Comments

  1. says

    [organ donation]
    Countries with “opt in” clauses have the problem, not countries with “opt out”. If people need to make the effort of opting out, they generally don’t. The solution in “opt-in” countries, then, is simply to reverse the question. This measure will save many lives.

  2. brett says

    I just read an article about how billionaires going to the Burning Man festival basically set up the same boring hotel VIP environment they have everywhere, except in camp form. Not that going to Burning Man isn’t an expensive venture anyways (it’s a couple hundred dollars for the ticket and parking spot), but come on – just outfit a really nice RV and go out there if you want to retreat to comfy conditions after walking around.

    To be clear, I don’t dislike chain hotels in of themselves. It’s actually pretty nice to have some standardization of sleeping conditions when you’re abroad. But at something like BM?

  3. Ichthyic says

    billionaires going to the Burning Man festival

    there’s all kinds of wrong there, but I can’t really explain it.

  4. says

    Further to my #1

    Opt-out countries:
    Austria 100% (donation rate)
    Sweden 86%

    Opt-in countries:

    Germany 12 %
    Denmark 4%

    Daniel Kahneman puts this down to how the decision making process is framed. It may seem a trivial issue at the time the legal framework is set up, but the effects are quite incredible, as shown above.

  5. chigau (違う) says

    Recently, on the top of the list of people Azuma Hazuki wishes to die is Azuma Hazuki.
    So, perhaps a different approach is in order.

  6. says

    chigau @8:
    I have no idea what “different approach” you have in mind. In any case, I was just calling attention to the fact that she wished for someone (yet again) to die. Which I really, really do not like.

  7. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Theophontes,
    I’m also for opt-out.
    The other thing that could cause problems is family refusing to cooperate. For example, even if I opt in, my family can deny consent after my death.

  8. chigau (違う) says

    Tony!
    What I’m thinking is that,
    telling someone who wishes they had never been born to
    fuck off
    is not nice.

  9. says

    theophontes
    Thanks for providing that data.

    So it looks to me that we can have enough donors with a simple change in policy while still being able to accomodate for those who wish not to donate for whatever reasons, be their fears and reasons rational or irrational. So, what’s the good reason again for forcing everybody to be an organ donor?

    beatrice
    You’Re right. But maybe we could agree on deducting a few points from their transplantation score.* I do think that the decision to opt out should come with consequences. Even if it’s just having to wait for 4 weeks longer.

    *at least in Germany the system works with people having a “score”, so when an organ is available, the higher score wins.

  10. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Gilell,
    Nah, I really can’t see that we could compromise on this. 4 weeks could mean life or death for someone.
    Everyone should be treated the same at the doctor’s office.

  11. says

    beatrice
    Yes, but in a situation of organ shortage it would mean death of somebody else. Why should the person who was not willing to donate themselves get the organ as opposed to somebody who was willing to donate? With everything else equal, what would be fair?

  12. AlexanderZ says

    chigau #11

    telling someone who wishes they had never been born to fuck off is not nice.

    So now a depression is a get-to-be-an-asshole free card?
    I haven’t been on Pharyngula nearly as long as you have and even I know that there are many commenters here with depression and/or suicide tendencies. Azuma Hazuki doesn’t get to be treated with kid gloves when she fantasizes about murder, particularly because it has become a pattern for her. As much as her situation and life history is worthy of empathy, a line must be drawn when she sets her inner demons on others. When people talk about hurting others they must be called out on it regardless of their mental condition.
    ____________________

    Dalillama #208-9 (previous thread)

    Indeed, the specter of organlegging has been trotted out regularly for at least the last 40 years, and yet do you know how many verified cases there have been in that time? Zero

    Organ harvesting was an official Chinese policy until a month ago, but it has broken its word numerous times before. I doubt that other totalitarian, lawless or corrupt developing countries didn’t try to emulate their Chinese colleagues at some time.
    Your position on organ donation is misguided and needless in developed nations (as was pointed out by others), but in failed nations it really is a recipe for disaster.

