in the same conclusions that I currently hold: the dehumanization process of science; an almost literary approach to investigation; symbolic and interpretive analysis of phenomena.

This is a dangerous thing you've introduced to me. I'll have to be careful not to give in to dogma, assuming there is more in common than just these generalized conclusions.

-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
yeah... (none / 0) (#80)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 09:06:26 PM EST

Geertz can be a bit addictive. For instance, his notion of "model of, model for" (cf. Religion as a Cultural System in IoC) may well be too simplistic on some important counts, but, once you've wrapped your head around the full extent of the concept, it becomes an immensely powerful and productive way of thinking about cultural products in general and language in particular.

Imho, Geertz anticipated, at least as concerns the social sciences, nearly everything important which was to arrive with post-structuralism and post-modernism, but without all the shameless excess and stylistic diarrhea.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
+1FP (1.50 / 2) (#67)
by evilmeow on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 07:04:47 PM EST

Smoke weed, and you'll be a damn good chaote.
"[O]ne thing is certain: people are certifiably historically myopic"

[ Parent ]
dude, you rock (none / 0) (#212)
by circletimessquare on Sun Mar 13, 2005 at 04:53:38 AM EST

you are the definition of eloquence


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
there is only one act of faith you need (1.12 / 8) (#15)
by circletimessquare on Mon Mar 07, 2005 at 09:02:08 PM EST

belief in the basic goodness of men and that humanity has a good future

that is the starting act of faith from which all that is beneficial spiritually and scientifically, personally and on the level of society, springs from

to not believe in the basic goodness of men and that mankind has a future also has one eventual logical conclusion:

shut the fuck up

for if you do not have faith in us, why are you talking?

the prime motivation for putting words in your mouth and uttering them to someone else in any context that has ever existed in the history of mankind is to fulfill a need or a desire, either for your good or the good of someone else or the good of society as a whole

so those who keep talking but don't believe in mankind simply haven't realized the eventual logical conclusion of their faithlessness yet


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

cts: it's hard for me to believe (3.00 / 3) (#17)
by JChen on Mon Mar 07, 2005 at 10:04:09 PM EST

in the innate goodness of man when people like you are so full of yourselves.

Let us do as we say.
[ Parent ]
you don't have to have faith in ME moron (nt) (none / 0) (#20)
by circletimessquare on Mon Mar 07, 2005 at 11:00:44 PM EST



The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
I have great faith in you. (none / 1) (#103)
by ghjm on Wed Mar 09, 2005 at 04:52:34 PM EST

You haven't let me down yet. Unlike that Jehovah fellow.

-Graham

[ Parent ]

dude (none / 0) (#113)
by circletimessquare on Wed Mar 09, 2005 at 11:05:05 PM EST

this isn't fight club


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
I agree completely. (2.50 / 2) (#146)
by ghjm on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 04:09:22 PM EST

If this WAS fight club, then you would NOT be a beautiful or unique snowflake, and you WOULD be the same decaying organic matter as everything else.

However, you are NOT the same decaying organic matter as everything else, and you ARE a beautiful and unique snowflake. Therefore, this is NOT fight club.

-Graham

[ Parent ]

HAHAHAHAHAHA ;-) nt (none / 0) (#157)
by circletimessquare on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 07:35:25 PM EST



The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
What of defiance? (2.00 / 2) (#25)
by Pxtl on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 02:17:37 AM EST

What about believing that humans are basically pathetic, squabbling primates who will very likely exterminate themselves from the universe, and wanting to fight tooth and nail to make sure that doesn't happen, because its not like sitting back and watching it happen would accomplish a single damn thing?

[ Parent ]
if you don't believe in mankind (1.75 / 4) (#40)
by circletimessquare on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 11:21:32 AM EST

you have no right to talk to mankind, or of mankind

for if you don't believe in something, yet you still talk about it, you are a liar

look carefully at your post above: in a twisted way, you are actually talking about hope for the future

so you lie to yourself in either one of two ways:

  1. you actually, deep down, really do believe in humanity and so your teenage psychology veneer will eventually evaporate as you mature
  2. you really truly don't believe in humanity at all, and so the fact that you are still talking means you haven't yet realized the full implications of your beliefs yet. when you do, you'll simply stop talking to anyone. it's hopeless, right?


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
Not necessarily. (none / 1) (#43)
by Isenphon on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 01:10:38 PM EST

My attachment to the human race is personal, not religious. I don't "believe" in humanity - I am a human. I want to help the human race not because of any higher destiny (if any) but because I'm a part of it in a familial way, including the love, obligation, etc. that stems from that. I don't "believe" in humanity, any more than I "believe" in my parents. They're just a part of my life that I love and want to protect. I don't think we're special. I just think we're us. That's good enough for me to have something to be attached to. I want humanity to do well. I want people to be everything they have the potential to be. I just don't think that there's any innate goodness or manifest destiny underlying that, and that history indicates that the opposite is true, if anything. And hope and belief are different things. They are different words for a reason. I don't think the human race is doomed or anything - I just think that a worst-case outcome is likely. I'm a pessimist, not a fatalist.

[ Parent ]
you are a moron (none / 1) (#52)
by circletimessquare on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 02:50:50 PM EST

you can look at the span of human history and see NO PROGRESS???!!!

so compared to the days of the egyptians, we're still the same?

you're fucking blind


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

you're right, of course. (3.00 / 3) (#59)
by gzt on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 05:09:11 PM EST

these days we're a lot better at killing each other.

[ Parent ]
i know (none / 0) (#61)
by circletimessquare on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 05:31:59 PM EST

and look how issues like slavery and women's rights and standard of living have gone nowhere

i mean truly, the only judgment of progress is technological knowhow like you say, right?


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

two models of success (3.00 / 2) (#71)
by SocratesGhost on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 07:50:09 PM EST

One is the avenue of progress.

The other is the avenue of the good life.

They have absolutely nothing to do with each other and defy comparison. But, they are consistent and valid in their own terms.

A good example of each is this: a future world where all of our wants are met and we live comfortable lives for as long as we choose, doped up on Soma to prevent unhappiness; or a hermit living in a cave contemplating the meaning of the universe.

I think you and I look for the good life in a world full of progress. God help us all.

-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
salamat maraming po ;-) nt (none / 0) (#83)
by circletimessquare on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 09:44:27 PM EST



The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
if only (none / 0) (#92)
by speek on Wed Mar 09, 2005 at 08:46:48 AM EST

the damn rwandans and sudanese would just keep up!

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

so what goes on in the sudan today (none / 0) (#102)
by circletimessquare on Wed Mar 09, 2005 at 04:48:42 PM EST

which was what went on EVERYWHERE yesterday

means we haven't made progress?


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

way too oversimplified (none / 1) (#119)
by speek on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 08:07:29 AM EST

There have been many past civilizations that were "better" (where "better" is my interpretation of what you would consider better) than what came after. Our progress is not the progress of human beings, however - it is simply the development of wealth. When threatened the least bit, all our progress and all our wealth does not prevent us from committing our own horrible acts. All our laws and rules and civilization is a very thin veneer over all we're capable of to keep ourselves in power.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

ummm... (none / 0) (#166)
by circletimessquare on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 12:31:35 AM EST

so what exactly is the proper response to a threat in your mind?

cookies and ice cream?

by your rationale, civilization would have died millenia ago

you have to make peace with the sometimes competing needs of survival and progress

there is no progress without struggle

2 steps forward, 1 step back

that is still progress

but simply because you have a dim view of history does not make you wiser, it makes you less educated in fact

for no one can look at the entire span of history and not see real progress by any criteria of judgment

for real


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

murder and mayhem (none / 0) (#183)
by speek on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 12:17:22 PM EST

so what exactly is the proper response to a threat in your mind?

Why, murder and mayhem, naturally. But then, I don't make grandiose claims of progress...

2 steps forward, 1 step back

The number of steps back and forth has been much less orderly and predictable than that. Like I said, we have accumulated wealth - knowledge and resources, but we haven't changed. We're still the same creatures we always were, and, as a result, sometimes our greater wealth just lets us destroy with greater efficiency. Other times we heal with greater efficiency. But, we have been healers and destroyers since near our origins.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

slavery? women's rights? standard of living? (none / 0) (#193)
by circletimessquare on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 06:13:25 PM EST

progress?

hello?


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

You're missing the point. (none / 1) (#127)
by Fon2d2 on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 11:47:34 AM EST

cts isn't asking whether you believe in humanity but wheter you believe in the goodness of humanity. If he were just asking that you believe in humanity, what would that mean? I presume it would be the same as in asking whether you believe in God. That is to say, it's the same as asking whether you believe in the existence of humanity, which of course you do, and which of course is non-productive to the discussion, so I'm not entirely sure how or why you got down this path in the first place.

Now let's go back to your original point. You said, "What about believing that humans are basically pathetic, squabbling primates who will very likely exterminate themselves from the universe" so I'm going to say it's safe to presume here that this is your belief. This belief is contradictory to cts's statement of the only act of faith you need: "that humanity has a good future".

But cts is right. If you don't really believe in the future of humanity, why are you talking? If you don't really believe in the goodness of mankind, what's your incentive to work well with the rest of us to ensure we have a good future? How well will you be able to work for the goodness of mankind if you perceive yourself as some sort of lone wolf leading some sort of lost cause? My answer to you is you will not accompolish much and may end up hindering more than you accomplish.

And now back to cts's last point. You didn't skirt around any issues of faith with your last gobbledygook post. cts's point is very real. Either you believe in the (goodness of) humanity, or you don't. If you do, then you still need to mature and drop all the stuff about "pathetic, squabbling primates", because really, that's not getting you anywhere. If you don't, then what do you care? Why take this lone wolf attitude? It's contradictory. Your entire first post is contradictory. If you really don't believe in the goodness of humanity, then you should be living an entirely self-serving existance.

[ Parent ]

yup, you nailed it (none / 0) (#196)
by circletimessquare on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 06:27:16 PM EST

it's really just selfish not to believe in the goodness of humanity

and such a person, who accepts the dominance of pure selfishness, has therefore, in complete logical consistency with their stated (dis)beliefs, automatically and completely relinquished any right to criticize any selfishness anyone else might demonstrate

that means they can't criticize gw bush, they can't criticize osama bin laden, they can't criticize anyone

because if they do, the driving force behind their criticism is to improve things: that's hope, that's faith in mankind, and that's inconsistent with their stated (dis)beliefs

(well, their motivation could be criticism constructed in such a way to make the world a WORSE place, but this isn't the faithlessness we are talking about here, that's a motivation is a different issue altogether: true evil)

so they have only one choice: shut the fuck up and go away

or grow up, and realize their immature teenaged "it's all hopeless, mankind sucks" bullshit is tired, stupid, and wrong


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

And who said anything about logical consistancy? (none / 0) (#216)
by anthroporraistes on Sun Mar 13, 2005 at 06:15:27 PM EST

I love logic as much as any other person with an interest in philosophy, but...  It does not actually apply to humans, or most of reality.  In real life, things are fluid, dynamic, semichaotic, following higher order rules that we do not understand.

---
biology is destiny
[ Parent ]
Something missing (none / 0) (#99)
by Sgt York on Wed Mar 09, 2005 at 03:14:35 PM EST

Like a closing bracket.

You say : springs from

to not believe in the basic goodness of men and that ma... I think you left a tag open there. What is missing?

That said, What is the basis for your belief that man is inherently good? You may explain it in the missing text, but I would aruge the opposite. This is evidenced by the fact that it is very difficult to truly be "good". It not only takes self sacrifice to be motivated to be good on a global level, but to be effectively good (positively affect the world around you) you need to have the intelligence, foresight, and wisdom to take the correct course of action (e.g., the road to hell is paved with good intentions). This difficulty suggests that the action is contrary to the nature of Man's motivations. Given the oppurtunity to do good, it is quite difficult to do so. Given the oppurtunity to breed or eat, it is quite easy to do so.

Man is capable of doing good things, as evidenced by history. But man is not good, per se, also as evidenced by history.

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

Parsing his sentence (none / 1) (#101)
by ghjm on Wed Mar 09, 2005 at 04:42:41 PM EST

a=[that]
b=[is]
c=[the starting act of faith]
d=[from which]
e=[all that is beneficial spiritually and scientifically (personally and on the level of society)]
f=[springs from]

He wrote:

a b c d e f

A clearer way to express the same concept would have been:

E f a, c.

You're welcome.

-Graham

[ Parent ]

ahhhhh (none / 0) (#105)
by Sgt York on Wed Mar 09, 2005 at 05:03:01 PM EST

Thank you.

Now I fully understand what he said that I don't agree with.

HA! At that game, two can play!

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

I don't think you really disagree. (none / 1) (#147)
by ghjm on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 04:33:10 PM EST

I think you disagree with his tone, not his idea. His argument is nearly tautological. How can you believe there are beneficial things in society and individuals, if you don't believe there is good in man? If there is nothing good in man, then were do the beneficial things come from?


[ Parent ]
Maybe I still misunderstand (none / 0) (#150)
by Sgt York on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 05:16:45 PM EST

I am under the impression that he is saying that man==good. But I'll be the first to admit I may have misunderstood cts. Sometimes his posts get overly emotional and hard to understand.

My argument is that man is not good, per se, but is capable of doing both good and evil. There is potential for greatness, and there is potential for catasrophe. Neither is destined.

The state of man is amoral (not the same as immoral). Our morality is defined by our actions. I do not "believe in man", as he puts it, and as I understand him. That would be a blind faith in something that has proven itself untrustworthy. A brief review of history is all you need to prove that to yourself.

I do, however, believe in (trust) certain people's ability and potential.

Assuming that man is good and therefore will "succeed" is just as fatalistic as saying that man will ultimately fail. Both encourage no action.

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

you sacrifice truth (none / 0) (#169)
by circletimessquare on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 12:49:08 AM EST

for a placid surface

i have no respect for weak people who would rather tell themselves pleasant lies because they don't want to see ugly truths

i'm so sorry my rude honesty shocks you, you spineless fuck

you really are a useless spineless fuck and i hate you

no, really, i fuckign hate you, and people like oyu i've met:

in your mind a lie, as long as it is quiet, is superior to truth about mankind's struggle,s simply because the truth might sometimes be ugly

that makes you the enemy of progress, because you have no stomach for the difficulties of progress

you're weak, and the sum total of your words and beliefs is to hamper real progress

this is you:

"mankind isn't inherently good

but please, when you hear these quiet acid words i say about man not being good, let's keep things well-behaved, i still expect you to remain composed when i tell you that mankind sucks"

that's about your pov, right?

well, i'm so sorry to disturb you, you fucking shit

when you say something that hurts mankind, i don't give a fuck how pleasantly you say it

i'll call you a shitstain for saying it

how's that?

can you live with that?

so fuck you you faithless scum

you're part of the problem in this world that keeps people suffering: "i'm telling you that mankind isn't really good, but i don't think that is a reason for you to get rude in my face"

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

figure it out asshole, parse the conflicting logic in your own stance, you stupid fuck


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

heh (none / 0) (#171)
by Sgt York on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 03:44:48 AM EST

I'm still not sure if you're a troll, drunk, insane, or just illiterate, but this is the last of my posts to you, regardless. I tried this once before, but it stopped being fun really fast. The definition of subliteracy is the inability to grasp an author's main point in a paragraph. You have failed that test here. This means that you are either of sub-par intelligence, or you have a disjointed sense of reality an logic (i.e., a mental defect).

