Comments

  1. Stephan says

    Hi guys, loved the show. A point to the last caller: I agree with Matt’s position that it is better to have correct believes about the world.

    Logically speaking, though, the caller had a point: what you did in your call was name a few false believes that make life worse. That does not necessarily mean that there could be a some false believes that actually would make your life better, although I cannot really think of any myself. I think that was the point he was trying to make when he dismissed the given examples as not addressing his argument.

  2. Frank G. Turner says

    I kind of felt the same way. I would think that if believing that a magic man was keeping you safe helped to motivate you and without that you would go around killing people at random and being a general asshole then the false belief is making your life better. Matt has made that point in previous shows saying something to the effect of “if your false belief in god keeps you from going out and doing evil things then I want you in church every sunday.” Of course if you could get psychologically stable so that it was not necessary to have the false belief and you choose to be cooperative in society for personal satisfaction that would be better.

  3. Frank G. Turner says

    I am most curios about AronRa’s statement about moderates decreasing and extremists increasing. How many moderates are becoming agnostics and atheists and how many are becoming creationists and evangelicals?

  4. davidmcnerney says

    Listening to that woman talking about the issues with her children and her husband.

    I would respectfully suggest the best option is not to come heavy handed and go for an all or nothing approach.

    She should tell her child that yes her father’s church might think she’s not a good enough Christian to be healed – but that’s just their point of view. There are other people, including her mother, who don’t believe that – who believe that the reason they couldn’t heal her is that it was never in their power in the first place.

    You don’t need to undermine your partner’s beliefs – parenting any child is hard enough, both for the parents and the child, without that kind of strife. But simply stating your position on a subject in a non-confrontational way and letting the child decide is simply a good way to be a parent in a mixed relationship.

    I seriously think.one of the main reasons “the Internet is the place religions come to die”, is not because the nonsense is met with truth, but merely met with the idea that there are other choices, and the feelings that a person has deep down are actually valid to have, in spite of what their religion says.

  5. Conversion Tube says

    I like the one two punch of Matt and Aron. When I saw Aron was on I got all excited, I NEED A LIFE, LOL. Wish there were more theist callers.

    I forget which caller it was, first or second, but she said she got stuck arguing with Christians when they said, you don’t understand, I have a personal relationship with Jesus. She didn’t know how to respond to that argument.

    I’m thinking Tracie would have nailed this.

    The best answer to this is to ask the caller questions to start breaking down the Christians personal relationship.

    How do you have a personal relationship with god?
    Do you talk on the phone?
    Does he come over for coffee?
    Can you hear his voice, and can you record it with a tape recorder?

    Similar questions like this and lastly

    How does someone like me on the outside listening to your personal relationship story, how do I distinguish between “your relationship with Jesus”, with what appears to simply be “your own thoughts in your head”?

    What evidence can you demonstrate to show this is different than just thoughts in your head?

  6. Rrpostal says

    He even admitted this on the call. But there argument is “in general, it is better”, not in every specific case. I completely agree with the point, but how do you prove that by citing specific examples? Personally, I think it’s obvious and arguing against a sobering reality speaks to your character, which is what Aron showed.

  7. Monocle Smile says

    That does not necessarily mean that there could be a some false believes that actually would make your life better

    This has been discussed on the show before. Beliefs don’t live in a vacuum. Sure, you can create some scenario in which a false belief would make one thing about the scenario better, but that belief doesn’t live in a vacuum. Furthermore, even if a false belief makes you “feel better” in any given situation, decision-making is demonstrably better when your beliefs accurately reflect reality.

  8. says

    I tend to feel strongly about this issue, because of my own upbringing. I would place myself more on the side of Aron’s response.

    I was raised by parents who believed in curiosity, creativity, and critical thought. Yet they sent me to a Christian school, were employed by the church the school was in, and attended church functions. The pastor and his wife were my parents’ closest friends for awhile.

    This evangelical church, and school, followed the Christian tradition of the nuclear family hierarchy, where daughters were at the dirt-bottom of the pile. Women should not go to college, because it gave them “ideas.” My own mother was attending college at the time, and both she and more to the point, my father, were chastised for it. What I mean to say is, the elders went to my dad and told him he never should have “let” her go. And thankfully, my father had a backbone and debated this minister about his sermons, but it never did any good.

    Now, I don’t actually criticize individuals for their alternative lifestyle choices, like atheists sending their daughters to church to help them “make up their own minds.” Atheist parents, if they are involved in their kids’ lives, should be the kind to discuss what they learned in Sunday School, and be able to be open and honest about how they really feel about what they are hearing. Moms should not quietly defer to their husbands, if they disagree with oppressive ideas about women. But I’m afraid that, no matter how liberal one finds one church to be, it will actually be more sexist and oppressive towards women than our prevailing culture. How much toxic stuff so you think your kid can handle?

    What if one’s other cultures are inherently oppressive? Can a little girl really make up her own mind, when one considers the social and cultural contexts of her culture? Why add religion to mess her up even more?

    Why make children with partners whose worldviews conflict with yours so much, that you actually think it is harmful to children, in the first place? I wish I could have skipped my own experience, as I find I am not getting over it even after so many years have gone by. It would be pretty hard to find a secular therapist in this small town. Perhaps if you can find one, you can risk showing your kid “great old traditions” that you may despise.

  9. corwyn says

    God Botherer: “I have a personal relationship with Jesus”

    Me: “Great!, can you invite me over the next time you have him over for dinner?”

    God Botherer: “I don’t actually have him over for dinner, we just talk.”

    Me: “Great! Please invite me to the coffee shop or whatever.”

    God Botherer: “We don’t meet in person.”

    Me: “Conference me in on the call?”

    God Botherer: “He just talks to me, no phone.”

    Me: “So, can I please set up a recorder in your home to record what he says?”

    God Botherer: “He talks inside my head.”

    Me: “Awesome, let’s get you hooked up to an EEG, or a CAT scan, and see how that is different from how you normally think!”

    God Botherer: “um…. I don’t control when he talks to me.”

    Me: “That’s okay, I will pay you a million dollars, to stay connected until your personal friend shows up.”

    God Botherer: “He won’t be tested that way.”

    Me: “Surely, a someone with a personal relationship with you, would be willing to show up to help you get a million dollars. Any of my friends would.”

    God Botherer: “…”

  10. kestra says

    I was raised as a mainstream Protestant (well, perhaps not so mainstream; I don’t meet many Congregationalists outside of New England.; they are part of the United Church of Christ tho) but my parents chose to send me to Catholic elementary school (largely due to issues with my nearby public school), and would probably have sent me to Catholic high school if I had said that’s what I wanted. I even received several Catholic sacraments, because I entered the school in second grade, when both First Communion and First Confession are traditionally done.

    And I actually am grateful for all that early religious education and experience of comparative religions. I was fascinated by Religion Class at school, and was consistently the best student in that class. I didn’t become a fully affirmed atheist for several years afterwards, but just being able to compare the Catholic traditions to the Protestant ones and draw my own conclusions was very valuable. My lifelong interest in theology can probably be traced to this contrast. So I think it is useful to expose children to multiple religious traditions, even when they are young and “impressionable”.

    However, most children who get religious education don’t get the heterodox options I had, with my parents, teachers, and pastors all willing to discuss doctrinal differences between the faiths with me in an open way. Sure, one or two people would shut me down with a “That’s the *Catholic* way” kind of comment, but most adults in my life, of both faiths, were happy to engage in intellectually honest debate with me, rather than try to indoctrinate me to the “true” way, and I know that certainly isn’t the case in many (most?) religious communities.