    How many do you think I’m sending out, though? What about the time it takes me to try to write a custom letter for each and every outfit I apply to, no matter how similar they are to all the other places I’ve applied?

    The difference is that you need them more than they need you. Yes, it’s not fair, but the reality is that you are sending a letter to them, not the other way around.
    I’m in your position. At this very moment I’m researching the complaints the entity I want to work at is getting so that I could tailor my letter as a specific answer to what the company needs (without being overt about it). Yes, it means I get to send less letters, but the response percentage is huge compared to a copy-pasted letter (the talks break down over a different topic which I can’t avoid), and it’s not like there is an over-abundance of jobs at the moment anyway.

  13. mythogen says

    @3, 4

    I am friends with a lot of Texas burners, and have been to some of the state burns. I don’t really see a problem with the “all expenses paid” burner types, personally, because the entire burner subculture is pretty much morally bankrupt in my eyes. Burner culture is: getting high in the woods with a few hundred of your white, middle class friends. And spending tons of your time building things and using resources so that you can then burn those things down, while getting high in the woods. Or desert, as the case may be.

    Philosophically, burners seem to be the modern descendants of hippies, except that hippies actually stood for something. Burners stand for the right to radically include other privileged people in getting high in the woods. There are tons of issues with consent and rape apologism in the burner community, and the “radical inclusion” philosophy is such an article of faith that it’s hard to get people banned even after multiple offenses.

    I’m not opposed to responsible intoxication, or spending time in the woods. But as a community and as a “philosophy” or “way of life”, it’s all very pointless and wasteful. And so who cares if billionaires get a coddled experience? Nothing about “burning” is sacred. It’s perceived transcendence comes from drugs and well-honed narratives.

  14. says

    Chigau @ 11:

    What I’m thinking is that,
    telling someone who wishes they had never been born to
    fuck off
    is not nice.

    No, don’t go there. This is far from the first, second or third time Azuma Hazuki has unleashed murderous fantasies here, and far from the first, second, or third time there’s been a discussion about it. Early last year, in a thread, it was all hashed out, and it was pointed out in no uncertain terms that having been subjected to abuse was no excuse for wishing torture and murder on someone else. At the time, Azuma Hazuki agreed to knock that shit off. Seems it didn’t last.

  15. says

    Wanting to have nice sleeping conditions is so normal that (on that item) I can only direct my bemusement at Burning Man, not at the Billionaires.

  16. says

    That is, the expectation that everyone should conform to (possibly) uncomfortable sleeping conditions seems weird. Letting people choose for themselves seems reasonable.

  17. Rey Fox says

    I get that this is the Thunderdome. But I just want to say I fucking love you people. <3

    Them’s fightin’ words, jerkbrain.

  18. says

    AlexanderZ #18

    Organ harvesting was an official Chinese policy until a month ago, but it has broken its word numerous times before. I doubt that other totalitarian, lawless or corrupt developing countries didn’t try to emulate their Chinese colleagues at some time.

    Please look at the term that I used. This term actually does have a specific meaning. I recommend you look it up. Then look at the previous discussion. Specifically at EnlightenmentLiberal’s post at 183 (second page), and my response to same, as well as the objections that Giliell raised to which I was responding. Then figure out why you look such a jackass making the post you did.

    Your position on organ donation is misguided and needless in developed nations (as was pointed out by others),

    You mean the ones who pointed out that developed nations like Germany have ridiculously low rates of organ donation, thus leading to there not being enough to go around?

  19. Vatican Black Ops, Latrina Lautus says

    Ichthyic @ 4:
    Maybe I can help? To me, BM is a celebration of the unusual, the extraordinary, and also the ordinary, all of which makes up our strange, ephemeral existence as human beings. Billionaires have the means to experience the extraordinary on a regular basis, so the extraordinary becomes normalized for them. A billionaire has little connection to the mundane, so the context against which they might experience an event like BM isn’t appropriate. It might even be self-defeating, in a way.

    I’ll stop dropping acid now.