Get help. Either a remedial tutor or a shrink.

But why do I bother? You don't possess the ability to understand what I am saying.

Oh, and your views haven't disturbed me. They are not new, and everyone has heard this philosophy before. What has disturbed me is the contradiction between your words and your actions.

Goodnight, cts. Sleep well. Goodbye.

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

hey asshole (none / 0) (#194)
by circletimessquare on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 06:18:04 PM EST

you don't believe that man is essentially good, right?

so my attitude to you is logically consistent with that assumption, right?

you simply don't understand the ramifications of your own statements

you want to have no faith in mankind, and then expect those men around you to behave properly

hello? any contradictions there?

work it out moron

because you're a moron

no: you really truly are a moron

you match the definition of someone who hasn't thought out the lack of intelligence and the negative consequences and self-destructive implications in your own words, yet you say them anyway

stupid, dumb, a moron

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

it's very simple you fucking maggot (1.00 / 3) (#112)
by circletimessquare on Wed Mar 09, 2005 at 10:31:19 PM EST

you believe in mankind, or you don't

you don't

that's fine

so fuck off and shut up and never speak to anyone again

no, i'm dead serious

YOU DON'T FUCKING BELIEVE IN US, RIGHT ASSHOLE?????

SO FUCK OFF!!

you don't believe in mankind, BUT YOU STILL KEEP FUCKING TALKING

which means one thing:

you haven't understood the implications of your own belief

stupid moron

this really is the 100% truth: if you don't believe in mankind, you relinquiah your right to talk about us

you're still talking?

ok, then one of two things is true:

  1. you believe in mankind deep down, but you have this moronic teenaged cynical veneer, and that will evaporate as you mature... but right now, you're just a dumb child
  2. you really, really don't believe in mankind. but you're still talking. that's ok. the strength of your belief in the hopelessness of it all will lead to stop talking to anyone else eventually, it just hasn't sunk in yet, that's why you're still talking. i mean what's the point, right? it's hopeless, right?
so go buy a razor blade, prick, and leave this earth

that's the end result of your faithlessness in mankind anyway, so take your lack of beliefs to their logical conclusion

we're better off with a faithless fuck like you gone anyway

useless wormfood believes mankind is worthless manfood

men with faith in mankind reject that

men with faith in mankind therefore defy the faithless

and the faithless become what they believe

wormfood


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Wow (none / 0) (#114)
by Sgt York on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 03:04:37 AM EST

You seem to whirl and lash out with rage at the slightest provocation. Anytime someone poses a viewpoint even slightly dissimilar to your own, your first response is to hurl insults. You seem to think this supports your arguments. You are either trolling, or you have some serious emotional or behavioral issues.

This has nothing at all to do with your ideas on anything, only your response to challenge. Your stance on the issue of the nature of man, the capital gains tax, or the infield fly rule is beside the point. I am talking about the way you respond to a dissimilar view. If you are unable to maintain rational discourse in something as innocuous as an online philosophical discussion, your emotional health comes into question.

Seriously, I say this without malice or desire to insult, but a desire to help and a feeling of responsibility towards a hurting human being: Get some help.

Please, take that comment in the spirit in which it is made.

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

Have you never encountered CTS before? (none / 1) (#124)
by Have A Nice Day on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 10:51:18 AM EST

It's just how he operates, he's usually best ignored for that very reason.

It's a shame, a few years back he was a good coherent (though sometimes a little flamy) debater, but something inside him seems to have broken now.

--------------
Have A Nice Day may have reentered the building.
[ Parent ]
Yes (none / 0) (#126)
by Sgt York on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 11:41:25 AM EST

I've dealt with him before. The first few times he seemed to overreact, so I thought I had either hit a hot button or he was trying to goad me. But over the past few months, he's deteriorated further. I guess I'm not really surprised by his response....

Still, it's worrying. This post is a nearly incoherent rambling, spiteful diatribe. Most of his diatribes are just rambling and spiteful, typical of an alienated younger male. But this is different; worse. It looks like he's sliding downhill, and it's hard to just sit by. He seems like an intelligent guy that just has some problems.

But you're probably right, I should probably just ignore him. But I rarely do what I should do.

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

you should learn (none / 0) (#168)
by circletimessquare on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 12:35:02 AM EST

the difference between intelligence and arrogance

i'm intelligent, you're arrogant

my rude loud honesty trumps your quiet evil lies any day

you would not be the first to sacrifice truth merely because it is ugly and substitute a quiet lie because it offered you composure

you live in a house made of paper

and it renders your words and your pov useless to real problems in this world


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Don't worry about CTS (none / 1) (#209)
by quincunx on Sat Mar 12, 2005 at 04:33:39 PM EST

He's having more fun than anybody else here.

[ Parent ]
suck my dick (nt) (none / 0) (#167)
by circletimessquare on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 12:32:29 AM EST



The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
If something caused him to snap, (none / 0) (#221)
by Harvey Anderson on Sun Mar 13, 2005 at 06:46:38 PM EST

I'd blame that piece of shit city he lives in.

[ Parent ]
why are surprised? (none / 0) (#165)
by circletimessquare on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 12:27:36 AM EST

quote:

"That said, What is the basis for your belief that man is inherently good? You may explain it in the missing text, but I would aruge the opposite. This is evidenced by the fact that it is very difficult to truly be "good"."

what's the point in trying to reach me?

you've clearly and actively identified yourself as someone with no faith in mankind, that he isn't inherently good, so why are you talking? what's the point?

small hint: you've committed a crime by lacking faith in humanity

and you make a logical error as well: intelligence is no substitue for faith

10,000,000 genius iq indiviuals whose sum total of their intelligence is to wring their hands and do nothing about a problem in this world is trumped by one idiot with faith who actually ACTS

when you come to understand the simple unmoveable truth of that point, you realize why i consider you scum of the earth: an arrogant ivory tower fool, who looks DOWN on the struggles of mankind

progress is not painless, and you either accept you are part of us here in the mud, or you can go to hell in your ivory tower arrogant judgments on us down here in the thick of things

you cannot condemn mankind, and at the same time consider yourself still part of a solution to any problem in this world

those two thoughts are mutually exclusive: looking down on mankind, and still considering yourself part of mankind

you can consider yourself irrelevant, by the inevitable conclusions of your own words

asshole

i hate people like you, you have arrogance of intellect, and no heart

you're part of the problem

you really are, and i hope you someday reach of level of maturiy and humility to realize that

rigth now you deserve no respect by your own arrogant judgments of your fellow man

you deserve a kick in the skull for being a faithless asshole, you and all the other holier than thou ivory tower assholes who view themselves separate form the daily struggles of man to survive

all that i ask is you love and have faith in your common man's basic goodness

and if you can only look down your nose at him, then i only have spit in your face for you

because you are part of what keeps man in suffering

that is the real truth, and you're too STUPID to understand it


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

err... pot... kettle... (none / 0) (#218)
by anthroporraistes on Sun Mar 13, 2005 at 06:29:54 PM EST

and i hope you someday reach of level of maturity...

Er... maturity also entails looking at other views, not letting some odd arrogant elitism get a hold of you.  You seem to be incapable of intelligent argument, you have this odd desire to be right, and if you can't be you have to resort to oversimplification and name-calling.  Argument is dialectic.  If your just here to preach, who cares?  Become a priest, especially if you're going to announce faith as more important than knowledge.

If you want maturity, open your bloody mind, listen to what others say, realize that you might be wrong, and analyze your own beliefs.  And if someone disagrees with you, big deal, they might be wrong, but there always is the possibility that you are as well.  You don't have any privileged status; you are no better than any of your opponents.  Looking at the textual quality of your posts, and the shear amount of ad hominem, you loose credibility.  If your logic fails, you insult whoever disagrees, don't you realize that that is incredibly silly, and does nothing to further your case?

I'm sorry for being confrontational, I just get annoyed with people who try to argue, but can't in any effective way.


---
biology is destiny
[ Parent ]

FUCK (3.00 / 2) (#172)
by Sgt York on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 03:53:42 AM EST

IHBT

GodDAMMIT, I'm normally not that fucking gullible. Feigning insanity kicked in my sympathy, and my gaurd came crashing down. Old thrick, but a good one.

SHITSHITSHITSHIT....hats off to you. Good job. I should have trusted my instincts on this one....

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

i'm glad you're beginning to realize (none / 1) (#195)
by circletimessquare on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 06:19:23 PM EST

how fucking stupid you are

rethink the bullshit you say, moron

the implications of your own faithless words serves me, not you


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

CTS: A true "fisher of men". [n/t] (3.00 / 2) (#199)
by cr8dle2grave on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 06:54:35 PM EST


---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
no: fisher of fools (nt) (none / 0) (#201)
by circletimessquare on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 07:14:16 PM EST



The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
Oh, (none / 0) (#220)
by Harvey Anderson on Sun Mar 13, 2005 at 06:43:20 PM EST

please stop defending your intelligence like some bitter insecure dork.

[ Parent ]
I call meaninglessness (none / 0) (#215)
by anthroporraistes on Sun Mar 13, 2005 at 06:11:30 PM EST

I do not agree that humanity is good.
I cannot find (in a meaningful way) that humanity has a good future.

Humanity itself in neutral, capable of both great good, and great evil.  Humanity as a concept is insignifigant on most scales.  We are nothing but little primates stuck on some little shitpot globe, floating in some backwater of the cosmos.  On another level we are the destroyer of our world, and the murder of innocent species (and utterly self-destructive).  On another, we have existed for a mere flash of time, and will cease to exist in no time at all (relativly).  

The only level that humanity looks good is at a speciescentric view.  When we look from the level of man, then I guess we are hunky-dory.  But only the ignorant would ignore the other levels.  

Actually, fuck humanity, everyone is purely instamental to everyone else.  You only promote your own agenda, and not that of the greater good of humanity.  Sure, most time these agendas line up, meaning you are bettering humanity by proxy.    But then again most of the genocidal tyrants thought (think) that they are bettering humanity.  

As for the good future premise; what the hell does it matter?  People will die, we will kill more of our planet for our homocentricism, genacide will happen, taxes, eventually death.  Woohoo.  Who cares?  The future is an extension of the present, and only that.  Good will happen, bad will happen, culminating in our eventual extinction, and each of us as individuals will die.  Who cares?  Please give one argument that our future will be good.

Also, I must take your argument as crap.  I don't care if beleiveing these premises is good for us, I only care if they are TRUE.  Some truths are not happy.  Truth has nothing to do with goodness.  Truth has nothing to do with our happiness.  Truth has to do with that which exists, and that is it, it is not contingent on what we want to believe.

I only care about humanity as far as it benefits me, and my offspring.  This is how it should be.  Sure there is some aspect of empathy there, but I only act it out for my mental wellbeing, i.e. personal happiness.  

---
biology is destiny
[ Parent ]

Hmm. . . . (none / 1) (#26)
by quincunx on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 02:36:47 AM EST

I believe this ground was covered (rather more briefly) in Pascal's Wager.

This is nothing like pascals wager (none / 1) (#30)
by brain in a jar on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 03:37:45 AM EST

Pascals wager attempts to look at the costs and benefits of belief and disbelief in the christian god.

But it fails on many points. Firstly it contains the kind of circular thinking I describe above. The benefits of believing are evaluated from the point of view of the belief being correct. in my opinion for a belief to be good, it should remain good when evaluated from the position of non-belief.

To expand on the problems with pascal's wager, it totally ignores the problem of the fact that there are a multitude of mutually exclusive metaphysical beliefs available, and most of them promise that terrible things will happen to you if you choose the wrong set of beliefs. This is the invisible pink unicorn problem as described above. In the absence of empirical evidence, it is pointless to attempt to evaluate metaphysical beliefs from the point of view of one who holds them.


Life is too important, to be taken entirely seriously.
[ Parent ]

Not so simply dismissed (none / 1) (#41)
by basj on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 11:27:40 AM EST

In Pascal's wager the benefits of believing are evaluated from the pov of believing and non-believing combined.

First, assume that proof of God (a metaphysical entity) is impossible and (therefore) that there is no statement about the 'knowable part of reality' that has to be considered true by the (every) theist, and false by the (every) atheist.

Value(God exists + you believe): very very good
Value(God exists + you don't believe): maybe bad
Value(God does not exist + you believe): nil
Value(God does not exist + you don't believe): nil

Value(Believe in God) = very very good + nil
Value(No believe in God) maybe bad + nil

Value(Believe in God) > Value(No believe in God).

in my opinion for a belief to be good, it should remain good when evaluated from the position of non-belief

This is sloppy at best. If by 'a belief to be good' you mean, 'a belief about morals to be moral' you are missing Pascal's point entirely. He's wager is not about morals, it's about expected value and metaphysics.

If by 'a belief to be good' you mean 'a belief to be true', evaluating that belief from the 'position of non-belief' isn't helping anyone.

So if there is some other standard by which beliefs can be 'good' and that standard is not based on morality or truth, what is it?

pascal's wager [..] totally ignores the problem of the fact that there are a multitude of mutually exclusive metaphysical beliefs available, and most of them promise that terrible things will happen to you if you choose the wrong set of beliefs.

True, but this doesn't help the non-believer.
--
Complete the Three Year Plan in five years!
[ Parent ]

The Flaw in Pascal's Wager (none / 1) (#44)
by virg on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 01:11:34 PM EST

The flaw in Pascal's Wager is quite simple. He excludes any possibility except God existing or no God existing. Insert a simple third case, a different God existing, and this introduces a real problem:

Value(God exists + you believe): very very good
Value(God exists + you don't believe): maybe bad
Value(God does not exist + you believe): nil
Value(God does not exist + you don't believe): nil

...plus...

Value(other God exists + you believe in God): very, very bad

...and...

Value(God exists + you believe in other God): very, very bad

...and suddenly believing in God has more danger than before. Pascal didn't consider this in his wager, and since it's not rational to assume a two-case continuum (particular God or no God at all) in the absence of other possibilities, the whole thing falls apart as a logical guide.

