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"More Right" was too political
March 6, 2009 10:54 AM   Subscribe

Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to "the art" of rationality. It revolves around discussion of short essays. Less Wrong is a project of Oxford's Future of Humanity Institute and a companion site to Overcoming Bias (previously; how to read).

Less Wrong aims to take advantage of the big reader community on OB, as the original OB posters start participating less in that site. Here are some highlights (courtesy Eliezer here):
  • Test Your Rationality by Robin Hanson.It's easy to find reasons to believe yourself more rational than others, but most people do this; what real ways can be found to test your rationality?
  • Unteachable Excellence and Teaching the Unteachable by Eliezer Yudkowsky.The rare superstars are rare because their skills are currently hard to transfer. A large number of Nobel laureates are students of other Nobel laureates. How do you teach skills you can't put into words?
  • The Costs of Rationality by Robin Hanson. Rationality can be useful for many things, but humans aren't really designed for it, and a true effort to believe truly can get in the way of many aspects of ordinary life. Are you willing to pay the real costs of ratonality?
  • No, Really, I've Deceived Myself and Belief in Self-Deception by Eliezer Yudkowsky. A woman I met who didn't seem to believe in God at all, while honestly believing that she had deceived herself successfully - which may bring most of the same placebo benefits.
  • The ethic of hand-washing and commuity epistemic practice by Steve Rayhawk and Anna Salamon. Diseases become more virulent in the presence of poor hygiene, since they can jump hosts more easily. Are there analogous effects for ideas? What is the equivalent of washing our hands?
and some interesting stuff is bubbling up on the site's "popular" page.

The site runs the Reddit engine and includes "karma" voting on posts and comments. I haven't figured out what the full moderation model is; maybe they haven't yet, either. (I wish that everyone starting a site like this would have a look at MeFi, but so far things seem to be working okay.)
posted by grobstein (36 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was beginning to think that rationality was a "lost art". This is a great find.
posted by JeffK at 11:06 AM on March 6, 2009


By "rationality" they seem to mean "atheism," and by "irrationality" they seem to mean "religion in general, especially fundamentalist Christian creationism."

At least the first few links I followed suggest as much.

A site full of people with one belief coming up with elaborate, involved explanations of why and how the people who differ from them are wrong and they are right. Amateur scientific explanations of the perplexing empirical datum that people, apparently even *smart* people, disagree with them on things they consider beyond rational disagreement.

Charming.
posted by edheil at 11:33 AM on March 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


By rationality they mean what we might call "epistemic rationality" -- the disposition that tends to lead one to adopt true beliefs. Most or all of them believe that habits of rationality in that sense will lead to atheism. You suggest you might disagree. I mean, that's nice I guess.

But even if you believe in god, that shouldn't erase the well-documented fact that humans systematically get lots of things wrong. This is simply fact, derived from lab experiments, not just some nerds' observation that "people . . . disagree with them on things they consider beyond rational disagreement." The goal of this site is, broadly, to figure out how to mitigate those systematic errors. Hence "Less Wrong."

That should not bother you.
posted by grobstein at 11:40 AM on March 6, 2009 [6 favorites]


Most or all of them believe that habits of rationality in that sense will lead to atheism. You suggest you might disagree.

Meant to point out that you don't explicitly disagree -- and many religious people seemingly don't disagree, either. When they celebrate their "faith," they are frequently saying that they intentionally depart from epistemic rationality.
posted by grobstein at 11:43 AM on March 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


This is a delight. I've recently had to deal with someone who kept jabbering about the most inane of topics, taking stances on them that were patently ridiculous but believing he was 'rational' because he knew (vaguely, passingly) about the concepts of logical 'soundness' and 'validity', and so if his stance was 'sound' but not 'valid' (or vice versa) he was somehow 'almost correct' and his views 'kind of made sense'. I got tired of explaining that this was like gluing bald tires to a broken refrigerator and saying it was 'almost a car', and just started ignoring him.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:08 PM on March 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


Excellent, excellent post. I didn't expect much, but I'm thoroughly impressed with this blog. I love the hand-washing analogy. And "I believe that people are nicer than they really are" is a really nice version of Moore's paradox.