  20. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    From above:
    http://www.addictinginfo.org/2015/02/05/just-as-we-suspected-plenty-of-child-prn-found-at-the-vatican/

    Now, you’d think this would be enough for this guy to be UNDER the jail, but no. As always, the Vatican protects its own. The high-ranking Catholic official, despite the disgusting and heinous nature of his crimes, is being protected under house arrest at the Vatican. The only reason for the house arrest is the fact that word got out that he was allowed to roam free after he was quietly whisked away from the Dominican Republic and back to the Catholic city-state by Vatican officials in order to avoid prosecution there.

    This is the action of a rogue state. This is not an isolated occurrence. This is what I’m talking about. The Dominican Republican should issue subpoenas and indictments, and if they continue to refuse to play ball, then escalate it to foreign travel sanctions and asset freezes. We the US as a decent country should cooperate and issue travel sanctions and asset freezes of our own. How do you think the guy got out of the country before being charged? Because the Vatican funded it and orchestrated it.

  21. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    PS:
    Quoting:
    http://www.addictinginfo.org/2015/02/05/just-as-we-suspected-plenty-of-child-prn-found-at-the-vatican/

    This is disgusting, but, as we all know, nothing new from the Catholic Church. While I know that rank-and-file Catholics condemn this behavior, as all decent people do, I must ask you this: how on earth can you sleep at night while you continue to tithe, attend, and otherwise support a criminal organization that has always protected the pedophiles in its ranks, shuttling them from parish to parish so that they can continue to rape children with impunity, and continues to do so? How can you think that such an organization knows anything about being a guide to morals and right living?

  22. Rob Grigjanis says

    Dalillama @208 previous thread:

    Indeed, the specter of organlegging has been trotted out regularly for at least the last 40 years, and yet do you know how many verified cases there have been in that time? Zero. It’s never actually happened.

    This doesn’t count as ‘organlegging’?

    We believe that there has been and continues today to be large scale organ seizures from unwilling Falun Gong practitioners.

    Does this count?

    Maybe you don’t consider these cases to be organlegging, or you don’t think they’re verified. But “It’s never actually happened” seems a stretch.

  23. says

    Rob Grigjanis 30
    No, neither of your examples count, nor do any examples of governments executing people for any reason whatsoever. You see, as I pointed out when EnlightenmentLiberal first brought it up, eliminating the death penalty also eliminates all of the cases you mention, and is something that should be done anyway, regardless of what is or isn’t done with the bodies afterwards.
    Organlegging, or the fear of same, which is the objection Giliell brought up, refers to the practice of private individuals assaulting and/or murdering other private individuals, taking their organs, and selling them on the black market. This has never happened, despite a myriad of grimdark stories, science fictional and otherwise (see the film Dirty Pretty Things for an example of the latter) positing that it is or will inevitably be a problem, which in fact it’s not. Therefore, the actions of the Chinese (or really any other) government are entirely irrelevant to that discussion.

  24. Rob Grigjanis says

    Dalillama @32:

    eliminating the death penalty also eliminates all of the cases you mention

    No it doesn’t. The Falun Gong prisoners were not under sentence of death, and the alleged cartel kidnappings were totally outside the justice system.

  25. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    I’m going to just pull the pin on this thing and drop it here:

    Homo neanderthalensis or Homo sapiens neanderthalensis?

  26. yazikus says

    Horde, I’m hoping you can come to my rescue. I am having a techy issue and I am not a very techy person. I need to get a printer working tomorrow. I am using a Windows XP computer, and I’ve gotten my HP LaserJet 3390 all plugged in and it is asking for the disk. Well, I have no clue where the disc is, so I thought “No problem! I’ll just download whatever I need!”, so I found what I think is the right driver, and HP says to enter this phrase into the Run thing you get by the start button, so I do that and hit okay and the damn thing beeps at me and won’t do anything. Am I feeling cranky and stupid? Yes. I was hoping some of you might be able to help me with this problem.
    So much appreciation in advance.

  27. chigau (違う) says

    yazikus #35
    Nuke it from orbit, just to be sure.

    Sorry.
    Someone else will probably be able to help you.
    My whole computer/printer/whatever system is about 6 years old.
    I dread the day it finally snuffs and I will have some cheery 12-year-old helping me replace it.