    As to toxic ideas about women and gender roles, yes, those often go hand-in-hand with religion. Being a woman, and having once been a girl, I remember hearing things (especially in the Catholic sex “education” classes) that I thought were weird, wrong, or just irrelevant in later reflection. One I distinctly remember was a lesson with a little pyramid of dots and lines, with each dot being a sex partner and each line being a sexual relationship, the point being “if you sleep with someone who’s slept with someone else, you are actually sleeping with EVERY PERSON that person has EVER slept with.” It’s comical now, but at the time I remember thinking, “That can’t be right, can it?” and “So…. what?” It did take me a while to shed that vague feeling of Catholic guilt at having sex with people just to have sex. Feminism was very helpful with that.

  11. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Stephan:

    That does not necessarily mean that there could be a some false beliefs that actually would make your life better, although I cannot really think of any myself.

    @Monocle Smile:

    even if a false belief makes you “feel better” in any given situation, decision-making is demonstrably better when your beliefs accurately reflect reality.

    There’s one extreme example, but it’s bittersweet at best.
     
    Comic: SMBC – Lotus-Eater Monolith

  12. Matt Gerrans says

    Actually, I think the more important point that Matt was making was that having a correct epistemology is what matters. If you have some false beliefs, they may in themselves be harmless, but it points to a bigger problem of how you come to those beliefs. Having a flawed epistemology that leads to harmless false beliefs can just as easily lead to harmful false beliefs.

    We see this with religion all the time, but also with atheists who believe in nonsense like acupuncture or homeopathy. They have a flawed epistemology that leads them to harmful beliefs. It probably also leads them to lots of harmless beliefs, but those don’t matter so much (though they can be really embarrassing).

  13. Oz 3 says

    Matt’s caveat ‘in general’ is the main point. I was working on something electrical once, where the current was live, but I was told it was not, and I believed the guy. It turned out that I didn’t arc the house or kill myself, and I was able to complete the job with not ill effects, however my ability to function knowing the current was live would have been severely affected me, mentally and physically, almost certainly to the point there would have been an accident.

  14. Frank G. Turner says

    I got into a long series of conversations with a Mormon woman once about something like that. I was pointing out how the justification using scripture against slavery was also the same scripture used to argue for it. I also pointed out that the Phelp’s hateful reasoning ALSO uses scripture. much like Valerie on the previous board she appreciated science but did not seem to understand it or its methods.
    .
    The Mormon woman kept talking about how she thought the Phelps were hateful too (she was a very kind and caring woman) but did not see how her shiftless dogmatic reasoning was being used to justify cruelty. (That relates to Matt’s comments about moderates providing cover for the extremists). She seemed to have this idea that if you reach a different conclusion that makes your methods different from those of a person that uses the same doctrine as a starting point. I kept pointing that that this was a “ends justifies the means” type of behavior but she could not seem to see that. Much like the people who cannot remember what they said 5 minutes ago she could not see long term effects and focused too much on apologetics as scripture MUST be correct in her mind. She acknowledged that evolution could have occurred as long as it was in conjunction with scripture but could not seem to understand that humans were part of that too because that was not in scripture (evolution could have occurred but scripture still can’t be wrong, huh?). I see that “I CANNOT be wrong” attitude” in a lot of places in conjunction with “the ends justifies the means.”.
    .
    It definitely got me to see why the “ends does not justify the means” is such a popular cliché as she failed to see how her methods were the same as someone who tried to justify cruelty. Hence why should could not seem to fathom why some of her friends were actually pretty unkind people but felt that they “had been brought to faith in God and MUST be good people” (paraphrasing what she said to be) despite making others miserable.

  15. says

    On the reaching out to “mild” Christians. They’re the same as any Christian. Think of it this way, if you worked for GM and someone came in and said your cars were causing deaths, your only correct response would be to fix the car and do whatever reparations you could for the deaths. If anyone argued against that, they should resign. If you couldn’t convince others to do the right thing, you should expose them and possibly resign. Otherwise you aren’t “mild”, you are complicit to a crime.

    I was a member of a liberal church, and it was cool. But when I started talking to other church leaders within the denomination and regional leaders, they were not open to our liberal ideas. (By liberal ideas I mean things like helping prostitutes and accepting gays). And it was worse on the international level. If any other club or org I know of acted that way, I would quit, so I did quit.

    The question of a “mild” Christian is, what is it about Jesus that allows you to look the other way? At the very least, don’t give any money to a church and don’t give them a pass on things you wouldn’t give a pass to anyone else. Simply doing that will bring down the institutions that you say you don’t like.

  16. Conversion Tube says

    Also why is “feeling better” a justification for a believe? Feeling better isn’t the pinnacle of success. It is the current result of a believe. It isn’t winning, correct or truth, it is just a feeling. I’m not sure I’m saying that right but I hope you know what I mean. I hope you do, I don’t pray you do of course ha.

  17. Monocle Smile says

    I don’t believe you at all. You got extremely lucky. If you had arced the house or killed yourself (high chance, given the differences in precautions like grounding), it would be obvious that this particular false belief conferred no advantage.

    As it were, if knowing you’re working with a live current freaks you out so much that you think you would cause an accident, then that’s your own personal shortcoming and you shouldn’t be working with electricity. Either way, having a true belief in this case would be preferable to a false one.

  18. A Clever Serpent says

    Actually, the opposite situation would be a better illustration of a case where believing something wrong was harmless: if you believed it was live, but in fact it was not, you would work in a very careful way. That would be pretty harmless, but, it nevertheless could be argued that this false belief would make the work go slower, thus some harm.

    Anyway, the more important point is that it will clearly be harmful to have methods of arriving at belief (i.e. epistemology) that are flawed. The beliefs you arrive at will run the gamut of completely harmless to catastrophically harmful and at some point that will spell disaster. Even with the very best of luck it will still be harmful on the average.

    – Matt

  19. corwyn says

    You are neglecting some probabilities in favor of the one outcome that did occur.

    I see the following possible outcomes:
    1) You were mislead about the live circuit.
    a) You worked everything out ok.
    b) You injured yourself.
    c) You ruined the house electrical system.

    2) You were correctly informed.
    a) You worked everything out ok.
    b) You injured yourself.
    c) You ruined the house electrical system.
    d) You flipped the circuit breaker yourself, and everything went fine from there.

    For me personally 2d is greater than 1a, so I would ALWAYS be better off knowing the truth. No reduction in 2a (as opposed to 1a) can make up for that huge decrease in risk. Please put probabilities in those outcomes yourself, and tell us how it works out.

    If 2d didn’t occur to you, you don’t belong around high voltage electricity IMHO.