The other problem is in considering the value of No God plus whatever belief is nil. I find this to be very insulting, in that not believing in a God that doesn't exist means you don't have to live your life in arbitrary worship, or worse yet, in hypocrisy, for no purpose. Perhaps he doesn't value that, but doing whatever I please on Sunday morning has positive value for me.

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
One other big flaw... (none / 1) (#45)
by Wally Fenderson on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 01:47:59 PM EST

is that of "True Faith". Believing in God just to CYA my not hold much water.
LOAD "SIG",8,1
[ Parent ]
bad thinking (none / 0) (#51)
by Battle Troll on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 02:49:42 PM EST

You misunderstand what Pascal means by God. Moreover, you misunderstand what Christians mean by God. Hint: it ain't Zeus.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
ok then (none / 1) (#62)
by speek on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 05:35:47 PM EST

value(God exists + misinformed belief in God) = ?

Also there's value(God exists + belief in God + God not amused by faith based on risk analysis) = ?

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

if that's how you build your equation (none / 0) (#109)
by Battle Troll on Wed Mar 09, 2005 at 08:37:21 PM EST

Then you need to go back and read Pascal's text, rather than how generations of abusive apologists have misread it. (I'm no fan of the standard "Evangelical" line on it either.)
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
ever your answer (none / 0) (#117)
by speek on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 07:59:29 AM EST

Others must always go away and study more and not come back till they are in complete agreement with you. Nor will you offer any insight into how Pascal's original words significantly differ from the interpretations offered here. That would be too risky for you.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

oh give it a rest (none / 0) (#134)
by Battle Troll on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 01:28:33 PM EST

I'm not your prof. If you never read Pascal, why are you arguing about what he said? You could find the text in five minutes, but you'd rather put words in Pascal's mouth and insult him (and me.) There is a pathetic culture of intellectual laziness on this site.

For the record, in 'On the Necessity of the Wager,' Pascal says that, as the question of one's ultimate reason for existence and final destination is of utmost importantance and unavoidable, it ill behooves us not to consider it. He says that people want to live as though they didn't have to consider this question, but that this resistance is thoughtless and dangerous.

Pascal expresses every sympathy for the person who seeks God and fails; he says that he has nothing to say against such a person. Really, it's the exactly opposite of the chauvinistic threat that the half-miseducated (ie, people who don't think they have to read Pascal to discuss Pascal's wager,) on both sides of the culture wars, like to use to abuse their enemies and praise their friends.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

thank you (none / 0) (#141)
by speek on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 02:39:18 PM EST

I'm not sure which is more intellectually lazy, to not read up on stuff that only marginally interests you, or to be so niggardly with explanation about one's favorite subject. You seem to suffer one of Pascal's conceits - that whosoever does not agree with you clearly hasn't studied the matter enough.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

the point: (none / 0) (#143)
by gzt on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 02:55:56 PM EST

If it marginally interests you, don't knock it if you don't know it, since you aren't willing to read it and be informed. I mean, really.

As for disagreement being a matter of not studying: how is that a Pascalian conceit? Pascal, as Mr. Troll rightly points out, empathizes and has nothing to say [in the good, not the bad way] to those who have tried and failed to know God. Indeed, he says [iirc] that theirs is the only real argument against God that there is.

[ Parent ]

yes (none / 0) (#148)
by speek on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 04:47:00 PM EST

He also seems to say no one has looked into the matter sufficiently and made those real arguments. If they had, then they would have an argument, but according to Pascal, no one has. Sounds pretty self-serving to me.

I'm also not sure why you and Troll take my simple questions as insulting and knocking.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

does he? (none / 0) (#158)
by gzt on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 10:01:15 PM EST

I haven't read the text in a few months, so I don't remember if it seems that way, I remember in my reading that it did not, but you know how one's perception colors a reading of a text. Have you read the text in question? I don't know whether it could support that argument.

I don't take it as insulting and knocking except insofar as it is disrespectful to the text. If you had read the text and asked those questions, well, you would have misread it [no big sin, we can discuss that because there's a basis for discussion] or been justified in asking. Those questions are really irrelevant to the text in question and you'd know that if you read it. There isn't a One Way of reading Pascal, there's a wide range of possible readings and we're not going to force one on you, but you've got to read the text first. As Mr. Troll said, he's not your prof, and even if he were, it's not his job to tell you what the text says. In fact, he has made abundantly clear what the text says anyway. Making On the Necessity of the Wager about risk management is as silly as making The Great Gatsby about the consequences of bootlegging.

[ Parent ]

I'm a weird one - I ask questions about stuff (none / 0) (#177)
by speek on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 08:25:05 AM EST

Stuff I don't know. It would seem I should only ask about what I do know. Perhaps only rhetorical questions? See, I'm getting better already.

The world "knows" of Pascal's Wager in the fashion as it's been discussed here. I saw no reason to go read it when it was clearly such a silly thing. Why would I? When Mr Troll pops into the discussion and says Pascal's God is not the god you're thinking of, I thought my question relevant - ie, what of the case of God exists but one has a misinformed belief - "conception", if you will - in God? Maybe I was being too subtle, but I don't think I was being any more obscurely terse than Mr Troll was being. And then he got angry at me.

As for Pascal, see Troll's other response to me, and you'll see the passage I'm referring to.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

ok, I'm sick of this (none / 0) (#162)
by Battle Troll on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 10:41:44 PM EST

In order to attack it, they should have protested that they had made every effort to seek Him everywhere, and even in that which the Church proposes for their instruction, but without satisfaction. If they talked in this manner, they would in truth be attacking one of her [the Church's] pretensions. But I hope here to show that no reasonable person can speak thus, and I venture even to say that no one has ever done so.
Note that Pascal is here defining the terms within which atheism would have grounds, then states that he will seek to demonstrate that these terms have not been met.
Therefore among those who do not believe, I make a vast difference between those who strive with all their power to inform themselves and those who live without troubling or thinking about [eternity.]

I can have only compassion for those who sincerely bewail their doubt, who regard it as the greatest of misfortunes, and who, sparing no effort to escape it, make of this inquiry their principal and most serious occupation.

But as for those who pass their life without thinking of this ultimate end of life, and who, for this sole reason that they do not find within themselves the lights which convince them of it, neglect to seek them elsewhere, and to examine thoroughly whether this opinion is one of those which people receive with credulous simplicity, or one of those which, although obscure in themselves, have nevertheless a solid and immovable foundation, I look upon them in a manner quite different.

This carelessness in a matter which concerns themselves, their eternity, their all, moves me more to anger than pity; it astonishes and shocks me; it is to me monstrous.

Here Pascal admits the legitimacy in principle of the complaints against God of someone who seeks faith but is eluded by it, for whatever reason. This is quite different from claiming that there is no possible legitimate complaint against God.
We do not require great education of the mind to understand that here is no real and lasting satisfaction; that our pleasures are only vanity; that our evils are infinite; and, lastly, that death, which threatens us every moment, must infallibly place us within a few years under the dreadful necessity of being for ever either annihilated or unhappy.
Here, Pascal attempts to awaken a world that has deafened itself to its perilous state. He is trying to confront us with the meaninglessness of life in the face of death, and man's consciousness of the reality of his evil nature. This creates the imperative to seek the eternal. In the face of this imperative, failure to attain what we seek is honorable, but refusal to seek it is simply irrational and even madness. This is why, selon Pascal, no one has formulated a legitimate grounds for rejecting the idea of God or for ignoring it: life compels us to seek.

I can't tell you how stupid I feel redacting this splendid text. Please read it attentively and sympathetically. Source
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

you're talking past me (none / 0) (#174)
by speek on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 08:18:28 AM EST

Here Pascal admits the legitimacy in principle of the complaints against God of someone who seeks faith but is eluded by it, for whatever reason. This is quite different from claiming that there is no possible legitimate complaint against God.

I did not claim Pascal was arguing there was no possible legitimate complaint against God. I was saying that he said in order to have a complaint, one would have to have studied the matter enough prior and that, in his opinion, no one who has studied the matter "enough" has made that complaint. Only those who have studied superficially still argue against god, according to Pascal.

That is a self-serving argument if ever I've seen one. He also seems overly angry throughout the text. I wonder about that as well.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

you didn't read the whole thing. (none / 0) (#186)
by Battle Troll on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 02:54:47 PM EST

Sorry.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
heh (none / 0) (#153)
by Battle Troll on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 06:01:20 PM EST

I'm not sure which is more intellectually lazy, to not read up on stuff that only marginally interests you, or to be so niggardly with explanation about one's favorite subject.

You're stretching. That isn't "intellectual laziness," it's "not suffering fools gladly." This is one of my more conspicuous sins and follies. Yet, try as I might, I can't quite manage to make myself all honey and milk to someone who feels free to dis Pascal, that profound, tormented, beautiful thinker, without having bothering to read Pascal. You have my apologies for this failing.

You seem to suffer one of Pascal's conceits - that whosoever does not agree with you clearly hasn't studied the matter enough.

This one's just plain wrong. Pascal didn't say that people who disagreed with him hadn't studied enough; he admits the possibility up right up front that the supposed beliefs of a shallowly professing Christian might be mere chaff on the winds of fashion. What Pascal said about failing to study is that it leaves you intellectually rootless on matters of the profoundest import.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

more (none / 0) (#178)
by speek on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 08:29:09 AM EST

Pascal didn't say that people who disagreed with him hadn't studied enough;

Actually, he said that very clearly.

I've also not "dissed" Mr Pascal. Please try to see that.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

Worse Thinking (none / 1) (#95)
by virg on Wed Mar 09, 2005 at 10:20:17 AM EST

> You misunderstand what Pascal means by God.

Expanding "God" to handle the constellation of religiosity is the only way you can get out of my argument, and that's just an intellectual dodge to avoid having the theory blown easily. Pascal didn't say or imply "afterlife" or "religion", but even if you take it to mean that, my argument (that value(no belief + no God) is not nil) is still not addressed.

> Moreover, you misunderstand what Christians mean by God.

Not hardly. You're just trying to duck and cover. You'd have a hard time finding a Christian who doesn't equate the term "God" with the mainstream form of "big Dad in the sky who watches over us and concerns Himself with our adherence to a given set of rules".

> Hint: it ain't Zeus.

Hint: people with even the tiniest amount of study in the area don't equate God and Zeus. They equate God and the entire Greek pantheon. Hint to that: to an atheist, God and the Greek Gods are roughly the same concept, and exist for roughly the same reason.

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
no (none / 1) (#110)
by Battle Troll on Wed Mar 09, 2005 at 08:43:44 PM EST

Expanding "God" to handle the constellation of religiosity is the only way you can get out of my argument, and that's just an intellectual dodge to avoid having the theory blown easily.

No. Belief in an uncreated creator is categorically different from "religiosity." Pascal's wager does not require the cultic paraphernalia of Christianity in its abstract form, but it does require monotheism, which is substantially more logically defensible than the likes of animism or Greek paganism.

You'd have a hard time finding a Christian who doesn't equate the term "God" with the mainstream form of "big Dad in the sky who watches over us and concerns Himself with our adherence to a given set of rules".

I don't have far to look. As an Orthodox Christian, that isn't what I, my wife, my congregation, my priest, my metropolitan, or my patriarch believe. Christianity can certainly degenerate into Zeus-worship, but that is clearly an error of the uncommitted ignorant (which is what most soi-disant conservative Christians are, unfortunately.)

They equate God and the entire Greek pantheon.

There is a rather large difference; a monotheist God is uncreated and transcendent.

Hint to that: to an atheist, God and the Greek Gods are roughly the same concept, and exist for roughly the same reason.

Thank you for sharing your faith with me. As it happens, I have your holy book, Frazier's The Golden Bough, on my bookshelf. I don't find it very convincing, but I'm glad that it makes sense to you.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

But it does... (none / 0) (#120)
by thejeff on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 08:08:02 AM EST

Pascal's wager does not require the cultic paraphernalia of Christianity in its abstract form, but it does require monotheism, which is substantially more logically defensible than the likes of animism or Greek paganism.

Not specifically Christianity, but certainly more than an "uncreated creator".  Without the whole reward/punishment in an afterlife based on beliefs in this life, Pascal's Wager is meaningless.


[ Parent ]

in my reading of Pascal (and of Catholicism)... (none / 0) (#136)
by Battle Troll on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 01:32:57 PM EST

The afterlife is a consequence of the existence of an uncreated, personal God. (Because God is good by definition, and it would be short of goodness were God to either allow us to perish, or else to allow us eternal life while still in a sinful condition.)
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
hmm. (none / 0) (#144)
by gzt on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 03:01:26 PM EST

It could be a consequence in Pascal, I don't know enough to comment, but is it really a consequence in Catholicism? That He would not allow us eternal life while still in a sinful condition, yes. I'll chew over this and get back to you once I get home, I have to finish a little bit of writing.

[ Parent ]
if we were allowed to perish (none / 0) (#152)
by Battle Troll on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 05:55:16 PM EST

Wouldn't matter if we were animals, but it is unnatural and an abomination that human beings die.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
there were two things I was thinking of. (none / 0) (#159)
by gzt on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 10:10:35 PM EST

Namely, that, in Catholic theology, the resurrection of the dead is considered to be on the order of revealed supernatural knowledge rather than attainable on the order of natural contemplation [as the goodness of God is] and that the early Jews did not have any belief in the resurrection but the good God was worthy of our love and service even without the promise of the good things to come [see CS Lewis on the topic].

[ Parent ]
that second point comes up in 'Meditation on the (none / 0) (#160)
by Battle Troll on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 10:24:45 PM EST

Psalms,' right? I cited it earlier today myself, I think.

I did not know your first point. Perhaps I will have to retreat to a weaker position.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

Well, I might be wrong on it. (none / 0) (#163)
by gzt on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 10:43:02 PM EST

Which is why I was going to wait till I got home.

[ Parent ]
I seem to recall some Aquinas on this subject... (none / 0) (#164)
by gzt on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 10:55:35 PM EST

...but I may be wrong, as the Catechism says "Hope in the bodily resurrection of the dead established itself as a consequence intrinsic to faith in God as creator of the whole man, soul and body" [992]. Ambiguous, because it's in a passage on progressive revelation and the belief established itself rather than being there from the beginning, so I'm not certain whether it's knowledge on the natural order or not [granted, the natural/supernatural distinction is going out of favor these days]. I might look up Humani Generis and look for the relevant Aquinas over the weekend, I don't have much else to do. Or bug those Catholic girls, it's been a while since I've thwacked 'em over the head.