The general theme of the blog so far seems to be epistemic rationality vs. pragmatic or inclusive rationality. It's a good topic. My favorite riff on this subject comes from the epistemology of melancholy. "Depressive realism" is a psychological theory that claims that depressed people are less deluded than others. They see things as they really are. So, if this is true: is it rational to be depressed? Should we be depressed?
posted by painquale at 12:44 PM on March 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Meant to point out that you don't explicitly disagree -- and many religious people seemingly don't disagree, either. When they celebrate their "faith," they are frequently saying that they intentionally depart from epistemic rationality.

I don't think most religious people I know would support this. Rather, most believe they have some sort of direct insight into God or communique with him, and they place a lot of weight on this apparent evidence for his existence. "Faith" is their way of saying that they are more sure of their (personal, internal) evidence for God than any argument against his existence.

Anyway, that's what sophisticated religious philosophers say. Or something like it. Maybe when other religious people use the words "have faith", they really do mean "believe for no epistemically respectable reason". But I have trouble understanding how those people can really mean that. I'm pretty sure that people tacitly hold to the conception of faith that I laid out above, but they haven't thought out how to articulate their reasons for belief in terms of evidence. After all, many people do say things like "God talks to me when I pray" right alongside explanations of their faith, which implicitly suggests that they don't mean to abandoning the notion of epistemic evidence entirely. So, from their perspective, they aren't abandoning rationality. (Whether they actually succeed in being epistemically rational is a different story.)

But I'm an atheist by birth, and my insight into the religious mindset sucks, so maybe I'm way off.
posted by painquale at 1:13 PM on March 6, 2009


Most or all of them believe that habits of rationality in that sense will lead to atheism

Well, I have to bite. Why would habits of rationality lead to atheism? All I can see from my blinkered irrational position is that it would lead to agnosticism.
posted by storybored at 1:36 PM on March 6, 2009


Because the mysteries of life are not rationally solved by inventing a larger, unassailable mystery?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 1:42 PM on March 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm an atheist by birth

Isn't everyone?
posted by rocket88 at 2:05 PM on March 6, 2009


Isn't everyone?

Actually, no one is. No one has any beliefs about religion one way or another at birth. (I briefly paused after writing that, but decided it worked well enough to convey that I've never been religious.)
posted by painquale at 2:09 PM on March 6, 2009


I've loved overcoming bias for a long time. See compared with other people I am better at the particular kind of introspection and thought that allows me to hold accurate beliefs. I also know that because I am better at this normal there's a cognitive bias that makes having correct or accurate beliefs seem more important than it is.
posted by I Foody at 2:23 PM on March 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


No one has any beliefs about religion one way or another at birth.

That's right. Hence, we are born atheists.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:54 PM on March 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


The handwashing post tellingly veers between lumbering totalisation (only transmit good ideas, verified by an exhaustively majority consensus) and infinitely regressing doubt (reduce pressure towards commitment of any beliefs, your own or others), between absolute confidence and absolute abjection. The ideal rationalist then doesn't sound like a very healthy individual, in fact the bloggers seem to be aware of their accidentally totalitarian tone when they write:

Also, (3) we would like some other term besides “epistemic hygiene” that would be less Orwellian and/or harder to abuse -- any suggestions? Another wording we’ve heard is “good cognitive citizenship”, which sounds relatively less prone to abuse.

That should be enough to set off the alarm bells in any dedicated skeptic but the budding qualm seems to have been "sanitised" in a no less sinister alternative the sentence after, curious.
posted by doobiedoo at 3:40 PM on March 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is a hobby horse of mine: the fascists ruined so many good ideas by adopting them.*

"Epistemic hygiene" is creepy because it sounds like something Goebbels would invent. But I don't think the link to Nazism is anything more than superficial. It's a good analogy for an interesting idea, and it's killed by essentially arbitrary association with some bad guys from 70 years ago.

-----
*My favorite example.
posted by grobstein at 3:51 PM on March 6, 2009


Epistemic hygiene is creepy because it consigns the predominant condition of understanding which is always partial and contingent to the status of a fatal infection, or in the case of good cognitive citizenship, political/cognitive deviance. I think there are institutional and spontaneous practices of empathy, doubt and scepticism which already do the job of questioning beliefs in the particular without having to resort to some totalising idea of rationality that requires some hellish sense of discipline or a fairly intrusive idea of the state.
posted by doobiedoo at 7:02 PM on March 6, 2009


Oh for fucksake - look, the idea of epistemic hygiene (great phrase), with all its totalitarian implications, goes back to Plato's Republic. Stop giving the Nazis credit for everything. It's bad enough that Hitler is the central figure in ethics - do we have to make Goebbels the central figure of epistemology?
posted by fleetmouse at 7:28 PM on March 6, 2009


Oh sorry, Grobstein, I misread your comment and I was in a ranting mood. :-)
posted by fleetmouse at 7:32 PM on March 6, 2009


Because the mysteries of life are not rationally solved by inventing a larger, unassailable mystery?