  20. Frank G. Turner says

    @ Matt
    #1, I have sent you email via the show but as far as I know only spoken with Tracie (who also rocks). However, you rock and given that this is the first time where I have spoken to you directly I have to say that. Just being careful that you don’t see that as “Idle worship,” I just have to say it to get it out of my system. The word “idiot” kept flashing through my mind when you debated STB and it did not surprise me that all you had to do was memorize your part.
    .
    That being said, I would like to respond to:
    Anyway, the more important point is that it will clearly be harmful to have methods of arriving at belief (i.e. epistemology) that are flawed. The beliefs you arrive at will run the gamut of completely harmless to catastrophically harmful and at some point that will spell disaster. Even with the very best of luck it will still be harmful on the average.
    .
    I agree with you wholeheartedly. What I find with believers seems to have to do with a more emotional concept. You have spoken about it before on the show, an “emotional investment” I think? It seems that many a believer with a flawed epistemology has to FEEL, very intensely, that something is wrong. It is like they have to “learn the hard way.” Many a de-convert seems to have needed to be stricken by disaster, like catching their ministerial directors stealing money from the pulpit or engaging in outright lies that hurt them personally in order to consider changing from a believer. I have posted quite a bit on that kind of person putting emotion before rational thought and needing things to strike them emotionally. (I am not sure of a good analogy for this but I am thinking it is sort of like seeing a tumor on your chest and suddenly realizing that you need to stop smoking).
    .
    Can I ask your opinion on that, i.e.: is that your experience too? Have you done a show on that because it seems like a good topic…?

  21. Frank G. Turner says

    @Matt
    I mean “idiot” when STB talked, not you (pardon my wording, I needed to think that out a little better).

  22. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Conversion Tube:

    Feeling better isn’t the pinnacle of success. […] It isn’t winning, correct or truth, it is just a feeling.

    Why would you want to win, be correct, or have truth?

  23. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Oz 3:

    I was working on something electrical once, where the current was live, but I was told it was not […] I was able to complete the job with not ill effects, however my ability to function knowing the current was live would have severely affected me

    Mr. Magoo was calm in dangerous conditions too.
     
    Article: Wikipedia – Mr. Magoo

    Quincy Magoo is a wealthy, short-statured retiree who gets into a series of comical situations as a result of his nearsightedness, compounded by his stubborn refusal to admit the problem. However, through uncanny streaks of luck, the situation always seems to work itself out for him, leaving him no worse than before.

  24. Frank G. Turner says

    Idle worship is okay, it is just idol worship that is verboten!
    Pardon I was typing fast and did not even think about it (damn homonyms). Makes for a cute joke though.
    .
    Anyway the point was I was interested in your opinion on what I said, having to be struck by emotional disaster and all.

  25. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Frank G. Turner:

    Many a de-convert seems to have needed to be stricken by disaster, like catching their ministerial directors stealing money from the pulpit or engaging in outright lies that hurt them personally in order to consider changing from a believer. I have posted quite a bit on that kind of person putting emotion before rational thought and needing things to strike them emotionally.

    To change an opinion, one needs to encounter something unsettling. If someone has already associated disgust with absurdity, pointing out absurdity will be jarring. If something else takes overwhelming priority over the desire to see oneself as a person with integrity (internal consistency), that higher priority must be addressed (comfort, social acceptance, etc).
     
    This is why I advised against dissociating rational thought from emotion before.

  26. xxxxxx says

    That does not necessarily mean that there could be a some false believes that actually would make your life better, although I cannot really think of any myself.

    That largely depends upon what context we are talking. There are a couple of layers to this notion:

    — if we are talking (as I believe Matt is) about a practical, real-world situations that actually have real effects and consequences in our lives then, as many have already stated, there are only really very specific examples of situations in which false belief *might* be better than true belief. But *generally* this rule of thumb leads to better success under the unmentioned assumed conditions (see later for further explanation). The reason for this is, as others have already noted, that false belief about real-world situations will eventually reveal themselves if we live long enough (that’s why they are false) and expose the falseness of the assertion. At that point people, whether they like it or not, can no longer truly hold to the belief no matter how hard they try (without the help, of, say, a delusional mental-disorder). hhhh

    — if we are, alternatively, talking about beliefs about things that do not have real effects and consequences (which is where where virtually all religious beliefs find themselves today, having been summarily dismissed from the first category through demonstration and experimentation), then your belief — whether true or false — will never matter to the lives of people, and thus such beliefs are inconsequential and trite.

    — The third group, one of quetioning epistemology, is often ignored. The first two concepts have an unmentioned assumed epistemological basis of scientific naturalism(SN), at the very least, underpinning them. SN is an epistemology that every human being ever born is forced into accepting whether they like it or not, no matter how much they may attempt to disown it. Anything else one might adopt into their epistemology (like belief in the supernatural) is merely “scientific naturalism plus something else.” THat said, one can then, quite rationally wonder if SN can actually be false, This is where the problem of hard solipsism comes in (also called the brain-in-a-vat scenario, or The Matrix movie scenario) that Matt as explained a number of times. It is into this weird rarified hypothetical world one must actually step before we actually find any reasonable scenarios where a lie is ultimately more beneficial than the truth. And to that end, there are a number of possibilities that one can discover if one thinks about it. Here is a short list to give you an idea:

    We all believe:
    — the “self” is real
    — in the notion of free will and/or consciousness to be real
    — in the notion that each of us have more good reasons to continue living than for commiting suicide
    — in the belief that time didn’t begin, say, three days ago or three minutes ago, or five minutes from now…

    There are uncounted numbers of epistemologically based beliefs (more specifically, they are presuppositions) we all must adopt as part of SN for which we adhere to during our entire lives (and many would argue probably have no choice but to accept them) that might, in fact, turn out to be entirely false. But, even if they turn out to be false, we will always be better off believing the lie than believing the actual truth.

    That said, I think AronRa best expressed my objections to this kind of reasoning, in his Sye Ten Bruggencate “discussion” on Dogma debate a few months back. In order for presuppositional religious people (or, in this case, any person who wishes to believe a lie can be better for us than the actuall truth) has to DENY REALITY first! That is essentially the jist of what this caller (if the disccussion was allowed to continue to its natural conclusion) would have been cornered into doing.

  27. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Frank G. Turner:
    Polling statistics are complicated, so I don’t feel confident enough to distill it myself. Here are a couple summaries, which you can click through to sources if you feel like digging deeper.
     
    Article: New York Times – Pew Poll Finds a Fluid Religious Life in U.S.
    Article: ARIS – Catholics on the Move, Non-religious on the Rise
    Article: ARIS – Generation X: Catholic and Baptist Losses feed Religious Polarization

  28. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    Article: Gallup – In U.S., 42% Believe Creationist View of Human Origins

    The percentage of the U.S. population choosing the creationist perspective as closest to their own view has fluctuated in a narrow range between 40% and 47% since the question’s inception [in 1982]. There is little indication of a sustained downward trend in the proportion of the U.S. population who hold a creationist view of human origins. At the same time, the percentage of Americans who adhere to a strict secularist viewpoint – that humans evolved over time, with God having no part in this process – has doubled since 1999.
     
    However, significantly fewer Americans claim familiarity with “creationism” than did so seven years ago. […] In short, even though the adherence to the creationist view has not changed over time, familiarity with the term “creationism” has diminished.

  29. Frank G. Turner says

    @ Sky Captain
    To change an opinion, one needs to encounter something unsettling. If someone has already associated disgust with absurdity, pointing out absurdity will be jarring. If something else takes overwhelming priority over the desire to see oneself as a person with integrity (internal consistency), that higher priority must be addressed (comfort, social acceptance, etc).

    This is why I advised against dissociating rational thought from emotion before.
    .
    I get that, after all I was talking about it too. What I was aiming for was examples of that. I keep thinking that if the believers could be shown more examples of things that are emotionally jarring it might stick with them. Get it?