[ Parent ]
Fine... (none / 0) (#145)
by thejeff on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 03:29:23 PM EST

I'll certainly accept that Pascal believed that, and that Christianity generally would agree.

It is not implicit in the definitions of uncreated creator or monotheism.

And thus, while important to understanding Pascal's mindset and assumptions or the social background in which the Wager was devised, it is not revelant to whether the Wager is logically compelling.

[ Parent ]

well, not as such (none / 0) (#154)
by Battle Troll on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 06:06:02 PM EST

It is not implicit in the definitions of uncreated creator or monotheism.

It's a corollary of the definition, not part of the definition itself. That there is controversy on this subject doesn't mean that it fails to be a corollary, just that it's easy to make mistakes in philosophy.

it is not revelant to whether the Wager is logically compelling

Which is why the abstract 'Wager' as an intellectual argument is a) less specific than a close reading of Pascal's text would be; b) totally emotionally sterile and a form of terrorism; c) a defense of monotheism rather than Pascal's Christianity. Only his text is such a defense, which is the point of this thread.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

If I understand you (none / 0) (#175)
by thejeff on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 08:20:34 AM EST

You're claiming that Pascal in the rest of the text has already shown that his assumptions are valid?
That if a God exists he must reward all believers with an eternal paradise in an afterlife and at the least not reward unbelievers with the same.
That, furthermore, that God must not care what name you call him by, or in fact, about anything other than your belief in the abstract concept of a single god.
Or I suppose, that anything he does care about can be/already has been logically demonstrated.
All of this, of course, without actually proving that any God is necessary, or there would be no point in the Wager.

Is that roughly accurate?

Given all of that, then the Wager would be compelling. Of course, I'm not going to concede all of that easily. :)
I haven't read Pascal in years and not all that closely then. Could you give a brief summary or point me to one online?

[ Parent ]

Alright (none / 0) (#192)
by thejeff on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 06:07:01 PM EST

Read the rest of the posts in this thread and I've gotten enough of an idea to see the general trend of the arguments behind the Wager.

Even given that definition of God, I suspect that in order for the actual Wager to be meaningful, "belief", as in simply believing that God exists, would not be enough. More of "have faith in", along with whatever that implies in any particular religion.

I do have problems with the whole chain of logic that leads from
Uncreated creator -> Perfect being
Perfect being -> perfect good
Perfect good -> personal
-> must punish evil, not destroy/eternally reward good
-> faith allows forgiveness.

I'm not going to get into a full technical argument about it. I don't have the background or the time that would be needed to do it properly.

It does strike me as somewhat suspicious that the argument supports Christianity so strongly. This could of course mean that Christianity is right, or it could mean that the people making the argument were influenced by their own beliefs.

It would be interesting to look outside of the Western tradition and see what philosophers in other religious/cultural traditions have come up with on this question. Do the great Islamic and Jewish apologists have anything to say about the necessary characteristics of a creator? Do those resemble their conceptions of God? What about Hindus or Buddhists?
Or are they just wrong?


[ Parent ]

uncreated creator (none / 0) (#121)
by speek on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 08:19:53 AM EST

So, as long as I believe in an uncreated creator, I'm all set?

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

as long as that's where you start (none / 0) (#135)
by Battle Troll on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 01:30:46 PM EST

Pascal believed that a serious investigation into the metaphysics arising from an uncreated creator would inevitably lead to Christianity.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
No Thyself (none / 1) (#125)
by virg on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 11:18:16 AM EST

> No. Belief in an uncreated creator is categorically different from "religiosity." Pascal's wager does not require the cultic paraphernalia of Christianity in its abstract form, but it does require monotheism, which is substantially more logically defensible than the likes of animism or Greek paganism.

Pascal's Wager requires a God who will dictate your afterlife based on the details of your current life. Christian or not, it requires a lot more than monotheism, since if God is the only God but not the Christian God, He might not care how humans behave in this life, which steals the thunder from Pascal's agrument. And why you think "King of Kings" is more logically defensible than "Supreme Council" is an exercise in itself. There's no logic that dictates that "God" can't be a committee.

> I don't have far to look. As an Orthodox Christian, that isn't what I, my wife, my congregation, my priest, my metropolitan, or my patriarch believe. Christianity can certainly degenerate into Zeus-worship, but that is clearly an error of the uncommitted ignorant (which is what most soi-disant conservative Christians are, unfortunately.)

The vast majority of Christians subscribe the what you call "Zeus-worship", which makes your congregation's take on your faith what we call a "fringe element". Don't like what the majority of Christians are doing in your God's name? Well, that's something you'll need to take up with other Christians. Until then, they trump your view by numbers.

> There is a rather large difference; a monotheist God is uncreated and transcendent.

Your monotheistic God is uncreated and transcendent. There are lots of other monotheistic concepts that don't subscribe to this. Moreover, the God I mentioned earlier, who is everything your God is with the sole exception of not caring how humans comport themselves, is just as rational as your God with that concern.

> Thank you for sharing your faith with me. As it happens, I have your holy book, Frazier's The Golden Bough, on my bookshelf. I don't find it very convincing, but I'm glad that it makes sense to you.

Funny, I could say the same in reverse, and I'd even try not to sound so insulting about it, but notwithstanding your condescention, I've never read that book nor heard of it. I learned my atheism the same way others learned Christianity, which is introspection.

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
oh, I forgot about you (1.50 / 2) (#156)
by Battle Troll on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 06:22:23 PM EST

Sorry.

since if God is the only God but not the Christian God, He might not care how humans behave in this life, which steals the thunder from Pascal's agrument

Blah blah blah, refuted by elementary apologetics that even antedate Christianity. I'm sorry to be rude, but if you don't bother to educate yourself about a subject, how can I be expected to take your arguments seriously? I'll do it just this once: if there's an uncreated being, then (as Augustine probably said) it must possess all possible attributes of perfection in all possible perfections, at minimum, because its existence is the basis of all other existences. If such a being is to be called 'perfect' then it must also be personal, because impersonality also means a lack of volition and vitality; and a personal God must necessarily be interested in us, hate our sin and imperfection, and be unwilling to see us destroyed.

There's no logic that dictates that "God" can't be a committee.

Of course there is; any being that is uncreated and perfect cannot be either limited or divisible. This is why small-o orthodox Christians have always rejected tritheisms. This is also the basis of Judaic and Islamic objections to purpoted tritheism within Christianity.

The vast majority of Christians subscribe the what you call "Zeus-worship", which makes your congregation's take on your faith what we call a "fringe element".

As Apu said on the Simpsons, "dere are dwo hundred million of us, you know." (OK, he said seven.)

Individual Christians may well be misinformed, wrongheaded, sentimental, cringing, heretical, and primitive, but the Church has demonstrated a disquieting unanimity on God's transcendent character (and freedom from passions, another corollary) since its earliest days.

Look, this isn't hard; I can find two dozen fallacious, emotionally laden arguments for atheism by accosting a roaming pack of goth teens at the mall. I would like for you to extend the same courtesy to Christianity, by answering the philosophical arguments of those in a position to present them.

notwithstanding your condescention, I've never read that book nor heard of it.

I was being facetious, in part, because Frazier was merely the first to make an anthropological effort at demonstrating the congruence of religion with superstition; skeptics have been making this sort of argument long before he came around, but Frazier put some rigour behind it.

The point is that religion is quite clearly not the same thing as superstition, nor are its roots the same. Today's world religions have their roots in philosophy, and only incidentally in the tribal religions of their time of origin. Christianity, for instance, is far more Greek than Jewish but for its core. To pick a rather obvious example, Christianity doesn't exist to explain phenomena, and superstition and folk-tales do.

If you're making the hoary old 'fear of death' argument, on the other hand, all I can tell you is that the belief in the afterlife only influences the sort of Christian who converts after reading one of the gorier Chick tracts. What a low opinion you must have of us all if that's what you think.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

Around the Philosophical Fire (none / 0) (#180)
by virg on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 10:08:57 AM EST

> Blah blah blah, refuted by elementary apologetics that even antedate Christianity. I'm sorry to be rude, but if you don't bother to educate yourself about a subject, how can I be expected to take your arguments seriously?

Never apologize for being rude. If you really were without intending to be, then the apology is meaningless, and if you intended, then don't back down later. If your discussion wasn't worthy, I'd ignore it, and since it is, I don't care about rudeness. It won't make you any more (or less) right.

> I'll do it just this once: if there's an uncreated being, then (as Augustine probably said) it must possess all possible attributes of perfection in all possible perfections, at minimum, because its existence is the basis of all other existences.

So far, so good.

> If such a being is to be called 'perfect' then it must also be personal, because impersonality also means a lack of volition and vitality;

Hold up a minute. Your argument is that the uncreated being is perfect in every way except that it can't be perfectly impersonal? Why can't the perfect being be both personal and impersonal at the same time?

> and a personal God must necessarily be interested in us, hate our sin and imperfection, and be unwilling to see us destroyed.

Again, why does God not want us to be destroyed and at the same time want us to be destroyed? You seem to be arguing that God can only consider one end at a time, or can only choose one of a set of contradictory circumstances, which directly refutes the earlier concept that "it must possess all possible attributes of perfection in all possible perfections, at minimum, because its existence is the basis of all other existences." Why can't God choose to both destroy and not destroy you at the same time? What makes you think that concern for humans is more than a human construct?

> Of course there is; any being that is uncreated and perfect cannot be either limited or divisible.

Here we go again. Perhaps you see this as a rehash of the old "Can God make a rock so big even He can't lift it?" question, but oddly, nobody has ever answered the question of, "why can't God be both limted and unlimited, divisible and indivisible?" If God is everything, why is it that so many of His followers place limits on what He can and can't be?

> Individual Christians may well be misinformed, wrongheaded, sentimental, cringing, heretical, and primitive, but the Church has demonstrated a disquieting unanimity on God's transcendent character (and freedom from passions, another corollary) since its earliest days.

Rationality exists in every endeavor, even the church. However, I would argue that if a large number of the church's adherents don't follow the idea of the transcendent nature of God, then perhaps the argument of numbers has more land mines in it than you'd be comfortable with. When someone uses the argument of majority against me, my response is that they then have to accept the view that the majority of people hold. Sure, there are 200 million of you, but if you use the big number to defend anything then you're left with using the beliefs that a big chunk of that big number hold.

> Look, this isn't hard; I can find two dozen fallacious, emotionally laden arguments for atheism by accosting a roaming pack of goth teens at the mall. I would like for you to extend the same courtesy to Christianity, by answering the philosophical arguments of those in a position to present them.

Maybe I'm being dense, but I thought that's what I'm doing here. Besides, your comment doesn't directly equate, since roaming packs of goth teens at the mall don't represent the majority of atheists, whereas asking average Christians from any cut of the name will get you the same argument, which you profess is the wrong argument. To go back to your earlier comment, "the Church has demonstrated a disquieting unanimity on God's transcendent character" but Christians on the whole have demonstrated a disquieting unanimity on viewing God as Big Daddy. And as an aside, what exactly is disquieting about unanimity? I find it more disquieting when a sound philosophical idea can't garner some level of agreement among its followers.

> The point is that religion is quite clearly not the same thing as superstition, nor are its roots the same. Today's world religions have their roots in philosophy, and only incidentally in the tribal religions of their time of origin. Christianity, for instance, is far more Greek than Jewish but for its core. To pick a rather obvious example, Christianity doesn't exist to explain phenomena, and superstition and folk-tales do.

This is an interesting argument, when you consider that those very philosophical Greeks widely practiced Zeus-worship.

> If you're making the hoary old 'fear of death' argument, on the other hand, all I can tell you is that the belief in the afterlife only influences the sort of Christian who converts after reading one of the gorier Chick tracts. What a low opinion you must have of us all if that's what you think.

Here's the crux of why I don't like your views. You argue on one side that I should not compartmentalize you and then you do the same to me, in saying that I can't roll out the "hoary old 'fear of death' argument" without smearing it around like a five year old with finger paints. I will indeed roll out that argument, and contrary to your concept of me, I won't try to apply it to all Christians everywhere, forever and ever, amen. I don't have a low opinion of all of you, just the ones who base their faith on the fear of oblivion. For them, I roll out the appropriate argument. For you, I do more. What a low opinion you must have of me to think that I feel the need to use the same argument against so many people with so many different ways of approaching the problem.

Virg

P.S. What did you mean by the title of this message? I don't recall ever communicating with you before now.
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
Spinoza (none / 0) (#200)
by cr8dle2grave on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 07:06:56 PM EST

If such a being is to be called 'perfect' then it must also be personal, because impersonality also means a lack of volition and vitality; and a personal God must necessarily be interested in us, hate our sin and imperfection, and be unwilling to see us destroyed.

Spinoza had a pretty interesting take on this leg of the argument.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
sure (none / 0) (#202)
by Battle Troll on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 07:17:01 PM EST

The reasoning isn't totally bulletproof, but I'm interested in presenting Pascal's position in its philosophical context.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
I didn't mean to interfere... (none / 0) (#203)
by cr8dle2grave on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 07:37:41 PM EST

...with the course of your present argument. More of a personal aside, but in a medium with no option for whispering ;-)

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
can of worms... (none / 0) (#224)
by anthroporraistes on Sun Mar 13, 2005 at 08:40:56 PM EST

...monotheism, which is substantially more logically defensible than the likes of animism or Greek paganism. And gnosticism is more logically defensible than monotheism. Actually monotheism opens up quite bag of worms (free will, evil, original sin, yattayatta).

---
biology is destiny
[ Parent ]
wow, thanks for that. (none / 0) (#226)
by the ghost of rmg on Sun Mar 13, 2005 at 08:59:59 PM EST

i don't think anyone was aware of those.


rmg: comments better than yours.
[ Parent ]
The other flaw (3.00 / 4) (#66)
by kitten on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 06:44:53 PM EST

Well, there's more than one "other" flaw, but no less. Pascal's Wager is less an argument than an attempt at intellectual intimidation. All it's really saying is that if there's a God, he's bigger and stronger than we are, so you'd better believe just to be on the safe side.

This says nothing about the veracity of the claim nor is it much of an argument. If a guy had a gun pointed at my head I'd tell him whatever he wanted to hear, regardless of whether it was true. Of course, our gunman doesn't have a way of knowing if I'm being truthful or if I'm just a convincing actor. One would think God might have an idea of whether I truly believed or if I was just playing Cover Your Ass.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
It's about 'rationality' (none / 0) (#74)
by basj on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 08:09:21 PM EST

That's the beauty of the argument. Veracity, sincerity, etc. don't come into play at all. The only thing relevant to Pascal's wager is the question: 'is it to my advantage?'