  28. says

    yazikus

    I’m guessing you might need the program to interface with the equipment, rather than just the driver. (Vague memories of my sister having similar troubles.) Try this:

    At this page, make sure the ‘Operating systems’ box is set to Windows XP. Then under ‘Software’ in the list, download the software for your region. That should give you everything that would have been on your disc, I think.

  29. Sven DiMilo says

    Sorry, just dematerializing long enough to wave hi to Elwood @#20 (did you try for Chicago tickets?)

    There is no doubt that Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons or whatever interbred successfully, so I’d go with the subspecific option.
    ftr, Coyne agrees.

  30. chigau (違う) says

    Not about anything here…
    Why do people try to make tiny “problems” into a Big Thing?
    Q. OMG,!! There’s no toilet paper!!!
    A. Turn your head 45° left and 45° up. There it is!

  31. chigau (違う) says

    I am getting too old.
    It’s only -15°C and I can’t tolerate a few minutes outside.

  32. yazikus says

    chigau
    Clearly your are having a typo issue. You are not too old. You are too cold. -15 is far too cold for regular humans. Is your heater turned on? My town just had the highest temperature since 1952 today. I was like fucking summer outside. So wrong.

  33. chigau (違う) says

    yazikus
    I’m just wanting to get the garbage to the alley for pick-up tomorrow.
    It’s all of fifty feet.
    I should be able to do it barefoot.

  34. Owlmirror says

    I need to get a printer working tomorrow. I am using a Windows XP computer, and I’ve gotten my HP LaserJet 3390 all plugged in and it is asking for the disk. Well, I have no clue where the disc is, so I thought “No problem! I’ll just download whatever I need!”, so I found what I think is the right driver

    I see that HP offers 9 pages of stuff for Software and Drivers.

    Did you download this one?
    File name:
    lj3050x-309x-PCL6-pnp-win-en.exe [1/1, 33.62M]
    Version60.063.461.42

    Or this?
    File name:
    lj3050x-309x-PS-pnp-win-en.exe [1/1, 33.16M]
    Version60.063.461.42

    Or this?
    lj3050x-309x-PCL5-pd-win-en.exe [1/1, 6.86M]
    Version60.063.461.42

    Or this one?
    File name:
    lj3050x-309x-PS-pd-win-en.exe [1/1, 6.79M]
    Version60.063.461.42

    HP says to enter this phrase into the Run thing you get by the start button

    That doesn’t sound right. The file would download to your Downloads folder/directory, and would thus not be in the path, so that shouldn’t work, I think.

    What browser are you using?

  35. Grewgills says

    @chigau
    What the hell, barefoot in -15o is not reasonable in F or C. @yazikus is right, that is a temperature for penguins not humans. If it gets below 18C I put on socks, which unfortunately means real shoes because I still refuse to wear socks with flip flops.

  36. rq says

    Oh pssssh, 50 ft in -15C, in bare feet?
    You have obviously never experienced the wonders of Latvian sauna culture in mid-winter. (Clue: you have to do it naked, too!)

  37. says

    Dalillama

    You mean the ones who pointed out that developed nations like Germany have ridiculously low rates of organ donation, thus leading to there not being enough to go around?

    Which can be remedied by simply switching from opt in to opt out, without having to go to mandatory.
    BTW, no, the scenario I was referring to was not some cartoon villainish version you are describing. No need for somebody murdering (BTW, there’s the historic precendence of people being murdered to obtain corpses for scientific study) someone or a black market. Just a doctor who decides that they can’t do anything for you anymore and your organs going into the normal stream.
    Or tissue. Tissue donation is a huge business.

  38. Eric says

    Right, my first time here:

    A post on FB: “God is good!”; one of those stupid posts that’s easy to ignore. Do I post Ebola articles and say “not so much” or let it pass?

  39. boygenius says

    Hi Caine! I’m doing well. Been keeping to lurk mode, mostly. My new lampworking hobby is a serious time suck. (And money pit.) It’s been too damn cold to blow glass lately, so I’ve been getting a little more screen time.