  30. julial says

    I really enjoyed and fully relate to Aron’s questioning what the conversion factor is for “spiritual energy” to Joules.
    If you can’t measure it and put a number to it, then you can’t make qualitative estimations like ‘larger’ or ‘greater’.
    I think the fuzziness introduced by believers into this topic comes about from their lack of interest and education in the whole of metrology. Because they don’t understand either, they honestly confuse the energy as observed and quantified by scientists and engineers and that of energy as hand waved by pseudoscientists and psychics.

    The following is a personal crusade only partially tongue in cheek:
    To achieve cultural immortality, forget about having a hospital wing, battleship or company named after you. They will all age, decay and be forgotten.
    What you want is a unit.
    We will remember the Watt, Joule and Oersted long after the USS Ronald Regan will have sunk or rusted away.
    So I hereby propose that the unit of faith be called the PZ.
    (pronounced ‘pzzzzzzzz’, like the hum of an ungrounded microphone (or mispronounced as ‘piss’))
    To quantify in PZs, a faith claim by a believer, it is necessary to make an assessment of that claim against reality. The greater the divergence between the claim and observation, the larger the numeric value in PZs. PZs are most conveniently expressed in logarithmic notation, like decibels, because of the great range in the above divergence.
    For example:
    0.0002 PZ (logPZ -3.7) the faith claim that I love my spouse.
    0.1 PZ (logPZ -1) the faith claim that the sun will rise tomorrow.
    6255.8 PZ (logPZ 3.8) the faith claim that the universe is six to ten thousand years old.
    14260000 PZ (logPZ 7.15) the faith claim that Sye Ten Bruggencate has been personally informed by an all powerful, all knowing entity who wishes to talk to him
    (the above measurements are estimates, more accurate values will be supplied when my grant comes through)

  31. Frank G. Turner says

    @julial
    First of all you got a good laugh and a smile out of me with that.
    Second,
    pronounced ‘pzzzzzzzz’, like the hum of an ungrounded microphone
    . All that got me thinking of was that the unit came after a failed attempt at hitting the buzzer on a gameshow, i.e., “pzzzzz,” response, “sorry you loose.”
    .
    Or alternately, “pzzzz, you are the weakest link, goodbye.”

  32. Frank G. Turner says

    I am assuming that many of you listen to the Thinking Atheist podcasts as well. There is mention early in the program (“Dieing with Dignity”) this week about “hemmet’s blog”? (I am not sure if I am making ou the name correctly) regarding Kenneth Hamm (he should change his name to be in line with Leviticus if he loves scripture so much, ham is verboten), his comments on NASA and space exploration being pointless. I am assuming that this is someone commenting on Hamm’s bull (interesting thought, ham’s bull.. cue Beavis and Butthead laugh)..
    .
    Can anyone rpovide me a link to the site Seth is talking about? (I would not be surprised if it is you Sky Captain as you have many links available).
    .
    Thanks!

  33. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    Hemant Mehta
     
    Article: Friendly Atheist – Ken Ham: We Should Stop Exploring Space Because the Bible Says Aliens Would Go to Hell

  34. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Frank G. Turner:

    I keep thinking that if the believers could be shown more examples of things that are emotionally jarring it might stick with them.

    Not “Why does it often take a disaster?” but “Since emotional appeals are important, what arguments tug at heartstrings?”
     
    I’ve tried asking questions that force them to chose between answering as they think a Christian with iron-age beliefs should vs how a decent person today should.
     
    I can’t speak to a retention rate; they have a habit of forgetting inconvenient conversations. On the other hand, it chills me when they say it’s good to stab children and set them on fire, or they’d gun down kindergarteners if the voice in their head told ‘em to (without hesitation).

  35. C.B. Evans says

    Others have made the point, but I agree that while Matt gave good examples of false beliefs that are, or at least likely to be, harmful, that does not necessarily make the general argument that “Believing as many true things as possible and as few false things as possible” makes one’s life better (a proposition with which I wholeheartedly agree). That was the “gotcha” the caller was pursuing, I think.

    I would be very interested in hearing a thorough discussion of the idea. Let’s also look for false beliefs that improve people’s lives (it may be that belief in Santa Claus makes many kids’ Christmases happier) as well as true beliefs that make people’s lives “worse” — some studies seem to indicate that denial may be a defense against, for lack of a better way to put it, existential dread.

  36. Frank G. Turner says

    @Sky Captain
    I can’t speak to a retention rate; they have a habit of forgetting inconvenient conversations. On the other hand, it chills me when they say it’s good to stab children and set them on fire, or they’d gun down kindergarteners if the voice in their head told ‘em to (without hesitation).
    .
    Strange how it is them that accuse atheists of “just ignoring God because you want to sin.” Yet listening to the voice in their head that tells them to stab children and set them on fire is, dare I say, “just insisting that the voice in their head IS God and not challenging it…because they want to sin.” Sounds more like, you just want to insist that the voice in your head is God so that you don’t have to accept responsibility for your behavior. Layers upon layers of bullshit to hide a true motive huh?

  37. says

    The “it makes you happy” argument is a non-starter. However, our memories might be worth pursuing. It is well known now that we change our memory of what we used to believe as our beliefs change. The theory is that we could not handle the cognitive dissonance required to maintain all of our past logic In addition to what we consider logical now. But I think Matt and Aron are referring to currently true things. If for example, we find out dolphins have a more sophisticated language than we think they do, we’ll all have to adjust our false belief that they don’t. Meanwhile, you’re better off sticking with what is currently considered true. Unless of course you are studying actual dolphins.

  38. corwyn says

    Let’s also look for false beliefs that improve people’s lives (it may be that belief in Santa Claus makes many kids’ Christmases happier) as well as true beliefs that make people’s lives “worse” — some studies seem to indicate that denial may be a defense against, for lack of a better way to put it, existential dread.

    That isn’t enough. One would need to determine what other beliefs, those false beliefs enable, and consider the sum of all such beliefs. There are studies that show that theist children are more likely to believe in magic, for example. That is probably a negative as far as those theists are concerned. So any positive attributes that one might ascribe to theistic beliefs, they must be tempered by the negative attributes of the magical beliefs.

  39. Frank G. Turner says

    Thank you very much (or 10-Q as I sometimes say).
    .
    Interesting thought came to mind the other night. If you turned a Jehovah’s Witness into a vampire, would they starve? :-)

  40. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    Hmm. Once turned, I think they lose interest in maintaining orthodoxy. Come to think of it, I don’t remember seeing that spelled out anywhere, aside from definitely becoming evil (maybe the change in religious status is implied). I suppose they could continue out of habit and be evil door-knockers.

  41. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Santa is a bad example. Imagine what would happen if an adult actually believed in Santa. Just let that thought experiment run a little, and you’ll see the problems that it causes.

    However, I have no doubt that you can find an example, for a limited case.

    Seriously, just take a moment and consider what the world you are suggesting would look like. We wouldn’t try to correct people on certain false beliefs when we determine those beliefs are good. To determine if a belief is good or bad (has good consequences or bad consequences), we would need to first establish whether the belief is true or false. That’s required to work out the consequences of the belief. How the hell could we allow the population at large to persist in false beliefs, but also do the necessary research to determine if the belief is true or false to determine if it’s ok to allow people to believe it?

    Rather, the only workable method is to determine whether all beliefs are true or false. Sure, we’ll lose a few good false beliefs along the way, but any alternative is insane and completely unworkable.

  42. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    Plus, the false beliefs would need to be constantly re-evaluated for safety as new beliefs are created. There might be harmful interactions.