That's great, because it shows, IMO, two things:

1. 'Rationality' is slippery and an analysis of rationality in terms of 'expected value' even more so.

2. Faith in un-provable things has nothing to do with rationality per se. Especially when your belief in God doesn't have any consequences for your earthly life...
--
Complete the Three Year Plan in five years!
[ Parent ]

Howso? (none / 0) (#82)
by kitten on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 09:29:25 PM EST

Sincerity most certainly comes into play in this "wager". Pascal doesn't take into account the possibility that you show up at the Pearly Gates and God dispatches you because, although you believed, he can tell you were just covering your ass and didn't truly "feel" him (or whatever).

The primary problem with Pascal's wager is that it doesn't really give us any better means of determining what our advantage is. He accounts for only a very small set of the total number of possible outcomes. The theist may spastically nod and say "Yes, it's to my advantage to believe in God" if he follows Pascal's limited risk analysis, forgetting that maybe God doesn't care what puny humans believe, or maybe Calvin's predeterminism was right, or maybe you're believing in the wrong god, or any number of other things.

mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
Just don't feign then. (none / 0) (#85)
by basj on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 10:26:20 PM EST

Believe truly. Pascal should have added that as a requirement.

And I believe I have answered your second objection here.

Because no matter what other theological doctrines are true, it all comes down to this:

If there's a remote chance you'll be rewarded for believing something metaphysical (and that belief doesn't have any negative side-effects), the expected value of that belief is higher than the expected value of not-believing if not-believing means you'll never get a reward.

The situation is in fact completely analogous to this one:

Imagine a game. There's (say) a 1 in a million chance that you win, say, a 1000 dollars (but it can be anything really). The game's free, but you can only play if you believe you'll win.

So, do you play? If not, think about the chance/reward combination that will persuade you to play. Is that combination any more rational than the one I suggested?
--
Complete the Three Year Plan in five years!
[ Parent ]

Yes, I see, but (3.00 / 2) (#87)
by kitten on Wed Mar 09, 2005 at 12:17:22 AM EST

If there's a remote chance you'll be rewarded for believing something metaphysical (and that belief doesn't have any negative side-effects), the expected value of that belief is higher than the expected value of not-believing if not-believing means you'll never get a reward.

That's a pretty big "if". Once again, what if you show up full of the hope of Jesus, and find Allah waiting for you?

Or what if, as another poster suggested, God is not amused by belief, even sincere belief, if it was arrived at by a CYA policy?

Now there's another dimension to the wager, one that Pascal didn't bother addressing. Belief, contrary to what he claims, can hold dire consequences if you believe in the wrong god or if the god can see through your ploy.

As for sincerity, we are, as they say, only human. I can not force myself into having a sincere and honest belief as a matter of will. We aren't equipped with little switches that we can engage when it suits us.

As a side note, your appraisal of the atheist's situation is offbase. He may, in fact, "win" in the end -- and what he wins is a lifetime (the only one he's going to get) of intellectual honesty. Here's how you could slice it:

GOD + BELIEF = Reward. If you got the right God.
GOD + DISBELIEF = Punishment. Or maybe God knows he didn't give you any evidence, and he's proud that you used that "thinking" thing he blessed you with, so he'll let you into Heaven anyway. Or maybe he loves us all so much that he lets everyone in.
NO GOD + BELIEF = You've wasted your only shot at life shackled by a fanciful notion and, if you were devout, allowed this belief to dictate many of your actions. All for naught. I'd say that's a loss.
NO GOD + NO BELIEF = Nothing.

Now frankly if I were God, and I went out of my way to give these ape-things a suite of intellectual tools, and then took every measure to conceal myself from them, I wouldn't blame any of them for doubting me. I'd be pleased that they appreciated the world I made and tried their best to learn everything they could about it, and it wouldn't bother me if they didn't believe in me. I mean, come on, I'm God -- I've got plenty to do without worrying what some puny humans think of me.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
You're repeating yourself. (none / 0) (#90)
by basj on Wed Mar 09, 2005 at 07:57:51 AM EST

And you're not addressing my final example. Once you understand why it is rational to play that game no matter the chance of winning, no matter the reward, you'll understand Pascal's wager.

You fear that God can see trough your ploy? Gamble for a God who can't. You don't want your metaphysical beliefs to interfere with your daily life? Then don't let them, they don't have to.

It doesn't matter what or who you play for, as long as you play. And the atheist doesn't play.
--
Complete the Three Year Plan in five years!
[ Parent ]

Your Flaw (none / 0) (#94)
by virg on Wed Mar 09, 2005 at 10:10:10 AM EST

> It doesn't matter what or who you play for, as long as you play. And the atheist doesn't play.

That's your flaw. I'm playing the game. The gamble I choose is that there is no God, of any kind, and my reward for that is not living my life in limbo waiting for the afterlife that doesn't happen. If I'm right, it's not just the "being right" that I earn, it's having lived the only life I get honestly. Sure, Pascal's wager is about the afterlife, but if you only assume that a reward can be earned in the afterlife, then your assumption is flawed. To take your analogy, I'm betting that your 1 in 1 million chance at 1000 dollars is a scam, and that nobody ever wins the thousand bucks, no matter what number they choose. Pascal's Wager doesn't seem to address that possibility, which is why I find it lacking.

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
No life after death -- no joy after death (none / 0) (#96)
by basj on Wed Mar 09, 2005 at 10:46:18 AM EST

1. Unless, after death, there is some 'you' who can experience the joy of 'having lived life honestly', your 'reward' is totally, utterly, completely meaningless.

I question the rationality, no, the sanity of a person who believes he can be given a reward he cannot experience.

If 'knowing you're right' is the reward your atheism brings you now, you're simply a dogmatist. God cannot be proven, nor disproven. You cannot know you're right about His existence.

2. If you're betting my game is a scam, you're not playing that (my) game. Then you're just childishly, evading my argument.
--
Complete the Three Year Plan in five years!
[ Parent ]

Evasion Indeed (none / 1) (#107)
by virg on Wed Mar 09, 2005 at 06:11:13 PM EST

> Then you're just childishly, evading my argument.

No more than you're evading mine. I'll put it in straight-out words, so there's no question.

My "reward" is the life I'm living now. My bet is that there's no afterlife where the good of living my life honestly (to myself) is offset by punishment for disbelief. Pascal's argument is that the life I'm living now has nil value in his equation, and I posit that this invalidates his equation, because the mere fact that I'm experiencing my reward now doesn't mean it's not a positive effect of disbelief.

Got it now?

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
But your reward... (none / 0) (#118)
by basj on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 08:01:30 AM EST

... is the same reward every believer experiences. Just as you believe you're living your life honestly, so does a believing christian. Those 'rewards' cancel each other out. They just add a constant to the (general) value-equation.

But if you believe you've got no choice but being an atheist, Pascal's wager doesn't have to convince you, true. But I personally would like to believe I have a choice in religious matters.
--
Complete the Three Year Plan in five years!
[ Parent ]

Not from his perspective.... (none / 0) (#123)
by Have A Nice Day on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 10:46:43 AM EST

From the atheist perspective the reward is living a life not bound by the arbitrary rules and prohibitions that are usually packaged with a religion. The reward is living how he wants and enjoying life in every way he wants to. the believer has to limit his behaviour.

It's like the million to one shot at winning the lottery, you have to pay for your ticket. I'd rather have the money they spend on that each week and buy a couple of beers.

--------------
Have A Nice Day may have reentered the building.
[ Parent ]
The believer has to limit his behaviour? (none / 0) (#128)
by basj on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 12:12:05 PM EST

Not necessarily!

Pascal's wager is about the rationality of belief not about the rationality of following some set of rules.

'Faith' can be the only price you pay for your lottery ticket. And faith is free.
--
Complete the Three Year Plan in five years!
[ Parent ]

Faith is not free! (none / 0) (#132)
by Have A Nice Day on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 12:49:02 PM EST

Seriously, if Pascal is talking about christianity then he cannot engage in premarital sex. If he is talking about judaism then he cannot eat bacon.

Now missing out on bacon isn't a big price to pay, but it is a price.

--------------
Have A Nice Day may have reentered the building.
[ Parent ]
Not quite true (none / 0) (#142)
by Cro Magnon on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 02:54:33 PM EST

Christians engage in pre-marital sex all the time. We just ask God to forgive us for it.
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
meh... (none / 0) (#223)
by anthroporraistes on Sun Mar 13, 2005 at 08:34:13 PM EST

To make your game a better mirror for reality, we have to (as noted in previous posts) add some conditions to it.  Your belief is not cost-free, you must accept dogma, change the way you view life, and start accepting things on faith (the game might be a scam, and there is no way you can tell, and the game goes against some body of empirical evidence (or more specifically, the body of dogma that must be accepted goes against empirical evidence)

I don't need an afterlife reward for anything, the reward is in this life.  If I am an atheist (I am actually agnostic, with buddist leanings), and I feel that I am right (and have support of empirical evidence) that is reward enough, the feeling of being closer to the truth.  Knowledge is reward in itself.  That and I gain control over my life, with no mysterious metaphysical big brother dictation my actions and world-view.  I gain a feeling of freedom not possible in a religious mindset.  I also escape several logical problems involved with religion.  This is a good reward.  

So lets change Pascal's Wager, and lets say we can have a happy free life of knowledge if we don't believe.  And if we take that there is no God (greater than p=.5) then we have two choices, a happy free life and then nothing(1), or a life constrained by dogma and others opinions, and then nothing(2).  

Now for the opposite premise;  If I don't beleive in god, I still have a life of the illusion of freedom and knowledge, and then go to hell (if we accept God as vengeful, and ignoring individual action)(3), or I still have a life of constraints and dogma, and go to heaven(4)

So....
(1) 1+0=1
(2) -1+0=-1
(3) 1+-1=0
(4) -1+1=0

The best option would be (1), accept a life without god, and live free of dogma and constraints.  

What Pascal doesn't take (as mentioned) is that there are other belief systems that are equally as valid as xtianity, and more palitable.  And he doesn't take the body of evidence AGAINST contemporary xtian dogma (book of Q, dead sea scrolls, evolution, science).  Pascal over simplified the equation slightly, ignoring other beliefs, and the consiquences of acception xtian dogma (faith) over empiricism and science.  Your game ignores consiquences as well, though.

Sadly, I view this all as mute.  I cannot have faith because it is pragmatic, thats not faith.  You can't force yourself to have it.  I could never be a xtian, I question things too much, I demand some level of certanty, and unfortunatly know too much about the history of the doctrine to have faith in it, no matter what the equation.

---
biology is destiny
[ Parent ]

Back up a second there... (none / 0) (#111)
by kraant on Wed Mar 09, 2005 at 09:38:58 PM EST

What if there is a god and he wants you to be an atheist?
--
"kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
Never In Our Names...
[ Parent ]
Good point (none / 0) (#116)
by basj on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 07:45:27 AM EST

But as I read Pascal's wager, I think it comes down to the idea that believing you'll be rewarded for believing you'll be rewarded, is more rewarding, and therefore more rational, than not believing such thing.

'brain in a jar' called that circular, I'd like to call it 'self-referential'. Nevertheless, the wager isn't realy about all different possible kinds of Gods, it's more about what's 'rational' according to the 'maximizing expected value'-theory of rationality.

So he basicly gives you two choices and asks which one of those two choises is the more rational one. Saying 'but what if God wants you to be an atheist' looks to me like answering the question 'What is bigger, a car or a cat' with "a house."

But of course if the atheist believes, God will reward him for his atheism, then that wager is pretty much equivalent to the wager God will reward you for your faith. The problem with this is, well, atheists generally don't believe God will reward them.
--
Complete the Three Year Plan in five years!
[ Parent ]

Choices (none / 0) (#122)
by thejeff on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 09:01:48 AM EST

Sure, if you accept Pascal's premises then the wager makes sense. But, since we're trying to talk about choices to make in the real world, pointing out that the premises are flawed is a valid counter.

If he was just asking which of the two choices is more rational, then fine, but the implication is that you should follow the more rational choice. Since I don't agree with the premise, or the limit on choices, being bound by them isn't rational.

To tweak your analogy, it's more like he's asking "What's the biggest land animal, a cat or a chicken?" and I'm answering "an elephant"


[ Parent ]

Choices? (none / 0) (#129)
by basj on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 12:33:09 PM EST

Well, the choice is about belief or disbelief. It really is binary.

To tweak your analogy, it's like asking "What's the biggest land animal, a cat or someting else?".

And while we're debating by analogy, Pascal's wager is exactly like a game where there's some chance of winning some reward. The only price you pay is believing you will win.

So do you play?

You could say: 'No, I won't play, because the chance of winning is (say) 0.1 and I don't believe I'll win with those odds."

Or, you could say: "Sure! This is my lucky day! I'll play!".

Which behaviour results in the highest expected pay-off? And, considering the assumption that rational agents try to maximize the highest expected pay-off, which course of action is the more rational one?

And this is perhaps the paradox hidden in the assumption that rational agents try to maximize expected value. Or perhaps, the paradox hidden in our own rationality. Pascal's wager seems to lead us to the conclusion that it can be rational to be superstitious.
--
Complete the Three Year Plan in five years!
[ Parent ]

What's your agenda? (none / 0) (#131)
by Have A Nice Day on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 12:46:40 PM EST

The only price you pay is believing you will win.
No. Not it's not.
The point is that Pascal discounts the price of faith in this life. There is a price. Sometimes it has been war. At the very least it imposes a moral code on a person and by doing so imposes a change in behaviour on the individual. Whether that is positive or negative depends on your view, but it is something.

You seem to be deliberately ignoring that, are you trying to convert people?

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Have A Nice Day may have reentered the building.
[ Parent ]
No agenda. (none / 0) (#133)
by basj on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 01:17:18 PM EST

Only logic. But I'm enjoying this discussion very much. Pascal's wager questions your assumptions about rationality. Really, I don't even believe in God! I used to dismiss Pascal's wager with the 'God won't be impressed if you only have faith to CYA'-argument, but I realised it is not about God per se. It is about believing that if you believe something, you'll gain (a chance at) an advantage.

I tried to remove the religious connotations somewhat because stuff like that tends to make it all too personal for some people. But exactly the same 'rationality-paradox' arose in the game I proposed and there's no God there, right? I really thought I explained it pretty well ;-).

> No. Not it's not.

Yes it is. I was talking about my example game, remember.