But rationalism by itself cannot determine the existence or non-existence of anything. How can you prove that something doesn't exist?
posted by storybored at 8:42 PM on March 6, 2009


I really wanted to like Overcoming Bias, but the more I read, the more I think it should have been named "Overcoming Strawmen". The biases they point out just aren't really that interesting and their analysis of them invoke far more profundity than the underlying phenomenom deserve.

Take this list of Biases posted by Robin Hanson:

Recently I posted on otherwise puzzling behavior that can be easily explained via seeking status via affiliations.

Students prefer distracted profs who grade and recommend corruptibly.

Macro and foreign advisors have fancy affiliations, not forecast track records.

Patients prefer docs with prestigious affiliations over health success rates.


How is any of this puzzling behavoir?

Of course students will want the teacher that give them the highest grades.

Of course fancy affiliations are what get you good advising jobs, because your affiliates are the ones appointing you as an advisor.

Of course patients prefer doctors with prestigious affiliations because it is quite difficult for an average person to research a doctors success rate and easy for them to see their affiliations.

Bypassing the argument that all these can be seen as rational behavior, who really thinks that humans are completely rational these days? With the advent of behavioral economics even economists don't hold these views.
posted by afu at 8:47 PM on March 6, 2009


Oh sorry, Grobstein, I misread your comment and I was in a ranting mood. :-)

No prob; loved the quip about Hitler.
posted by grobstein at 9:04 PM on March 6, 2009


I get the same vibe as edheil: that lots of self-described "rationalists" equate being rational with active disbelief in any sort of religion, or in anything that smells like religion. I get this vibe from the crowd at Overcoming Bias and Less Wrong; I get it from Dawkins and Hitchens and Harris and the folks who are impressed by them; I get it from James Randi and the folks at JREF; I get it from Bob Park; I get it from lots of the scientists that I know personally. Too frequently I see equivocation between the true statement
There exist gullible, simple-minded religious people.
and the more provocative
Religious people are gullible and simple-minded.
This isn't the only line of argument I see about whether religion is irrational, or what bearing that would have on the role religion and religiously-motivated decisions should play in public life. But it's such a basic mistake that hearing it from a "rationalist," or hearing it uncorrected in a community of rationalists, is really distressing.

If you make a habit of "good cognitive hygiene," you'll develop the habit of dividing statements you hear and make into several classes. I don't know what all the classes are. "Right" and "wrong" are the two that get the most press. "It isn't that simple" is a particular type of "wrong" that, practically, merits special treatment. But there are lots of statements that are "undecidable." There's the boring formal "this is a lie" class that Gödel found. Some could be reclassified as "right" or "wrong" if you knew something that some one else knows; this is interesting since you get to learn something, but not interesting epistemology.

Then you have "undecidable" statements you could identify as "right" or "wrong" if only you had some bit of information that no other human being has. If you can figure out how to get that bit of information, great! You're a scientist. If you can't find the missing bit, great! You're ignorant --- but at you understand that, and so you've learned something, even if it isn't what you wanted. If no one could ever decide your question, then you've learned something interesting about the world.

It's one thing to argue against the existence of Santa Claus, or against Jesus-who-watches-from-His-throne-in-the-sky, or even against a historical religious leader who taught people many years ago. But real atheism --- belief that there's nothing more to the world, and its interaction with your consciousness, than what fits in today's science and its nooks and crannies --- that takes a lot of faith.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 9:17 PM on March 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


With that out of my system: the votejunk on the new site sure seems to put everything in lots of little boxes. Interesting that they seem to be planning on voting-as-moderation with only mild concerns about falling to groupthink.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 9:23 PM on March 6, 2009


(You probably saw this, FT, but for everyone else, there's a discussion going on over there about groupthink and information cascades in the moderation system.)
posted by grobstein at 9:29 PM on March 6, 2009


Why would habits of rationality lead to atheism? All I can see from my blinkered irrational position is that it would lead to agnosticism... rationalism by itself cannot determine the existence or non-existence of anything. How can you prove that something doesn't exist?