  43. Conversion Tube says

    If I was playing baseball I would want to win.
    If I was in an argument I would want to win (be correct).
    If I believed something I would want it to be true.

    I need a valid view of reality to confirm I won the game, the argument or the believe.

    What I was trying to say is, “because it makes me feel better” is not an acceptable reason for believing something false.

  44. Conversion Tube says

    They would first have to demonstrate to GM the problem before defining the correct response. But ya.

  45. corwyn says

    Perhaps the question to mild Christians should be: “Which is worse, an atheist who is a good person, or a ‘christian’ who is performing evil deeds in the name of Christ?”

    If the answer is the latter, the followup should be: “Then why don’t you proselytize them rather than the good atheists?”

  46. adamah says

    Yeah, Arron overstated his case by demanding an example of where it was EVER advantageous to have a false belief, and Matt saw the problem and tried to cut it off by saying, “I can…” but then the discussion moved on anyway.

    The first thought that came to my mind was a young relative who was speeding in the canyons at 2am on a curvy two-lane road, and swung out into the opposite lane on a particular tight curve at 70mph. Coming the other way was a guy who also was speeding his hot-rod thru the canyons, and took the inside (‘wrong’) lane, too.

    Both safely passed, and crapped their pants at what just happened, where both likely would’ve been dead if the other guy had not made a similar bad decision.

    As stated, though, you can’t use the exceptional case to determine the rule, since it comes down to probabilities that the other guy is going to abide by the social contract of law.

    Adam

  47. adamah says

    No one else saw Matt going out of and back into our material plane of existence? I thought Matt was being raptured, and my first though wast, “Cool, if God’s accepting outspoken atheists who publicly take on his servants, then a mild-mannered atheist like me has no problem, just in case I’m wrong!”

    (Hey, I recently saw “God Exists!”, and the film has shaken me up, tossing and turning in bed….)

    Or course, Aron Ra didn’t rapture: with the goatee and long hair, he apparently looks too much like a satan worshipper, lol!

    Adam

  48. corwyn says

    Exactly what false belief was present in your story? Exactly what correct belief would have made things worse?

  49. corwyn says

    No, some of us did see the green screen process failing slightly. None of us jumped to a supernatural conclusion. Keep working on that atheism thing.

  50. Frank G. Turner says

    Yeah but Jesus had a beard and long hair just like Aron Ra. Maybe not a Goatee but definitely a beard.
    .
    I remember catching a clip of an episode of TAE where some kid wrote to his minister about Jesus having long hair and a beard and the long hair making him look feminine. I wanted to smack the kid and his minister (who gave some BS answer about Jesus not really realizing that he was God’s son). LIke neither one of them ever read Leviticus. Just goes to show you how agnostics and atheists are more educated about scripture than many who consider themselves Xtian.

  51. Frank G. Turner says

    @ Conversion Tube
    Splitting your quotes into 3 parts.
    .
    #1. If I was playing baseball I would want to win.
    #2. If I was in an argument I would want to win (be correct).
    #3. If I believed something I would want it to be true.
    .
    Those are three separate things that can exists indepedently of each other but do influence each other. (Adam and corwyn I would appreciate your commentary on this).
    .
    With regards to #2, some don’t consider being factually correct in the emprical sense as actually “winning” the argument. Many view getting others to follow your emotional reasoning as “winning,” even if the circumstances are unfortunate for everyone else except oneself. (And in some cases even if the circumstances do prove unfortunate for oneself, getting others to believe you is still an egocentric power trip and is still “winning” in the eyes of some individuals). Much like a politician who gets the public to vote for a policy which will drain their pockets and fill the pockets of the politician, the politician has no interest in emprical demonstration of the fact that he has stolen from the public. The politician only has interest in convincing the public that he is “right” even if he is demonstrably wrong emprically speaking.
    .
    With regards to number 3, while that is true as Russsell has mentioned on a recent episode, sometimes intellectual honesty is acknowledging that something is false by observation no matter how much you “want” it to be true. That’s where I think we really lost Valerie, particularly when she talked about reading science and determining what she “deemed to be correct.” Emprical facts are not a matter of opinion, they stand the way that they are, though we can interpret them different ways. To insist that the way an individual interprets observation is what makes their reality truly real is a form of solipsism.
    .
    With regards to number 1, so would I but I would want to win legitimately, not by cheating. Many are fine with cheating in order to win, but have they truly won if they needed to cheat to do it? I think that ties in with the egocentric, solipsistic way of “winning” by trying to insist that one’s opinion and how one can get others to agree with that opinion to be “winning” and cause reality to be the way it is. That is almost like losing the baseball game but being so charismatic that you can convince everyone else that you won and hypnotize them so that they only see the scores in such a way as to indicate that you won even though you lost. For the person who does that, they don’t really care if they have a valid view of reality that confirms that they won, they just want to FEEL LIKE they won. They put emotion so far ahead of rational thought that they don’t even care if they loose so long as they FEEL as though they won.

  52. adamah says

    Corwyn said-

    Exactly what false belief was present in your story?

    Really, Corwyn? You can’t figure this one out on your own?

    How about the false belief shared by many narcissistic youth, hubristically thinking they’re invincible, denying anything bad could ever happen to them?

    Who knows, the adolescent might’ve even decided it was OK to violate traffic laws (speeding, moving into the oncoming lane, etc) by justifying it via use of Bayesian calculations, remembering to account for factors like the time (2am), the remote location (rural mountainous road), etc.

    Teaching adolescents they aren’t immune to “bad stuff” happening to them is precisely why some schools hold annual assemblies right before prom, with local cops reminding them of the dangers of drunk driving by telling tales of DUI fatalities of other teens, even bringing the wrecked cars on a trailer, etc. (my local PD runs such a program).

    Exactly what correct belief would have made things worse?

    If EITHER driver had been a non-narcissistic law-abiding citizen, and HAD been obeying the law, then they’d BOTH be dead?

    BOTH were relying on the same false belief of their personal invincibility, and both are still alive for it today.

    Aron Ra was simply over-reaching by saying true beliefs ALWAYS lead to a better life, and demanding an example to the contrary. Matt spotted the mistake, and said, “I can…” but the conversation shifted to using another approach.

    As Matt G. and many others have correctly stated, there are no guarantees in life. People can make absolutely-sound decisions based on perfectly-valid reasoning based on proper interpretation of the evidence, but sometimes life throws them a curve-ball (called ‘randomness': even the Bible correctly states, “unforeseen circumstances befall all” ).

    As the old saying goes, ‘you pays yer money and you takes yer chances.’

    Adam

  53. corwyn says

    Really, Corwyn? You can’t figure this one out on your own?

    Sure I could, but since it seemed to contradict your argument, I figured I would be polite and ask what yours was.

    justifying it via use of Bayesian calculations,

    Using Bayesian calculation couldn’t have gotten them the false belief that it is safe to travel in the oncoming lane.

    If EITHER driver had been a non-narcissistic law-abiding citizen, and HAD been obeying the law, then they’d BOTH be dead?

    If BOTH drivers had been law-abiding citizens they would have been like the 100 of millions of other drivers that weren’t narrowly avoiding death. The true belief that they would have had is that most people would not be traveling in the oncoming lane at illegal speeds, and that would ensure their safety for the vast majority of the time.