> At the very least it imposes a moral code

Not necessarily.
--
Complete the Three Year Plan in five years!
[ Parent ]

Your example game is meaningless (none / 0) (#137)
by Have A Nice Day on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 01:52:34 PM EST

the wager of "Would you believe in a generic god who imposes no restrictions on your actions but is all powerful and wants to be believed in and will reward you after life, simply to get that reward?" is a no brainer IF and only if you don't consider living in a world without needless superstition and wild flights of faith and fantasy to be a problem. I personally do think it's a problem. In fact I think that even that faith without any evidencial basis is too high a price to pay - you are discarding living in reality. Also, I don't think that I would be able to actually make myself believe, but that's a personal aside. i could fake it so everyone here believed me, but I don't think I'd pass muster if there was such a being.

Back in the real world though, there is always a more tangible price to pay for your heavenly afterlife. Maybe it's not eating ham, maybe it's killing infidels, maybe it's no cheese on a wednesday. There's a price.

--------------
Have A Nice Day may have reentered the building.
[ Parent ]
If it's a problem (none / 0) (#139)
by basj on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 02:29:02 PM EST

"Would you believe in a generic god who imposes no restrictions on your actions but is all powerful and wants to be believed in and will reward you after life, simply to get that reward?"

Exactly. And believing in such a being, however remote the chance he/she/it exists, has a higher 'expected value' then not believing.

So do you agree that the view of rationality as 'maximizing expected value' gives rise to a 'paradox' (if I may be so bold), because believing certain things you have no proof of, turns out to maximize expected value in a certain case?

In fact I think that even that faith without any evidencial basis is too high a price to pay - you are discarding living in reality.

This presupposes you can have some sort of proof of the non-existence of a higher being. It's arrogant and demeaning to assert that religious people are 'discarding living in reality'. You don't know that, nor can you possibly know.

Don't fall into the trap of the logical-positivists; lots of your thoughts about the world aren't based on proof.

Back in the real world though, there is always a more tangible price to pay for your heavenly afterlife.

That's just a contingency and has no bearing on what I'd like to call a 'rationality paradox'.
--
Complete the Three Year Plan in five years!
[ Parent ]

bridge (none / 0) (#149)
by speek on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 05:01:03 PM EST

In bridge, you sometimes find yourself in a difficult position in which the only way to make your bid is if the cards are distributed in others' hands in a certain way. So, you play as though you know the cards are, in fact, so distributed, because to do otherwise would be self-defeating. If the cards are not distributed in this fashion, you will lose anyway, and if they are, the only way to take advantage is to play in a certain less-than-generically-optimal way.

I think such reasoning makes good sense, and I would say it applies quite well in an argument about Free Will - ie, why should we believe in free will? Because to not believe in it doesn't lead to any value in our daily lives. I don't quite see how it applies to a belief in an afterlife or a Christian god who decides to either punish us or not. Because, although someone said it is truly binary - between belief and not-belief, I don't see that as so. It seems to me, one has to "get it right" to get the benefit. If getting it right is not important, then it seems to follow that the atheist is going to get the same result as the believer anyway, so who cares? Ie, all dogs go to heaven.

If, however, I have to get my belief right, then this truly is a debate about what the right beliefs are, and it is not a simple wager of believe or don't believe. In which case, who are you and what do you known that leads you to argue that someone else's chosen path (whether atheist or hindu or Heaven's Gate) is wrong? (Not that you are, really, but that's the side of this debate you seem to be taking up at the moment).

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

and expected value buys me what? (none / 0) (#161)
by tonedevil on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 10:32:22 PM EST

Nothing exactly what I wager and exactly what I gain in the rather pointless exercise. The way you are saying this, I can counter with "If there is any chance that a pink unicorn is going to bring me a bucket of gold I gain a higher expected value by believing in said animal." That is why it boils down to circular logic.

[ Parent ]
No no (none / 0) (#176)
by basj on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 08:23:25 AM EST

If there is any chance that a pink unicorn is going to bring me a bucket of gold if I believe that a pink unicorn is going to bring me a bucket of gold I gain a higher expected value by believing in said animal.
--
Complete the Three Year Plan in five years!
[ Parent ]
You got some splainin to do. (none / 0) (#184)
by tonedevil on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 12:39:57 PM EST

The way you are explaining this it proves out just as well with any belief. If the belief is true or not, you have to decide based on what is the best expected outcome. A belief sets up it's own outcome and not believing makes that outcome unavailable to you. With that contrivance and ignoring all other possibilties the act of believing has an expected positive or neutral outcome and not believing has an expected neutral or negative outcome. At that point belief is the obvious choice because it is all upside no downside. How do you come to the conclusion that this is not circular reasoning?

[ Parent ]
You understand it perfectly well (none / 0) (#187)
by basj on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 03:06:10 PM EST

The way you are explaining this it proves out just as well with any belief.

Very true.

At that point belief is the obvious choice because it is all upside no downside.

Exactly.

How do you come to the conclusion that this is not circular reasoning?

In conjunction with its premisses, any valid conclusion is a tautology.
--
Complete the Three Year Plan in five years!
[ Parent ]

everything's a tautology - or is it? (none / 0) (#210)
by speek on Sat Mar 12, 2005 at 05:09:53 PM EST

In conjunction with its premisses, any valid conclusion is a tautology.

Which is one reason why we always end up comparing and fighting over our premises.

Although, It seems to me Godel's incompleteness theorem proves otherwise - ie, there are valid conclusions that cannot be proved (and thus don't reduce to a tautology). But, my momma didn't raise no mathematician, and so I say "it seems to me" and let someone correct me if I'm wrong.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

I think I understand your argument (none / 0) (#170)
by brain in a jar on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 03:35:43 AM EST

You argue essentially, that if we play pascal's game by his rules, including the possible outcomes and the associated payoffs then it is rational to believe even in the absence of any evidence. This is, if the assumptions he makes are valid, an intersting result.

However, I would agree with others that the set of rules and payoffs he proposes have important faults. He ignores any costs of belief and he ignores the possibility of others gods and potential punishment. These possibilities are not just distractions from seeing Pascal's argument, they are very much material problems with his argument. Pascal deliberately constructed his wager, his game, such that belief is the rational outcome which was not doubt a reassuring result for Pascal. But the nature of the most rational strategy depends entirely on the nature of the game.

If we examine the validity of the game, the "other gods" objection is the most important. Because makes the result of belief totally undefined, anywhere from positive to negative infinity (eternal reward or punishment) and given the impossibility of proving the existance of one god or another we simply can't say what the expected value of belief is.

Worse still, Pascal's argument can be repeated ad infinitum. Someone who allows that his argument is rational and allows it to dictate their action should at the very least attempt to believe in all the (often mutually exclusive) belief systems that mankind has devised since the beginning of history. This sounds to me to be a sure path to insanity.

Basically Pascal rigs the game to produce a given result, in truth no one can ever have the first clue what the payoffs for belief are, if they did religion would require no faith, and there would be no athiests or agnostics. But perhaps this was what he was trying to show.


Life is too important, to be taken entirely seriously.
[ Parent ]

Almost there (none / 0) (#179)
by basj on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 09:02:39 AM EST

You argue essentially, that if we play pascal's game by his rules, including the possible outcomes and the associated payoffs then it is rational to believe even in the absence of any evidence.

Right.

He ignores any costs of belief

Name some. If I happily did everything an atheist does -- including saying there is no God -- but deep down I believe in God, then what price do I pay that the atheists doesn't?

Furthermore, if I happily did everything an atheist does while I believe in God -- excluding denying God -- then why do I pay a higher price for my belief than the atheist does for his?

Pascal deliberately constructed his wager, his game, such that belief is the rational outcome which was not doubt a reassuring result for Pascal.

That's an ad hominem and you know it.

and given the impossibility of proving the existance of one god or another we simply can't say what the expected value of belief is

The expected value of the belief is stated by the belief itself. The impossibility of proving existance of one God or another if therefore irrelevant. We know the expected value of believing in Christ: it is salvation. We know the expected value of following Buddha's path: it is nirwana. We know the expected value of acting valiantly in battle in honour of Odin...

Worse still, Pascal's argument can be repeated ad infinitum. Someone who allows that his argument is rational and allows it to dictate their action should at the very least attempt to believe in all the (often mutually exclusive) belief systems that mankind has devised since the beginning of history. This sounds to me to be a sure path to insanity.

True. But given valid premisses, this is a valid conclusion. And because you cannot reject the premisses because you don't like the conclusion, this is not a valid argument against Pascal's wager itself.

But perhaps this was what he was trying to show.

I doubt it.
--
Complete the Three Year Plan in five years!
[ Parent ]

On expected values (none / 1) (#182)
by brain in a jar on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 11:39:54 AM EST

I disagree that the expected value of belief is salvation. To say that it is a real expected value we need to know the size of the payoff and its probability.

The impossibility of proving anything related to the existance of a god or gods means that both the probability and the size of the payoff are unknown and unknowable.

It makes no sense to define the payoffs based on the assumption that the belief is correct. If we do this then we have to balance belief in the christian god against an infinite number of other possible beliefs and their associated payoffs. In the end the game isn't all that sensible, given that nothing can be proved.

You either have faith or you don't, the ininite number of possible beliefs means that if defies rational analysis.


Life is too important, to be taken entirely seriously.
[ Parent ]

Wait a minute (none / 0) (#188)
by basj on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 03:06:33 PM EST

You're saying we need proof of existance to estimate possibility of existance?
--
Complete the Three Year Plan in five years!
[ Parent ]
What I'm saying is (none / 0) (#208)
by brain in a jar on Sat Mar 12, 2005 at 01:41:13 PM EST

that there is a difference between uncertainty, which allows for the calculation of expected values and complete cluelessness which does not.

The german literature on risk analysis makes a distinction between uncertainty and cluelessnes using the words unsicherheit und ahnunglosigkeit.

I think given that there is not and cannot be any good evidence for the existance or non-existance of God then this is a case of cluelessness rather than uncertainty. The probabilities and natures of the payoff cannot be estimated. We don't even know how much we know.


Life is too important, to be taken entirely seriously.
[ Parent ]

Excellent point. (none / 0) (#213)
by basj on Sun Mar 13, 2005 at 11:14:04 AM EST

Good point! But I believe it is one addressed by Pascal somehwat already. He concedes that someone who assigns zero probability to God's existence, doesn't rationally have to believe in God. The usual rhetorical trick then is to ask how somebody can assign zero probability to the existence of God unless he has proof of the non-existence of God, but your dinstinction between unsicherheit und anhunglosigkeit provides for a much, much better answer.

Nevertheless, as soon as somebody rejects the notion that we are necessarily clueless regarding God's existence (but perhaps still believes his existence cannot be proven), Pascal's argument flies again.

So to me there seem to be two ways out for the non-believer:
1. Assign zero probability to God's existence.
2. Refuse to assign any probability to His existence because of the supposed unknowability of it.

I do not think it is a coincidence those two options correspond to atheism (with its typical problems) and agnosticism respectively.
Thanks for making me aware of this.
--
Complete the Three Year Plan in five years!
[ Parent ]

Only price? (none / 1) (#181)
by thejeff on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 11:05:42 AM EST

We're far from Pascal's Wager here. Or at least far from it's application to any real world religion. No religion that I know of grants salvation based on simply believing that God exists. Many use "belief" as a shorthand for a whole host of other things that they claim follows from that belief. Worship, various rites, "acknowledging Jesus as your Saviour", whatever. They all require something more than just belief. Would a serial killer go to heaven simply because he believed God exists?

You can construct a hypothetical game where the only cost is belief, but does that reflect anything in reality? If not, is it in any way useful?

Playing a game with no cost and a desirable payoff is rationally worthwhile. Believing you'll win is irrelevant. If there is any cost: financial, time,  opportunity cost, social costs, psychological, whatever, then you weigh that against the odds and the payoff. Simple enough. And doesn't rely on belief.

If you can only play (or win) if you believe you will win, then we're in the realm of magic. You can conclude that it's rational to be superstitious, because the premise is based on superstition working.

Pascal's Wager, however, only fits this if you handwave away all the costs asociated with religious belief.

[ Parent ]

Fix the game (none / 0) (#189)
by basj on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 03:48:11 PM EST

We're far from Pascal's Wager here.

I know. Don't much care though.

Would a serial killer go to heaven simply because he believed God exists?

I believe you're now asking for an answer I can't possibly give you.

You can construct a hypothetical game where the only cost is belief, but does that reflect anything in reality?

If you don't think that my game shows belief without proof can be rational, it shows a paradox in decision theory. I would call that useful.

If you can only play (or win) if you believe you will win, then we're in the realm of magic. You can conclude that it's rational to be superstitious, because the premise is based on superstition working.

So basicly you argue that because the only way to test if someone has paid my price is supernatural, the whole game is supernatural, and therefore, doesn't support any conclusion about the real world?

So let's add a lie detector... You think lie detectors are 'magical'? Or consider, after advances in neuroscience, a proper 'mind reading device'. You think a device like that would be magical?
--
Complete the Three Year Plan in five years!
[ Parent ]

Hmmm (none / 0) (#190)
by thejeff on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 05:27:34 PM EST

I was thinking (based probably on your 0.1 chance) more of a game where the odds were against you, but if you just believed you would win anyway. That falls under magical (or fixed.)

If it's just somebody offering money if I believed that he'd really give it to me, then sure; it's rational to try to convince him I believe, even up to trying to actually convince myself, if he's got some foolproof belief detector.

<Shrug>

Somehow, I'm not really excited by this conclusion. How have we proven superstition is rational again?

Belief without proof can certainly be rational. Most things I believe are not proven in any rigorous sense. More of a preponderance of the evidence/Ockham's Razor kind of approach.
Most of my beliefs would chance if the evidence changed. (I'd like to say all, but I'll admit I'm not a completely rational being.)

Believing without evidence or against evidence is another matter.

Hmmm, another thought: maybe there's a distinction in the uses of "rational"?

If you told me that you'd give me a million dollars if I believed the sky was green, it would be rational (in my self interest) to believe that, but I doubt I could. The belief itself is not rational, even if trying to believe it is. (Assuming that we're using your mind reading machine to verify both your offer and my belief, and that the sky is actually visible and not green. (Which it isn't at the moment, it's a rather nasty grey.))

[ Parent ]

Ok (none / 0) (#191)
by basj on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 05:48:42 PM EST

I was thinking (based probably on your 0.1 chance) more of a game where the odds were against you, but if you just believed you would win anyway.

No no, I meant that only if you believed you'd win, you could play. In which case, as you remarked in your previous post, believing and playing (ignoring the odds) results in a higher expected value than not believing and not playing.

How have we proven superstition is rational again?
[..]

If you told me that you'd give me a million dollars if I believed the sky was green, it would be rational (in my self interest) to believe that, but I doubt I could.

Pretty much like so. Anyway, here you seem to take the 'I cannot choose my beliefs" way out, which is entirely valid of course. A bit awkward perhaps considering we are debating rational choices.