Storeybored, first of all you can literally prove something doesn't exist by showing that the concept itself is incoherent or contradictory; for instance a married bachelor or a one-ended stick. Philosophers have made a good case for why religious ideas generally, and popular conceptions of "God" more specifically, are logically unsound. I encountered this in the recent MetaTalk thread where people were appealing to a "realm beyond the material" where real world pseudoscientific claims might be true. It is unclear this means anything coherent; it very much appears to self-contradictorily rely on material reasoning. It makes no sense to say that human circulation relies on a heart in the material realm, but might rely on internal combustion in a realm "beyond the material," because "human", "heart", "circulation", and "internal combustion" are all material concepts.

Second, and more important, you are implying a fallacious theory about atheism and knowledge more generally; the real basis for almost everything we believe and the strength of our convictions is induction (extrapolation from the known about the unknown. Science being the most rigorous form of induction) not deduction (where the answer is internal to the problem. e.g. Mathematics). "Agnosticism" is not the appropriate term for any conclusion that can't be proven with logical tautology, but rather something that inductive reasoning allows no better evidence for one way or the other. An example might be who will win the 2035 Superbowl; this is very much something no available evidence could give us any real hint of the correct answer.

God and religion, on the other hand, are open to unambiguous inductive rejection for any number of powerful, and fully acceptable epistemic reasons. For one "God" is NOT a neutral unfalsifiable theory, but rather a historical theory which has made bold claims about nature and existence which have been continually refuted by scientific evidence over hundreds of years. The "God hypothesis" meets the definition of pseudoscience: see "lack of progress," "vague language," "untestable claims," "reversed burden of proof," etc. It just moves the goal posts every time a claim is debunked. Most recently viewed in Intelligent Design Creationism, where "irreducible complexity" is just shuffled to the next new problem every time an old "irreducibly complex" one is shown to be entirely reducible.

Even if "God" is moved to the fully unfalsifiable, this doesn't mean it has escaped full logical rejection. In fact, from an inductive standpoint, most claims that are unfalsifiable should be rejected as untrue. There are an infinite number of possible unfalsifiable claims, and most of them will necessarily be mutually incompatible and untrue. Not much besides a special subset of articulated scientific theories, which are not yet testable, have any sort of probabilistic chance of being true. For these problems, we might consider "agnosticism" the appropriate belief. A large number of articulated unfalsifiable viewpoints can easily be dismissed as false, based on psychological, documentary, sociological, and historical judgment. This is like pink unicorns on Mars, who hide whenever we send the cameras. Or Santa Claus. Or the tooth fairy. Or smurfs. No one is "agnostic" about Santa Claus or Bugs Bunny, even though we can make them just as unfalsifiable as God if we want.

Atheism need not be stronger than any other belief, as it is often fallaciously assumed it must. I have absolutely no doubt that God doesn't exist, but that isn't particularly special. There are numerous things I have no doubt about as well. For instance that the earth revolves around the sun, or that man evolved from an earlier form of primate, or even that countries such as "Iraq" and "Panama" (neither of which I have ever visited) really do exist. I have no doubt whatsoever that these propositions are true, even though amazing new revelations, in theory, could over-turn all of them. Shit, I could be living in the Matrix, and everything I know just an elaborately orchestrated mindfuck.

But this is equally true for almost everything we know. This doesn't mean we should or can stop forming beliefs about the world, or that there aren't much better and much worse ways to go about evaluating the information available to us.
posted by dgaicun at 4:48 PM on March 7, 2009 [12 favorites]


dgaicun, nicely said. I think your only weak statement is
[F]rom an inductive standpoint, most claims that are unfalsifiable should be rejected as untrue.
Inductive reasoning has a bootstrap problem. Induction comes naturally to people; it often produces useful generalizations; since inductive reasoning worked for that problem in the past, let's try it on this new problem we have today. The set of unfalsifiable claims you suggest as examples (hiding pink unicorns, Santa Claus, etc.) is a very different collection from the observations leading to the "classical" correct and incorrect inductions like "the sun rises every day," "all swans are white," "bread is nourishing," etc. You're certainly right that it's easy to construct unfalsifiable untruths, but you're mistaken to suggest that has any bearing on the truth of an arbitrary unfalsifiable claim.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 10:31 PM on March 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here's the thing, an "unfalsifiable claim" is an interesting, seemingly contradictory concept. If it's "unfalsifiable," then why is it being claimed? Someone must believe it is true in order to claim it, but that belief had to come from either personal experience or stepwise reasoning from certain premises, and either way that isn't "unfalsifiable," but inductive knowledge like everything else.