    The fact that two idiots had false beliefs that WOULD have killed them, had circumstances been normal means that a priori they reduced their chances of survival by having false beliefs. Of course, following the safest course does not ensure survival, merely maximizes it. Which is why we all should want to be basing our actions on true beliefs.

    p.s. no one sane, traveling too fast takes the outside track.

  54. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Conversion Tube:

    If I was playing baseball I would want to win.

    The rules of baseball define the goal.
     

    If I was in an argument I would want to win (be correct).

    The rules of argumentation define the goal.
     

    If I believed something I would want it to be true.

    ???

    What I was trying to say is, “because it makes me feel better” is not an acceptable reason for believing something false.

    What is it about true beliefs that makes them more acceptable than false ones, in a way that doesn’t ultimately reduce to “because it makes me feel better”? If you’re concerned about consequences, wouldn’t that be to avoid feeling worse? Keep in mind you were replying to the lotus-eater problem.

  55. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    Your third statement, rewritten to fit the pattern:
    If I was X I would want my beliefs to be true.

  56. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    Just havin’ some Socratic fun. :P
     
    A disregard for truth is short-sighted, reckless, and arguably unethical. Brains approximate rationality toward emotional ends, and yet knowingly breaking the rules, to attain those ends more efficiently, is generally unsatisfying. People sometimes manage it, to the detriment of us all.

  57. Frank G. Turner says

    So when does the thread for #876 come out?
    .
    I wante dto ask is that kid Daniel was a prank caller.

  58. Cousin Ricky says

    Did neither of them consider that no one knows how long Jesus’ hair was, and that the artists are just guessing?

  59. Cousin Ricky says

    This is somewhat off-topic, but I couldn’t help wondering, why did the green on Aron Ra’s T-shirt show up on camera?

  60. adamah says

    Cousin Ricky said-

    Did neither of them consider that no one knows how long Jesus’ hair was, and that the artists are just guessing?

    There’s an interesting book on that topic that came out last year written by a SDSU historian called, “The color of Christ”, discussing how the familiar image of Jesus we all carry in our heads came to evolve into a Northern European male with brown/blondish hair.

  61. adamah says

    Corwyn said-

    Using Bayesian calculation couldn’t have gotten them the false belief that it is safe to travel in the oncoming lane.

    Yes, but do you need me to remind you that neither would be alive today if they HADN’T been in the other’s lane?

    They’d now have NO beliefs, since they’d be dead, whether the decision was derived at from Bayesian calcs or laws found in the Vehicle Code.

    That’s precisely my point.

    (I’m wondering how you can include factors in calculations which aren’t even suspected of being correlated, aka unknown unknowns, the things you’re not aware that you don’t know.)

    For in that instantaneous moment when they encountered each other on the road, on the question of whether each was in the ‘correct’ lane, they faced a 50:50 chance of being wrong:

    Drivers 1&2 in their correct lanes: no death.

    D1 correct/D2 incorrect: death

    D1 incorrect/D2 correct: death

    Drivers 1&2 in their incorrect lanes: no death

    In fact, knowing that the curvy road had a reputation amongst locals as being a fave place for teens in hot-rods to cut loose, esp late at night on a weekend, I’d say the odds of the ‘wrong’ lane being the ‘right’ choice on a curve were significantly elevated, since anyone without a sense of invulnerability would avoid it.

    But hey, keep telling yourself you’ve found the perfect solution for eliminating all of life’s uncertainty which may be in store for you. After all, that’s the same reason people believe in God, and some prefer Xanax, some use Bayesian calculations, some just handle anxiety directly.

    If BOTH drivers had been law-abiding citizens they would have been like the 100 of millions of other drivers that weren’t narrowly avoiding death. The true belief that they would have had is that most people would not be traveling in the oncoming lane at illegal speeds, and that would ensure their safety for the vast majority of the time.

    Well no shit, but you’re moving Aron Ra’s goal-post: he asked for an example where false beliefs lead to a better life, and I provided one where not only was life BETTER, lives were “saved”.

    (My relative is no longer an invincible teen, and doesn’t speed down back roads; hopefully he won’t encounter a analog of himself as a teen.)

    BTW, its ok to move the goalpost, but it would be nice of you to acknowledge the request for an example was successfully met, rather than just launching into a diatribe invoking a bunch of “ifs” and “shoulds”.

    And as hard as it may be for you to calculate, there actually ARE (a word related to ‘is/were’, implying existence in the present/past) individuals in society who don’t always conform to social norms and laws; they’re called ‘criminals’, and we call some of them ‘prisoners’.

    Now, SHOULD (a synonym for ‘ought’) individuals comply with such laws?

    Sure, but that’s a completely-different kettle of fish, and in lieu of magic wands, Gods, or Bayesian brain implants that allow humans to make ‘perfect’ decisions, etc, it’s better to stay grounded in the realm of what actually ‘is’, a World far-removed from magical thinking.

    You might want to review the distinction between ‘is’ vs ‘ought’, since it’s a prevalent mistake in logic to flip-flop between the two and not realize when we do it.

    The fact that two idiots had false beliefs that WOULD have killed them, had circumstances been normal means that a priori they reduced their chances of survival by having false beliefs.

    Here’s something you’ve also overlooked:

    Different humans actually possess different sets of values.

    (Read that again and let it sink in.)

    Not every human values rationalism and truth as their most precious goal.

    (Read that one again, too, until it sinks in.)

    Since humans possess different values, you’re making the logical error of projecting YOUR presupposed values onto others, since not everyone WANTS to be a coldly-analytical machine (or Spock, or Data, if you prefer) to make “perfect” decisions.

    Humans don’t actually operate that way, nor, in most peoples opinion, should they. In fact, nature itself doesn’t operate like that.

    If you doubt, you likely haven’t thought much about natural selection (or at least, understood it), the controlling principle underneath the entire discussion of survival.

    (And before someone screams, “NATURALISTIC FALLACY!”, check yourself: I’m describing what IS, not arguing for what OUGHT to be. I’m explaining why Corwyn is fighting a losing battle by tilting at the windmills against BILLIONS of years of evolution which left us in our current state.)

    Unfortunately, natural selection doesn’t operate by “keeping score”, as if asking which organism “ought” to survive, which one is “better”, or which one “deserves” to pass on it’s genes to proliferate, etc.

    Natural selection doesn’t give a hoot about “shoulda, coulda, woulda, oughta”.

    Instead, natural selection deals entirely with what actually IS, where the individuals who actually manage to survive and reach reproductive age are given an opportunity to pass on their genes to descendants, regardless if they’re actually the “fittest” or not.

    (The whole “survival of the fittest” popular meme is incredibly over-simplified, and borders on being not true, since it implies nature adjusts the height of the barrier for selection at a height that allows only the fittest to survive. That’s nonsense, since sometimes ALL members of a population survive, and other times ALL members (including the ‘fittest’) DON’T survive a selection pressure.)

    Sure, over time, those organisms that are sufficiently- (or even minimally-; rarely, maximally-) adapted to their environment will manage to pass on their traits to offspring and flourish via differential reproduction, but there’s no guarantee any specific individual WILL. It’s not about possessing the capability to do so; they actually have to DO so.

    Of course, following the safest course does not ensure survival, merely maximizes it. Which is why we all should want to be basing our actions on true beliefs.

    Setting aside the questionable value assumption you made there (survival is the greatest value, vs quality of life concerns, etc), I obviously agree, since you’re simply restating what others (including me) have pointed out.

    You’ve now migrated away from your previous contrarian position, and are acknowledging the point others have made.