    Chas, nope, didn’t try for Chicago. Lack of available vacation time and funds (see above). I also have an inexplicable sense of dread about that show. I hope I’m wrong, but I have misgivings on top of misgivings about how things are apt to go down. You?

  40. yazikus says

    Good Morning Daz! I am a very happy camper having successfully installed that printer. Owlmirror, I saw your suggestions too late, but thank you anyways! You are all awesome.

  41. says

    Rob Grigjanis
    Mea culpa; I misidentified your second link in a forest of tabs. That is indeed a case of organlegging, although not one that is terribly relevant to the discussion at hand. Nor, as I persist in pointing out, are the Falun Gong cases. Government death squads going about killing people the government doesn’t like are a feature of totalitarian governments everywhere, and, like the death penalty, are a thing that should be avoided in functional societies, once again without regard to what is done with the bodies afterwards.
    Giliell

    Just a doctor who decides that they can’t do anything for you anymore and your organs going into the normal stream.

    Which is morally equivalent to murder if there was something they could, in fact, have done for you . If there genuinely wasn’t anything that could be done, then theres’ no problem, because nothing could have been done anyway. And, while opt-out is certainly vastly better than opt-in, I still don’t see any valid reason for it as long as there exist people dying for lack of transplants. Whenever the vat-grown organ research pans out, the whole discussion will be moot, but that could easily be 20 years from now.

  42. chigau (違う) says

    We went curling.
    I have curled before.
    Most recently in about 1973.
    Things have changed.

  43. Acolyte of Sagan says

    I used to curl occasionally, especially when it rained.
    Now I’m bald so it’s not a concern anymore.

  44. Acolyte of Sagan says

    chigau, I’m not sure of the weight but I believe it was all the frantic brushing caused the baldness.

  45. chigau (違う) says

    AoS
    We girls used to be told to brush our hair 100 strokes every night before bed.
    Except on Saturday, when we either washed our hair
    or used washing our hair as an excuse for rejecting a date.
    It was weird back then.

  46. Acolyte of Sagan says

    We boys used to give something 100 strokes at lights out but I don’t recall it being our hair.

    Yes, times were indeed different. Nowadays I can barely be arsed to stroke the bloody dog.

  47. Owlmirror says

    I don’t have the money to burn, nor am I willing to use my real name for this, but I do think it would be funny to have this (libertarian) book dedication read:

    This book is dedicated to the idea that the Invisible Hand gives poor people the finger.

    (I can’t have been the first one to come up with something like that)

    A slightly longer, but less punchy version:

    This book is dedicated to the idea that the Invisible Hand gives everyone the finger, in the long term.

    (to be honest, what the author says on that page implies that the book itself is in fact dedicated to exactly the opposite idea, but why let that stand in the way of sophomoric humour? Oh, well:)

    This book is dedicated to the idea that the Invisible Hand should not give anyone the finger.

    /overthinking

  48. Ice Swimmer (was Nakkustoppeli but forgot the password) says

    rq, do you make angels in the snow while nude/naked and cooling off from the sauna in Latvia?

  49. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Crimson Clupeidae,

    I’m sorry. I hope the cross country moving helps with finding another job.

  50. says

    Crimson Clupeidae:

    Fuck…laid off.

    Moving cross country again. :(

    I fucking hate capitalism.

    I’m so sorry, all my sympathies. I’d hate to find myself having to move again. I hope the job situation and moving go as well as possible.

  51. Crimson Clupeidae says

    Thanks. I’m kinda lucky in that I’ve already got prospects. A lot of the people (150+ in a company of about 1000) have pretty much worked there their whole lives. :(

    Going public makes someone a lot of money, I’m sure, but it really seems to fuck up the actual businesses….

  52. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    How to mention a woman scientist’s bodily attributes without being a sexist douchgabber, a lesson in context:

    First, go to this link.

    Then, search for, “Dr. Rachel S. Herz”.

  53. David Marjanović says

    *scrolling up at random*

    Homo neanderthalensis or Homo sapiens neanderthalensis?