One might say that things you tell me from your personal experience are "unfalsifiable claims" as far as I'm concerned. If you tell me you ate french toast for breakfast yesterday, that is not a claim I am able to "verify" in certain, more rigorous ways but it isn't "unfalsifiable" because I rely on all sorts of induction to determine its truth value in the form of my knowledge about you and your character and your possible motivations for lying about such a thing, or reasons you would be mistaken, and based on my reasoning about human psychology and sociology more generally. This goes back to the thread last week on what kinds of evidence are used in court, which typically uses exactly these kinds of evidence (e.g. that people usually don't voluntarily hand their wallets over to armed strangers on the street). In other words, I did not at all intend to say claims from experience should a priori be rejected as untrue.

Another possible understanding of "unfalsifiable claim" are scientific hypotheses not yet tested or testable in certain ways. I don't see these as "unfalsifiable claims", either, per se. In order for there to be a hypothesis there must be reasoning based on some premises. For instance, while I don't quite understand string theory, I understand that it is both quite popular among working physicists, and yet acknowledged to be untestable, or at least not yet testable in some critical ways. I assume in order to become popular it must have been uniquely consistent with some number of observations, in such a way that it became an appealing theory to many qualified people. Here there can be provisional judgments or simply agnosticism. As I suggested above, I don't think "untested" scientific theories should, a priori be rejected as untrue. (though many of them should be rejected on their own ridiculous premises)

This brings me to a third kind of understanding of "unfalsifiable claim," the kind I think does need to be a priori rejected as untrue: the deceptively unfalsifiable claim. Any truly unfalsifiable claim would have never been formulated, because no one would ever have a reason to formulate it. For example, I might say that the core of Jupiter is full of transforming battle robots. But there is no reason for me to posit such a theory, unless I'm making a rhetorical point. There are no factual or logical premises that would lead me to formulate that theory. And if there were, it wouldn't be an "unfalsifiable" theory; the strength of the theory would rest on the soundness of those same original premises. It would fall into the second category I listed above, of a not fully testable scientific hypothesis.

And this is why "God" is not an "unfalsifiable claim", as suggested by some like Storeybored above, but a deceptively unfalsifiable claim. The God theory exists because, like a scientific hypothesis, it was at one time uniquely consistent with some number of observations, in such a way that it became a popular explanation. But then science came along and found better explanations for all the same original observations that prompted the God hypothesis. Normally this means the scientific hypothesis has been debunked or empirically rejected and needs to be discarded. But the God hypothesis had a deep emotional significance to a lot of people and they couldn't discard it, and this resulted in two fallacious strategies: 1) Insisting the God hypothesis has not been rejected as a viable theory (i.e. pseudoscience in the form of creationism, etc), and 2) asserting the God theory is unfalsifiable, and thus can't be rejected.

But that's nonsense. We already rejected it. The only reason the hypothesis was formulated in the first place was to explain some set of observations. But then we discovered what really explains those observations, so now we must reject this hypothesis as false. An "unfalsifiable claim" is necessarily just a deceptive name for an already falsified claim.
posted by dgaicun at 3:01 AM on March 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Less Wrong: a progress report (positive, lots of recommended reading)
posted by grobstein at 10:06 AM on March 21, 2009


That's a dead link, and I don't see any recent posts with that title on either site.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 5:06 AM on March 23, 2009


How alarming. Obviously EY must have decided to take it down; perhaps he feels he's put enough Less Wrong stuff on OB. Oh well.
posted by grobstein at 5:22 AM on March 23, 2009


dgaicun: you're wrong that
If it's "unfalsifiable," then why is it being claimed? Someone must believe it is true in order to claim it
For an example from the sciences, consider the role of symmetries in contemporary physics. If a physical theory has a symmetry, then there are questions in the framework of that theory, perfectly sensible on the surface, that have no answers. A famous example is the question "where am I?", which has no answer without the ancillary question "relative to what?". The notable thing here is that the absence of any answer --- the existence of a symmetry --- is not a dead end but is something with consequences. In classical mechanics, the symmetry of "where am I?" gives rise, via Noether's theorem, to the conservation of momentum. Symmetry against "which way is up?" gives conservation of angular momentum. On the earth's surface, "which way is up?" has an answer, and angular momentum is only approximately conserved: if you spin a top on your desk, it will precess. Whether there's a preferred direction in space as a whole is an interesting question.