    BTW, you ever think of becoming a guest speaker for those school assembles before prom that try to convince kids they’re not invincible?

    You should bring your chalk board along, as they’d no doubt appreciate a rousing lecture on the infallibility of Bayesian calculations, just so they can use that approach, instead of relying on their teenage delusion of personal invincibility.

    ;)

    p.s. no one sane, traveling too fast takes the outside track.

    p.s. that comment suggests you’ve completely missed the point:

    My relative was traveling on the inside lane, but his excessive speed is precisely why he ended up on the outside lane as he emerged from the curve; the other guy was just entering the curve from the other direction and took the inside lane, which any sane race car driver knows is what you do if you’re going fast so you don’t drive off the pavement when emerging from the curve.

    (No shit: sane drivers don’t speed in the first place, but that’s begging the question to say, since people actually do.)

    BTW, be sure to review the ‘is’ vs ‘ought’ thing speedily, as it may not be sane to keep making the same error in logic, over and over.

    Adam

  62. Frank G. Turner says

    The “green screen” effect is for a certain string of wavelengths of green. Outside of that set of wavelengths and the item on camera should appear just fine. FYI, it does not have to be green specifically, “blue screen” is not uncommon if it is known that people will be wearing green clothing that falls within the replaced wavelengths in a scene or even red or black. What you call “green” is actually a range of wavelengths and Aron Ra’s shirt was probably outside of that range used in the special effect.
    .
    FYI I don’t see all of the wavelengths of green that you do so I did not even know that his shirt was green. I discuss that with adam on another board.

  63. Barry says

    Hi. Have been following a few of your recent shows and also listened to a number of “antitheists” such as the late, great Christopher Hitchens. I’d be very interested in knowing if your views have had an influence – positive or negative – on your work/business/relationships? I run my own business and while I’d like to get out and put my views forward, I am concerned that this might alienate some clients.

  64. Marlon of Richmond VA says

    I’ve just recently discovered your show on YouTube and I would love a chance to call in and discuss my own experience as an Atheist in a family full of southern Baptist and Jehovah’s witnesses, if someone can please email me with the next taping schedule I would really appreciate it think you.

  65. Corwyn111 says

    For in that instantaneous moment when they encountered each other on the road, on the question of whether each was in the ‘correct’ lane, they faced a 50:50 chance of being wrong

    If you think two options means a 50:50 chance, you need to start at basic probability. It is the most prevalent WRONG belief about probability. Learn something about probability and we can talk later.

  66. adamah says

    Corwyn said-

    If you think two options means a 50:50 chance, you need to start at basic probability. It is the most prevalent WRONG belief about probability.

    You still don’t get it?

    I described the conditions above as a curved road in the canyons, and I’m APPROXIMATING the odds of a car being in either lane for THAT BLIND CURVE, ONLY (hence why i referred to instantaneous odds AT THAT POINT, or more accurately, for the curve).

    It’s based on the assumptions I described: both vehicles are traveling too fast for the road, and would need to use the oncoming lane to stay on the road to negotiate the curve.

    (If you played with slot cars as a kid, think of two 90* turns with a short segment of straight track on both ends. The car enters the turn on the inside lane, but gradually swings out and is completely in the outside lane just past the apex. It’s only slightly after exiting the curve that the car begins to move back into it’s own lane.)

    That’s what I was describing, and OBVIOUSLY lane position would be different for different drivers, but that’s why it’s only an APPROXIMATION.

    (I’m even ignoring factors that would increase the odds of a fatal collision (e.g. the lethality of a non-head-on collision or even a side-swipe, or even if no contact occurs but drivers over-correct (skidding, over-steering), or other objects in the road, etc).

    Point being, in this type of scenario, over-confidence in one’s statistical calculations is going to be a teensy-weesie problem, esp if the equation can’t be tweaked to account for ALL factors that introduce randomness into the system. If the equation is unable to whisper in the driver’s ear and tell him it would be a REALLY GOOD IDEA to move into the “wrong” lane, really quick, it’s going to be a problem.

    And since you’ve already admitted that Bayesian calculations would NEVER conclude it’s safe to drive in the incoming lane, it looks like a scenario such as this involving unpredictability and randomness is the fly in Bayes’ ointment.

    Learn something about probability and we can talk later.

    Heck, I apparently remembered the concept of “statistical uncertainty” from stats. You?

    ;)

    Adam

  67. corwyn says

    Point being, in this type of scenario, over-confidence in one’s statistical calculations is going to be a teensy-weesie problem, esp if the equation can’t be tweaked to account for ALL factors that introduce randomness into the system. If the equation is unable to whisper in the driver’s ear and tell him it would be a REALLY GOOD IDEA to move into the “wrong” lane, really quick, it’s going to be a problem.

    Nope. The ONLY thing that CAN be tweaked with ALL factors is, in fact, Bayes’s Theorem. This has been mathematically proven. Nothing is able to whisper in the driver’s ear, and from your story nothing did. Neither driver did a calculation; they defied the odds, and managed to survive anyway. That is exactly what we should expect from odds. Sometimes, someone wins the lottery. [note: if evidence actually was that everyone used the wrong lane on that corner, then a Bayesian calculation would determine that driving that way was the best course, but then your story has no emotional content, it would merely be about a strange place where everyone disobeyed the law, everyone knew about it, and nothing happened.]

    And since you’ve already admitted that Bayesian calculations would NEVER conclude it’s safe to drive in the incoming lane, it looks like a scenario such as this involving unpredictability and randomness is the fly in Bayes’ ointment.

    My statement was about the situation, not Bayes’s Theorem. The situation on an actual road is NEVER going to be that driving blindly in the oncoming lane is going to increase your likelihood of living, absent knowledge of existing conditions. OF COURSE, if you have EVIDENCE (of an oncoming vehicle in the wrong lane), a Bayesian calculation will conclude that your best chance is to be in the other lane. Unpredictability and randomness are exactly where Bayes Theorem shines. It is provably (in the mathematical sense) the best solution in such cases.

  68. adamah says

    Hi Corwyn,

    Thanks for the clarification, and sure, I pretty-much agree with the points you made above, which strikes me as reasonable (esp since you added disclaimers reflecting limitations of Bayes theorem).

    Perhaps this is just a case where someone knows perfectly-well what they were intending to say, but others can only rely on what they actually said.

    It’s usually a matter of needing to add more details to see if there’s a fundamental problem, or if people are just talking past each other.

  69. corwyn says

    I am so glad we were able to reach consensus that your scenario was not an example of an instance when false beliefs were advantageous.

  70. adamah says

    Corwyn said-

    I am so glad we were able to reach consensus that your scenario was not an example of an instance when false beliefs were advantageous.

    No?

    Try this one:

    A decade or so ago there was a story about a person who gets a vague feeling of dread at the airport, and it escalates into a full-blown panic attack and they run off the plane before the cabin door is closed.

    The plane takes off without them and crashes, killing all on-board.

    Because of their irrational feeling of dread (a false belief, believing the plane will crash), they are alive today. That’s advantageous.

    That’s an example where people will make the “correct” decision for faulty reasons. It happens.

    And SURE, there’s 1,000’s of other people with phobias who chicken out at the last minute, but they only miss out on taking a trip, since their plane arrives safe and sound at its destination.

    Regardless, Aron set the bar too high by saying “in all cases” (or whatever it was he said: that’s paraphrased, and it’s not worth watching again to quote his exact words ).