Be that as it may, I'm not too fond of a distinction between "it's a rational belief" and "it's rational too believe". I'd really like to say rational beliefs are the beliefs that are rational to believe and vice versa, but hey, it is a distinction you could make in principle I suppose.
--
Complete the Three Year Plan in five years!
[ Parent ]

Rational belief (none / 0) (#197)
by thejeff on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 06:30:52 PM EST

Pretty much like so. Anyway, here you seem to take the 'I cannot choose my beliefs" way out, which is entirely valid of course. A bit awkward perhaps considering we are debating rational choices.

Well, "cannot choose" is probably extreme. Believing things that are blatantly not so is hard work, though, and I'm not very good at it. Many beliefs can be chosen or at least influenced.

Be that as it may, I'm not too fond of a distinction between "it's a rational belief" and "it's rational too believe". I'd really like to say rational beliefs are the beliefs that are rational to believe and vice versa, but hey, it is a distinction you could make in principle I suppose.

I think it's coming down to semantics. We're rational in the "rational agents try to maximize expected value" sense, but theirs also the implication of logical reasonable. It may be in my self-interest to believe an impossible thing, but that doesn't make the belief reasonable.
Is this some deep, meaningful paradox or is it just semantic confusion?

And does any of this still tie in to Pascal's gambling habit?


[ Parent ]

Paradox or confusion. (none / 0) (#214)
by basj on Sun Mar 13, 2005 at 11:30:56 AM EST

I'm not sure, but I think it's a pardox. Even if there is semantic confusion, it is not really our confusion: decision theory has its fair share of problems and it wouldn't in the least surpise me if a conflict between the logical (symbolical) and sensible aspects of rationality was one of them.

And while I'm not much of a Pascal scholar, perhaps with a (quite sloppy btw) distinction between sensible and logical you could reply that while you see why it would be sensible to believe in God (given Pascal's premisses are true) you don't see why it would be logical to do so. Or something like that.
--
Complete the Three Year Plan in five years!
[ Parent ]

No Free Lunch (none / 0) (#219)
by T818 on Sun Mar 13, 2005 at 06:42:37 PM EST

First of all Pascal was a Janesist. The God of Pascal was such that to serve this God one had to lead a very restrictive and diminshed life. There were big, big costs associated with believing in the God of Pascal. Secondly, assuming another God than the God of Pascal big costs might arise. Say believing in a God had no associated costs attendant on believing in that God assuming the belief was correct. Still there might be big associated costs assuming the belief was incorrect. One for example might be denied Paradise or afflicted with boils from a true and jealous God. There is no free lunch in Pascal's Wager.

[ Parent ]
Pascal Should Have Stuck To Math (none / 0) (#198)
by T818 on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 06:51:03 PM EST

Basically Pascal is assuming what Pascal is attempting to establish as a rationale belief. Pascal must assume God is a certain way to set up the bet but the bet is to establish the rationality of believing in God. Prior to establishing believing in God is rationale it is illigitimate to assume God takes on any particular form. Pascal's conclusion is part of the premises. As you pointed out a God at odds with the God of Pascal clearly undermines Pascal's wager.

[ Parent ]
It's against Atheism - other gods are irrelevant (none / 0) (#70)
by basj on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 07:45:23 PM EST

Even if you think BattleTroll's theistic interpretation of God is too vague and too abstract, still, Pascal's wager stands as an argument against the rationality of atheism.

Because, well, no matter whose god is real and which religion is right the atheist loses. And if he's right himself, he's not rewarded.

So while the expected value of believing in some god or another might be P(right) * 'the joy of salvation' minus P(wrong) * 'the sorrow of damnation', the expected value of being an atheist is P(right) * 'the joy of being right' minus P(wrong) * 'the joy of salvation'. And of course, for an atheist, the joy of being right after death isn't much of a joy at all. (Atheists believing in an afterlife or in reincarnation excluded, but, I suppose we're not really debating those issues)

Which bring me to: I'm sorry I haven't made myself more clear in my previous post. I by no means ment to say that your life without God is worthless; Pascal's wager is about the 'afterlife', about 'salvation' and 'damnation'.
--
Complete the Three Year Plan in five years!
[ Parent ]

One minor point here (none / 0) (#53)
by cdguru on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 03:04:46 PM EST

My "belief" is that the value of the expression Value(God does not exist + you believe) is somewhat negative. It pushes the believer into a non-rational state where belief in "the supernatural" takes precedence over belief in the physical universe. This pretty much means that such people can be convinced that UFO's are coming to abduct them, that if you give enough money to some televangelist that you will be "saved" and so on and so forth.

The problem isn't the relative "goodness" or "badness" of belief, but what that belief opens the door to. Opening the door to non-rationality pretty much means that you accept non-rational systems in your life. While this doesn't always led to problems, it can and when it does there is always trouble.

This is the same argument against "creation science" - once you lump that into "science", you really need to start teaching the relationship between astrology and astronomy and how astrology has helped NASA.

[ Parent ]

That's an insult. (none / 0) (#68)
by basj on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 07:09:33 PM EST

Not an argument.

And besides, the whole point of Pascal's wager is to show that by assessing pro's and contra's you are led to the conclusion that belief in God is more rational. This has nothing to do with 'opening the door to non-rationality'. To the contrary!
--
Complete the Three Year Plan in five years!
[ Parent ]

If I'm following... (none / 0) (#106)
by levesque on Wed Mar 09, 2005 at 05:30:48 PM EST

that belief in God is more rational

...is based on the view that if god exists he would be "oppressive" i.e. does not like non-believers (they won't get the "very, very good" and they may get some "bad"). If that is the case, Pascals wager means that anything with a component of "repressive authority" that one can imagine or create should be believed in, i.e. all treats should be taken seriously, if that is the case I don't think it is good advice.

[ Parent ]

(Mostly) True (none / 0) (#130)
by basj on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 12:38:33 PM EST

Pascals wager means that anything with a component of "repressive authority" that one can imagine or create should be believed in, i.e. all treats should be taken seriously, if that is the case I don't think it is good advice.

As long as the 'price to pay' to take the threat seriously, is zero. And, taking the threat seriously results in some (chance at some) advantage.

I think that's only the case with metaphysical threats ;-).
--
Complete the Three Year Plan in five years!
[ Parent ]

agree and some more (none / 1) (#93)
by m a r c on Wed Mar 09, 2005 at 09:00:10 AM EST

Value(god does not exist + you believe) is not nil because of the effects on your life from having believed, and having to behave in a certain way. All that immoral sex, drugs, betrayal, etc that you missed out on because you believed, and because of this, abstained.
I got a dog and named him "Stay". Now, I go "Come here, Stay!". After a while, the dog went insane and wouldn't move at all.
[ Parent ]
odd... (3.00 / 2) (#140)
by Morphine007 on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 02:39:16 PM EST

.... immoral sex, partying, drinking and otherwise behaving in ways that would leave the strictly religious having apopleptic fits is what I enjoy the *MOST* about my life... mathematics doesn't do so well in dealing with value judgements. Value(Dog doesn't exit + you believe) != Value(Dog doesn't exit + I believe) .... so all arguments based on the (in)accuracy of this are completely meaningless, and we may as well just whip it out and compare notes.

[ Parent ]
very odd... (none / 0) (#217)
by Harvey Anderson on Sun Mar 13, 2005 at 06:16:12 PM EST

Of course, the immoral sex (maybe), partying (does a d&d partner and a fat hanger-on make a party?) and drinking (probably) you engage in is more because you're a total dork trying to not be than 'it makes me feel good'.  Therefore you are a prime target for pity, not rage, from the population at large.

You wacky guys.

[ Parent ]

Downside? What downside? (none / 0) (#207)
by quincunx on Sat Mar 12, 2005 at 01:37:29 AM EST

Of course, if recent research is correct, it looks like believing in god might not be a bad wager to make, even if there's no such thing as the Big Guy.

[ Parent ]
No mention of 2 slot diffraction test (none / 1) (#39)
by LilDebbie on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 11:06:35 AM EST

Hawking agrees, the universe is entirely subjective!

By the way, if you want to get a bit more advanced, extrapolate on the optical illusion thing with forcing yourself to see the vase and the faces. This is, as Orwell wonderfully described it, doublethink, which is INFINITELY useful in debate. There's nothing quite like knowing exactly every argument your opponent puts forward before he does because you would argue the same way (were you arguing for that thing, rather than against it).

Believe in everything! Believe in nothing!

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

lol what (1.00 / 3) (#54)
by The Jewish Liberal Media Conspiracy on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 03:23:48 PM EST

hello shiftystoner!
This account has been anonymized.
[ Parent ]
no (none / 0) (#56)
by LilDebbie on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 04:01:50 PM EST

he's much more of a stoner than I.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
doublethink?? (none / 0) (#228)
by Norwegian Blue on Wed Mar 16, 2005 at 06:20:25 PM EST

Orwell's uses doublethink as a very deceitful form of partisan self-delusion. Possibly this can be used in debate. But I'd call it degrading, not advanced.

Doublethink willfully ignores any contradiction.
A value of the vase-faces example, on the contrary, is that it illustrates that many  contradictions are forced onto a situation. They have value but they're overestimated. They can disappear when you get a better view.  
You don't have to end up with a statement "it's really a vase" or "it's really two faces".

The better story of the picture has the two descriptions in it(since they're both reasonably good), not the one winner.
Also the two views don't necessarily improve by blending them into one single  way of looking at things.


[ Parent ]

I disagree with much of the article, but... (2.66 / 3) (#76)
by jd on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 08:22:19 PM EST

...that is why I'm voting it up. I don't visit K5 to listen to my views being parroted back, I visit K5 because other people have views that are different to mine and which are interesting to examine.

For myself, I've gradually moved away from the whole "absolute reality" concept. "Objective Reality", as understood by modern Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Cosmology, is the result of an astronomical number of interfering and interacting probability waves where those waves move in both space AND time, and (given the problem of so-called "non-local effects") may exist in multiple places and/or multiple times.

The Uncertainty Principle strictly prohibits the current state of any two orthogonal parameters to be both known. The more accurately you know one, the less accurately you'll know the other.

So, although we can define this "Objective Reality" as existing, we cannot observe it and we can carry out no experiments on it. As such, it is better to describe it as an article of faith than "objective", because nobody on the inside of the Universe can objectively see it.

What we are left with is a "consensual reality" - a reality defined by consensus. It may be wrong. It may be very, very wrong. But because it is the consensus, people will nonetheless act as if it is true. (Dr Who fans: See "Image of the Fendhal")

Reality by consensus defines the way we interpret our experiences and therefore all conclusions we can ever draw by experiment. It defines what is an acceptable belief, and therefore all those things you can ever believe and still be seen sane. It places rigid limits on our reactions and responses, and therefore on what we would consider ethically or morally acceptable.

As such, "Reality by Consensus" covers everything from science to religion, and everything in between. There is no need to define any other type of reality, because anything that we can describe and have someone else understand is, by definition, a consensual reality. It is merely a consensus between those people, rather than humanity at large.

This is not Eastern philosophy. Things are not real BECAUSE we believe in them. They are real, all on their own. Our belief is 100% independent of their reality (or lack thereof). What we will ever allow ourselves to know, though, is what our beliefs say. In consequence, the reality of the object is merely a distraction.

One interesting consequence of this has been in psychotherapy, in the treatment of schizophrenics. R.D. Laing demonstrated that schizophrenia was a split with consensual reality, but that the internal reality of the sufferer was frequently self-consistant, following its own internal laws in a completely predictable and experimentally verifiable way.

His pioneering work involved figuring out a way to map their internal Universe onto the consensual reality. A simple translation process. His success rate was, by all accounts, extremely high. Far higher than that achievable by any other method at the time (1960s) and probably better than most methods used today.

I will argue that all humans live in their own private reality, and that consensual reality is merely a product of our ability to communicate what is in that reality. I will also argue that we must be careful to understand that our senses are largely an illusion, that they just feed data into the brain, and the brain then just maps whatever is in the private reality that fits that input the best.

(I also believe that it will only be by duplicating this process that we shall build AIs. We'll never build them, if we work on the notion of an external, universal reality.)

Because we only see what our brains interpret us as seeing, the scientific method is invalid when applied by a single individual on a single experiment. This is why science MUST be reproducable and MUST be disprovable by experimentation. Otherwise, there is absolutely no way to know if something is purely a product of the brain, or if it has some association with the outside world.

Even with repeatability, there's the problem that if everyone accepts a general model of reality to be true, then how do you know the repeatability isn't a product of the acceptance? Well, you don't and you can't. You have to rely on attempts to disprove the theory to create a situation where something "external" remains consistant but where a purely imaginary world would not.

It's not the best method, but it does work better than most.

Ultimately, though, everything's just an interference pattern in space/time. the laws of physics, or indeed of anything else, depend on that interference pattern having certain properties. Were those properties to shift, those laws may also shift. Which is one reason why people speculate on universal constants varying over time.

Were anyone to figure out how to deliberately change those patterns, then no concept of reality could exist. Here's a catch for you. With no reality, there's nothing there that can make those changes. Thus, anyone who DID figure it out would be utterly powerless. They would be able to understand what it took to make the change, but they, themselves, would have zero power to actually do so.

Oh, I don't think this is a problem for scientists. It's much more a problem for the religious. I'm not sure if there is a "hell", per-se, but I'm pretty sure that anyone can create one for themselves, whether in their own mind or in truth, and if anyone is likely to manage it, it'll be those who think Final, Absolute Truth is somehow better than the journey.

Reality vs Quantum anything (none / 1) (#89)
by Viliam Bur on Wed Mar 09, 2005 at 07:19:03 AM EST

I think you are confusing two different "levels" of reality - the quantum level, which applies to microscopically small particles, and psychological level, which applied to beliefs about anything, including big objects.

As a different example, let's take Theory of Relativity (another frequently misused part of science). Theory of Relativity says for example, that if object moves extremely fast, close to the speed of light, it will become shorter, for an external observer. More correctly, any moving object will become shorter... however, for speeds of objects which we meet in everyday life, the ratio is 1 : 0.999999... (too many 9's), which is below our ability to notice, and probably does not influence us noticeable.

However, if someone says "I was driving my car so fast, that it became relativistically shorter; about half its size!" clearly that person is speaking nonsense; and the Theory of Relativity cannot be used as a support for such statement.

Back to Quantum Mechanics; it says that we cannot know for sure the position and speed of a microscopically small particles. Again, more correctly, we cannot know for sure the position and speed of anything... however, for objects we meet in everyday life, the uncertainty is below our ability to notice; it would be something like "If I could exactly measure the position of whether this car is 100m away from my house, or only 99.999999... (too many 9's), then I could not exactly measure, whether its speed is 100MPH, or only 99.999999... (too many 9's)."