I don't want to express an opinion here about whether the existence of God is true or false or practically impossible to determine or rigorously unfalsifiable or whatever. But I suspect that a world without any God would be different from a world where it's difficult or impossible to decide whether God exists, which in turn would be different from a world with an obvious God whose voice booms down from above. I'm fairly certain we don't live in the last of the three, never having heard the booming. But I don't know what of value would be lost by equating the other two, or what I elided by lumping "difficult" with "impossible."

I wrote above (wow, it's been two weeks) that I dislike the "rationalist vibe" that all religious people are gullible and simple-minded. I also get the feeling (though less often) from rationalists that religious agnosticism is somehow a failure of the intellect, or at best a stepping stone along the path towards atheism. Just as there exist gullible and simple-minded religious people, there are agnostics who are in transition or are equivocating for emotional reasons. But that isn't all there is.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 10:00 AM on March 25, 2009


FT, it is really unusual to leave a reply two weeks after a comment was made. I found this only by amazing coincidence (clicked on wrong old thread).

For an example from the sciences, consider the role of symmetries in contemporary physics. If a physical theory has a symmetry, then there are questions in the framework of that theory, perfectly sensible on the surface, that have no answers. A famous example is the question "where am I?", which has no answer without the ancillary question "relative to what?"

Unless I'm failing to see something, you didn't illustrate an unfalsifiable theory here, but an incomplete, or malformed question. Sort of in the same way "I just a whole coca cola can,is this bad?" isn't a coherent question, much less an unfalsifiable theory.

I wrote above (wow, it's been two weeks) that I dislike the "rationalist vibe" that all religious people are gullible and simple-minded.

There are certainly religious people who treat atheists with the same condescension. It isn't a useful framework for thinking about religious people, since religion is such a specialized part of people's identity. People compartmentalize, so you'll find plenty of religious people who are geniuses, or are otherwise too hard-harded to fall for scams and con-men, yet still eat up claims by their cults universally recognized as bizarre to those outside of that cult.

On the other hand, religious people are less intelligent, less educated, and less able to successfully evaluate claims, on average. Religious people, for instance, are also more likely to believe in superstitions unrelated to their religion, like horoscopes and flying saucers.


Just as there exist gullible and simple-minded religious people, there are agnostics who are in transition or are equivocating for emotional reasons. But that isn't all there is.

Yes, there is also bad thinking. And that is all there is. God is a superstitious, pseudoscientific theory. Agnosticism stems from the same individual mixtures of intellectual and emotional biases as religious belief.

If I put on a blanket and strut down the street claiming to be Jesus Christ returned, there are two categories of response: people that are absolutely certain that I'm wrong and people that aren't. The agnostics and the believers cluster together in the same "bad thinking" group. Reasonable people will dismiss me both automatically and with absolute certainty.
posted by dgaicun at 1:51 PM on March 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm stuck on how you can say things with absolute certainty about events in the physical universe.
posted by storybored at 2:18 PM on March 29, 2009


Look, storybored, I already explained this to you, if you are not going to engage it intelligently in the form of logical argument, then I don't see what you hope to advance by empty contrariness.
posted by dgaicun at 4:23 PM on March 29, 2009


My apologies dgaicun, I missed your response earlier. I've now read it over once quickly and there's clearly a lot to think about there. Let me study it. Thanks.
posted by storybored at 2:28 PM on March 30, 2009


"I have no doubt whatsoever that these propositions are true, even though amazing new revelations, in theory, could over-turn all of them."

Ok, so when you say you have 'no doubt', would you change that to "some doubt" if some amazing new revelation did over-turn one of these propositions? If so, then you don't really have "no doubt". Perhaps this is just a semantic trifle, but ISTM that "no doubt" has no allowances for any new amazing revelation.

Perhaps I am also unclear on what the definition of agnosticism is.

When it comes to God, my position is that there is no evidence of a personal Supreme Diety as described in the Bible. It's not a statement of belief so much as a statement of fact. The statement of fact is about the lack of evidence.

Does that mean I'm an agnostic or not?
posted by storybored at 10:13 AM on April 2, 2009


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