    It’s why Matt chimed in with “I can” after Aron asked for one example, since Matt knew it was an easily-met request.

  71. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @adamah:

    Because of their irrational feeling of dread (a false belief, believing the plane will crash), they are alive today. That’s advantageous.
     
    That’s an example where people will make the “correct” decision for faulty reasons. It happens.

    Matt’s claim: People that believe as many true things and as few false things as possible are more likely to lead a better life.
     
    Aron said: “You, conversely, cannot an example to the opposite, where misinformation would be more valuable than actual information.”
     
    Matt didn’t claim situation would always play out better. He claimed it was always more likely to play out better. Aron’s demand was for misinformation that makes it more likely than with accurate information.
     

    SURE, there’s 1,000′s of other people with phobias who chicken out at the last minute, but they […] miss out

    Those thousands could have taken the safe trip (and done whatever they had planned at the destination) if they had accurate information. Intermittently exaggerating the risk of mortality led to a strategy that was no safer and had less-optimal outcomes.

  72. corwyn says

    The plane takes off without them and crashes, killing all on-board.

    …a false belief, believing the plane will crash

    I am confused about how you can call this a false belief. The plane DID crash, their belief was 100% correct.

    The real a priori correct belief is, by the way: “There is a 1 in 11 Million chance I will die in this plane. Therefore, I am safer NOT taking this flight.”

  73. adamah says

    Aron said: “You, conversely, cannot provide an example to the opposite, where misinformation would be more valuable than actual information.”

    Yup, and I presume those are his exact words? As just shown, the claim is easily disproven.

    Matt didn’t claim the situation would always play out better. He claimed it was always more likely to play out better.

    Sure, and I agree with Matt; review the thread and you’ll see I never said Matt was wrong (he even added a limiter, “more likely”).

    Aron’s demand was for misinformation that makes it more likely than with accurate information.

    Is that your paraphrase of Aron’s statement? Odd, as I don’t remember him saying that.

    Because if the first quote is what Aron actually said, with your paraphrase you’ve significantly altered the meaning by changing adjectives: “more VALUABLE” became “more LIKELY” (the first pertains to worth or utility; the latter refers to probability).

    But even that modified statement is easily-disproven, too, esp. if probability is limited to one particular individual, and not applied to the population as a whole, e.g.

    Some people are extremely-allergic to shellfish, where eating even a tiny morsel can trigger anaphylaxis, a serious food allergy that can be fatal.

    Problem is, many parents are unaware of their children’s hyper-sensitivity, and don’t learn of it until AFTER they’ve experienced a reaction.

    Jews have a false belief of God-given dietary restrictions (kashrut) which forbids them from eating shellfish, and hence an observant Jew would be highly-unlikely to even discover they were allergic to shellfish, in the first place; there’s a lesser-likelihood of even encountering shellfish (or pigs, etc), in a Nation like Israel, with a higher incidence of observant Jews who wouldn’t even touch it, let alone eat it.

    That’s an example of where a false religious belief ALWAYS protects an individual with latent shellfish allergies from the unexpleasant experience of symptoms of severe food allergy, and such a false belief may even save their life (esp. if the person doesn’t realize they have food allergies and isn’t carrying an epipen, etc).

    This concept can apply to the entire population, as well.

    So that’s yet another example where the “correct” decision was made for bad reasons.

    Flip-side is people also make a “wrong” choice for perfectly-valid reasons, simply due to the unpredictable nature of life.

    Adam said: SURE, there’s 1,000′s of other people with phobias who chicken out at the last minute, but they […] miss out.

    Those thousands could have taken the safe trip (and done whatever they had planned at the destination) if they had accurate information. Intermittently exaggerating the risk of mortality led to a strategy that was no safer and had less-optimal outcomes.

    Except phobias are not caused by having “inaccurate information”, per se (you’re referring to decision-making, a function of the higher-brain).

    Unfortunately, phobics can see quite-clearly how their fears are completely irrational, but still be unable to over their belief since it’s a FEAR, an emotional over-reaction to some stimulus which arises, NOT from the neo-cortex (the ‘rational’ brain), but from the more-primitive reptilian brain.

    Since phobias arise from areas other than the neo-cortex, it’s questionable to use words (like “strategy”) that apply to functions of the higher brain, since it’s ‘begging the question': if people could rely on pure reason to think their way out of irrational phobias, then phobias could be eliminated by education of facts.

    That approach often fails, because as RD’s recent demonstration of the principles of human cognition demonstrates (using 3 tweets on social media to demonstrate basic sociological principles), even those who declare themseles as perfectly rational will often allow their emotional and irrational lower-brain to interfere with cogent reasoning.

    Adam

  74. adamah says

    Corwyn said-

    I am confused about how you can call this a false belief. The plane DID crash, their belief was 100% correct.

    Sure, but you don’t actually believe some people are prescient, having perfect foreknowledge of events still in the future?

    As the saying goes, “even a blind mouse sometimes finds the cheese”, a way of expressing the effect of random fortune.

    The real a priori correct belief is, by the way: “There is a 1 in 11 Million chance I will die in this plane. Therefore, I am safer NOT taking this flight.”

    Well, if that’s what Bayes would predict, that’s a PERFECT example of the fallacy of over-reliance on statistical calculations: if everyone used stats to make decisions in daily life, then Bayes would completely kill ALL commercial and civilian air travel, eliminating jobs in aviation (construction, air/ground crew, etc), strangling international commerce as the Worldwide economy tail-spins into a major depression.

    That’s why the final step (the one you’re overlooking) is important: comparing ‘risks vs benefits’ for any given decision, looking at it from more than the perspective of just the individual, but the impact on the rest of society.

    And since we all have different VALUES (ie those things we personally find important, whether others agree or not, such as thrill-seeking behaviors such as sky-diving, etc) it’s why a simple calculation is not a “one size fits all” answer.

    Our values effect the score given to both an assessment of the risks AND perceived value of the benefits; they’re not static, either, as our values will change throughout life (eg the relative mentioned above currently values a stable family life more than speeding thru the canyons late at night).

  75. James Velazquez says

    ..I have a question but no one has really been able to answerand I was hoping you could discuss this inconsistency in depths Adam and Eve supposedly lived in the Garden of Eden were they were commanded by God to breed and create a kingdom of man but not to eat an apple if we assume they follow Gods orders they would have been forever breeding immortals the world would be covered in inbred immortal bodies doesn’t it seem like the Apple is a correction to the flaw of him giving us immortality in the first place just to take it away because if he didn’t the world would be covered immortals seems like a really huge mistake for a perfect being to make and then on top of it he blames us for it

  76. Mick says

    The last caller…lol backed himself into a corner so much that he was actually willing to demonstrate how wrong he was, in order to demonstrate how right he was…. seriously with logic like that its not a wonder the world is in the mes its in.

  77. Billbo says

    I have been listening to a lot of these shows recently and that last caller was the first time I thought they handled a call poorly. And it was extremely poorly handled. The guy was making a logical argument if you actually bother to listen to him, which the host were not willing to do. Others have already pointed out better ways to have handled it. But the thing I would like to add is that the only true statement you can make about it is that if a person’s beliefs match reality that probably makes their life better than if they have false beliefs. That guy was right that you would have to define what “better” means. It seems obvious (that the probability is very high) because it is easy to think of devastatingly harmful false beliefs, like they did. But citing those examples does not prove anything. I just thought it was sad that they did to that guy what many irrational callers do to them.

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