However, if someone says "Maybe I am a human, and maybe I am an elefant... hey, what's the problem? Principle of Uncertainty; did you ever hear that? The modern science agrees with me!" that's an obvious nonsense too.

Accepting a "private reality" of schizophrenics may be a good way to make a contact with them, and to heal them. But claiming that it somehow relates to Quantum Mechanics, is simply abusing the term.

[ Parent ]

Interesting, but you're mixing up some concepts. (3.00 / 3) (#77)
by Another Scott on Tue Mar 08, 2005 at 08:34:49 PM EST

I think you're being a little too loose with your usage of the words "belief" and "perception". For example, seeing a vase or a face is intimately tied into the way the brain acts on visual stimuli. Humans are very good at recognizing faces. Remember the face on Mars? Whether one believes a face is there or not, the pattern of light and shadow is highly reminiscent of a face to our brains (especially when the image has been massaged ;-).

You use the term "belief" in many ways. You apply it to interpretation of images, logical arguments, personality traits, religion, etc. I think your argument is stronger when applied to higher concepts like logical arguments or religion than things like perception. The brain is an extremely complex filter that has evolved over millions of years. For example, at a quantum level, seeing the face/vase involves photons interacting with rods and cones in the eye, changing electrical potentials and firing sequences in neurons, evaluation by specialized parts of the brain, etc., etc. All of those lower-level things have little to do with belief.

But even in these higher-order concepts, I think you use the word "belief" to cover too many things. E.g., deciding to travel across a crowded room to meet a stranger has more to do with previous experience and personality traits than belief, IMHO.

Similarly with "perception". Physical things interact with us and our brain receives information based on some response by nerves, etc. At the lowest level, we don't feel a table, the atoms of our body are repelled by the atoms in the table top. Our nerves respond. Etc. But perception is also a higher-order concept - a concept we construct. You're mixing the terms.

Being loose with the language makes your case weaker, IMHO.

For the higher-order concepts in your piece, you can simplify a lot of it as, "Where you stand depends on where you sit." That is, it is very very difficult for most of us to conceive of things we haven't been exposed to. It's also difficult to overcome bad experiences because we're creatures of habit. It's not impossible, and people do change beliefs and overcome adversity, but it's difficult.

Oh, and I agree with an earlier comment that you have to be careful in trying to prove things to yourself. Quite often there are things that have to be assumed as true.

That's my view anyway, FWIW.

Cheers,
Scott.

Looking at the construct of a vase (none / 1) (#155)
by schrotie on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 06:12:36 PM EST

The brain is an extremely complex filter that has evolved over millions of years. For example, at a quantum level, seeing the face/vase involves photons interacting with rods and cones in the eye, changing electrical potentials and firing sequences in neurons, evaluation by specialized parts of the brain, etc., etc. All of those lower-level things have little to do with belief.
brain_in_a_jar says:
Based on the information we get from the senses, we form a model of the world and it is this model, which forms the basis for our decisions.
The important notion here is model. To really get this discussion right, one would have to define who that we is in brain_in_a_jar's quote above. But that question is far out the range of the article, let alone this comment. Let's for now content with Metzinger's proposal that we is that thing in our brains, that constantly confuses itself with its own self model. Why chose that definition? Because it's funny, sophisticated, fits the article perfectly and may even be true.

So we have a model of ourself forming a model of a vase or a face. And where was the truth here? What you (you as in we) are looking at is not a vase. You are looking at the construct of a vase, a construct that resides in your optical cortex and activates all kinds of associations (the noise of a shattering vase that was thrown at you by your then ex-girlfriend; that ugly monster your grandma used to contain the flowers you brought and so on). The ideal vase is some common denominator of all these associations. Everything looks like Platon was wrong and there is no truth in vases. The concept "vase" is a (teleologic) construct of your brain: vases are things you can throw at lovers or put flowers in. Not shadows in some miserable cave. An old bottel can become a vase in the right context (and interpretation). No truth in vases, sorry.

You said that "Humans are very good at recognizing faces". Right. That's because there is more information flowing into the optical cortex from other parts of the cortex than from the eys. We are indeed very good at constructing faces as you point out yourself in the next sentence: "Remember the face on Mars?"

Where does this leave us? If you asked a neurologist for a catchy engeneering term for the human brain he would probably not come up with "perception machine" even though we are frustatingly good (frustating when you ever tried programming computer vision) at perception.I think he'd likely say "association machine". We try to relate everything, we are fantastic at discovering patterns in any noise. Trouble is we even discover patterns where no patterns are. Evolution has not designed us to discover the truth and we are ill equipped to find it, looking out of our dream lands. It has designed us to reproduce. It turns that for the benefit of reproducing, truth is secondary to the association of any item with useful tasks it can be used in. Truth is out there. brain_in_a_jar has even pointed out the right ways to approximate it. It is even in your brain. But you cannot see it from dreamland.

If you want truth, I found some spare truth on the web. Probably more than you can bare.

[ Parent ]

old woman/young girl (1.00 / 3) (#100)
by zenofchai on Wed Mar 09, 2005 at 04:38:20 PM EST

It took me a while to see the "old woman" in the "old woman/young girl" illusion.

Hint #1: The young women's ear is the old woman's eye.
Hint #2: The young woman's chin is the old woman's nose.
Hint #3: The young woman's necklace is the old woman's mouth.

Still, it's an ugly, almost non-human-looking old woman, in the end.
--
The K5 Interactive Political Compass SVG Graph

things shift (none / 0) (#232)
by meaningless on Fri Apr 01, 2005 at 08:07:54 AM EST

as you get old?

[ Parent ]
beliefs and scientific method (none / 1) (#108)
by fourseven on Wed Mar 09, 2005 at 06:46:34 PM EST

i'd say beliefs are a byproduct of our having memories. you know, you experience something once, you remember it, you believe that that is the way such things happen. here i would agree with the author of the article, saying that our interpretation of experiences distorts our memory and thus our beliefs somewhat. these would be first-hand beliefs. then you'd have second-hand beliefs, like things others told you, including what you read in your quantum physics textbook. in this case, the more indirect the experience the less reliable the knowledge as the interpretations along the way accumulate.

which brings me to the scientific method. in one of the comments below there was a bit about everything being a space-time interference pattern, basically trying to say that nothing can be known, and that the scientific method is the best approximation to knowing anything, far better than our senses. this claim i'd like to counterpoint with a question; how precisely does one get to know about the results of rigorous scientific experiments? by divine osmosis directly into the consciousness, or with the help of old, shaky senses? the latter, presumably. then the scientific method is just as good as the senses, the chain is as strong as its weakest link, yadda yadda.

what then? is there a way to know for certain? or are we doomed to believe and for eternity hit each other with better and better clubs due to various differences in our beliefs? i think the answer has already been mentioned. the distortion of perception -- doesn't have to happen. choosing what to believe is a good first step, as it demonstrates to you personally that your beliefs are flexible. you're not stuck with one filter, you can switch it up. but then, why have a filter at all? why the need to believe anything?

there isn't a need for that. it's just a habit like any other. it's convenient and a bit lazy, that's all. but as you learn first hand (and i don't mean read and nod your noggin, i mean a fuckin' epiphany after years of concentrated effort) that parts of what you see, hear, taste and otherwise perceive are really reactions of your mind, it gives some insight into what really is. it becomes apparent that our senses are in fact the most reliable scientific tools we could ever posess.

too bad thy are dulled by daily onslaught of sensory stimuli. but even that can be overcome. the senses can be directed inwards, and true nature of things can be accurately, precisely experienced. with enough concentration, a sound of someone coughing is perceived as a vibration within the ear, not as an association with annoyance or illness. the illusion of solidity of the human body and the abovementioned patterns of interacting vibrations, that too can be directly, sensually experienced. it takes considerable effort, but the knowledge, the understanding which such an experience brings is far more direct and applicable than years of hump-backing over texts would ever bring.



Simple (none / 1) (#138)
by m50d on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 01:56:05 PM EST

You apply the scientific method to your senses first. You will probably find that on the whole you can trust them, at least enough to have a general idea of what's happening. Then you apply it to what is told by others. Again, you should find that on the whole you can trust them. You can then trust the outcomes of scientific experiments published in peer-reviewed journals, because you trust that your perception is correct, that the people who claim to have done the review did do it, and that the experiment and its results are as published.

[ Parent ]
weaknesses, things I wanted to explain... (none / 0) (#115)
by brain in a jar on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 03:25:57 AM EST

that there are come from the fact that I'm writing about philosophy without ever having had a formal education in it.

As such I don't know what has been done before, and thus I of course run the risk or repeating mistakes that others have made before.

I guess what I was trying to do with this article is to open peoples eyes to the subjectivity of reality as we percieve it. I wanted to do this not so much as a philosophical exercise, but to show people the power that this gives them to control their own destinies.

Because belief helps to form our subjective reality, and we are largely free to form our beliefs this gives us power over our own reality. As soon as we realise that we have this freedom it allows us to escape from some of the more unpleasant places that out limited and innaccurate perception can take us to.

At the same time I didn't want to suggest that the reader just depart into wishful thinking, some beliefs are more justified by the available evidence than others and some beliefs are more useful than others.

Finally I wanted to point out that the decision as to what to believe is a moral one. What one person believes has consequences not only for themself, but for others. As such the consequences of belief must be weighed, and they must be weighed from as objective as standpoint as our limited perception allows. That is to say that decision that the belief is positive should not rest on metaphysical foundations, but on its observable effect on the welfare of oneself and others.


Life is too important, to be taken entirely seriously.

Sources (none / 0) (#206)
by The Solitaire on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 10:53:42 PM EST

Yep, you've definitely gone over ground that has been gone over before. There is an entire branch of philosophy (epistemology) that deals with how knowledge and belief work. I mentioned one book in another comment, but there are many other sources that you could read if the topic interests you enough.

One area that I find interesting, particularly, is the connection between emotion and belief. There's an excellent book edited by Frijda, Manstead, and Bem called Emotions and Beliefs How Feelings Influence Thoughts that examines this interaction in detail.

I need a new sig.
[ Parent ]

Flying Dragons in China (none / 0) (#151)
by T818 on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 05:27:58 PM EST

I think there is a common misconception that people believe the strangest things because of the inablity to face hard reality. But I think sometimes 'just accepting the facts' is the easier road. Sure dragons flying around China would be really nifty and assuming there were dragons in China one might have all sorts of heroic adventures but the reality is believing in Chinese flying dragons is the hard road to take. One goes to China and searches for these flying dragons and one hits road block after road block. Decade after decade passes while one is searching for these flying dragons and only diappointment is at the end of road. The point of all this is the truth can both be emotionally satisfying and in line with the modern world.

Intro to Probablistic Thinking (none / 0) (#173)
by stas on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 06:32:00 AM EST

"Belief", according to my definition, is 100% sureness of something when you know that you cannot be 100% sure of it. That's just stupidity by choice.

I don't believe in anything. I just [try to] assign probabilities of correctess to all those statements.

Of course, due to the lack of complete information/understanding, i can't tell accurate probabilites. So a more accurate description is:

I'm guesstimating probabilities of correctness of all the ideas.

"Knowledge" is a gamble.

Nice Try (none / 0) (#205)
by The Solitaire on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 10:38:24 PM EST

First, I think you are seriously misunderstanding the meaning of the word "belief". Nobody (or nearly nobody) uses it in that way - just because you "define" something doesn't mean that that is what it means. To quote Inigo Montoya: "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Second, I can all but guarantee that you do not assign probabilities (or anything like them) to the vast majority of your beliefs. The use of the word probability implies that you are doing something mathematical - which I find highly implausible. Also, the vast majority of your beliefs never really come to consciousness, how then, can you calculate the probabilities?

I can only guess that what you are trying to say is that you don't claim to know anything (which is different from believing). Or, to put it another way, if I asked you of something you believed, "Could you be wrong?", you would answer "yes". But, nearly everyone would say this about nearly everything (except, perhaps, deep-seated religious views).

I need a new sig.
[ Parent ]

Reasons to Believe (none / 0) (#204)
by The Solitaire on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 10:27:09 PM EST

If you are interested, the two reasons for belief that you have described here have been examined before. If I recall correctly, I read a book by Gilbert Harman (I'm not sure, but I think it was Change in View: Principles of Reasoning) that made this distinction. It might be a good place to follow up.

I think you need to be careful about the distinction between why we should believe in something, as opposed to why we do believe. Generally only the first reason you have given (reasoning from evidence) is accepted as a way in which we should reason (I would add to this deductive reasoning, as in mathematics and logic, which is arguably different than the methods you describe above). However, it is quite clear that we also reason in the second way (pragmatic reasons to believe).

Though you seem to be proposing that we not only do use pragmatic reasons when deciding what to believe, but also should. I think you've already anticipated the problems with this. Prima facie, it seems that pragmatic reasons to believe can lead us down some pretty difficult paths. For example, it's not always clear what the pragmatic consequences of a belief are. For example, if someone was to find an odd lump somewhere on their body, it would be more convenient in the short term to dismiss it as nothing, but possibly very advantageous in the long run to go to a doctor to see about it (if it is cancerous). Such problems need to be dealt with if you want your view to be taken seriously.

I need a new sig.

Optimisim... (none / 0) (#229)
by JohnLamar on Mon Mar 21, 2005 at 12:19:03 AM EST

Pessimists have a negative explanatory style, they often say that they are the cause of bad events in their life. If you believe in optical illusions or God, and you put the reason for events in it's hands you can say that you are not the cause, it is.

I'm not pushing a religion... I'm just saying that it helps your psychology to belive that bad times ebb and flow and that it will change. This is something that is embedded in eastern religions (if you need to call them that) and obviously copied elsewhere. Google "explanatory style" and look at the underlying physchology, I'm too bored.
The worst thing you've ever seen
[ Parent ]

agnostic (none / 0) (#211)
by dirvish on Sun Mar 13, 2005 at 03:26:59 AM EST

I suggest agnosticism, you can claim to not believe in anything pending further evidence.

Technical Certification Blog, Anti Spam Blog
or make it an axiom (none / 0) (#231)
by meaningless on Fri Apr 01, 2005 at 07:57:27 AM EST

like what ancient mathematicians did.

[ Parent ]
WTF? (none / 0) (#222)
by Sen on Sun Mar 13, 2005 at 08:08:21 PM EST

I want a poll that says "Christianity is illogical" y/n. YES!

Be Careful What You Believe In | 232 comments (189 topical, 43 editorial, 0 hidden)
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