    Let’s just say this is the right place to post this. :-)

    Hybrids were fertile, yes; every Out-of-African carries up to 4% Neandertaler DNA. But whether that matters depends on your species concept! Have you picked one?

    (Search, and go mad from the revelation of The Species Problem.)

    Oh, BTW, the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature doesn’t have any preferences about this. Picking a species concept is an issue of taxonomy ( ~ classification), not of nomenclature, and Principles 1 and 2 explicitly grant what is widely called “taxonomic freedom”. Thus, people are allowed to mean quite different things by the same name.

  54. rq says

    Ice Swimmer @65
    Ideally, yes.

    Crimson Clupeidae
    I’m glad that you have prospects, but still mad on your behalf for being laid off. :( Hope the move is as unproblematical as it is possible for a move to be!

  55. Ice Swimmer (was Nakkustoppeli but forgot the password) says

    Yes, there’s much to be said for going for nice swim in water that’s colder than the freezing point for sweet water, then making an angel (or maybe an octopus…) in the snow and going back to the hot sauna with some snow in your hair. (Not recommended if you have cardiac problems, though.)

    The best kind of snow for this activity is the kind of light and loose snow that comes when it’s cold.

    I double checked myself and found no flippery looking wings, webbed feet, neither feathers nor down on my body and there’s no beak.

  56. rq says

    Ice Swimmer
    What really sucks is when all you have is crusty snow. :(
    I am also not a penguin.

  57. Ogvorbis says

    David @75:

    You still never (unless I missed it (which would not surprise me)) answered my question as to whether you are a lumper or a splitter.

  58. chigau (違う) says

    In Canada, Rehtaeh Parsons (deceased) is back in the news.
    Wikipedia is NOT the best place to look for her.
    I had to look her up because I couldn’t remember which dead raped girl she was.
    I feel a bit ill.

  59. Lofty says

    chigau (違う)

    Can They™ see me?

    Well if “They™” are Samsung, well then, yes, they probably can hear and see everything you do.

  60. says

    For some reason freethoughtblogs wasn’t letting me log in with google or wordpress, it was giving errors. I had to log into freethoughtblogs itself, which meant resetting a password because I couldn’t figure out which password I had here…

  61. says

    I’m in moderation in the If you’re this stupid, could you please stop pestering me? as well. Seems there’s a problem with the akismet filters.

  62. Janine the Jackbooted Emotion Queen says

    Caine, can you e-mail me at 1jan1phar1 at Gmail. I have something I want to share with you.

    I would have e-mailed you but I lost your address when I lost my old account. (Curse Yahoo for making me change my password repeatedly. I forgot after a while.)

    Thank you.

  63. rq says

    Responding to The Other Lance here. See this paragraph, from this article?

    “Based on the brutal nature of this crime, the past anti-religion statements of the alleged perpetrator, the religious attire of two of the victims, and the rising anti-Muslim rhetoric in American society, we urge state and federal law enforcement authorities to quickly address speculation of a possible bias motive in this case,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad.

    Possible racial bias. This does not mean that they were killed solely because they were Muslim. But the fact that they were Muslim may have played into the fact that Hicks decided to shoot them, and should definitely be looked into.
    Also, Saad’s post on the story @119 does nothing but state the facts from the article. What inflation of the situation?
    And honestly, shock value? You should be shocked that three young people can be murdered like that in their own home.
    Anyway. I doubt I will do any more responding to you, as I smell a ‘more proof’ type of troll.

  64. Dhorvath, OM says

    I quit my job. They countered by offering me shares in the company as incentive to my staying. The reason I left is because I am too emotionally invested in a situation that I can’t affect for any protracted period of time. My boss is moribund, why would I want to elevate my involvement to being his partner? Anyways, in typical, life is easy for me, I have landed a new job quickly with an old employer doing my former supervisors job. Yay.

  65. Jackie the social justice WIZZARD!!! says

    guardianeighty,
    Fuck you. Stupid is not ableist. Idiot is not ableist.

    I am disabled. Some of my kids are developmentally delayed/on the spectrum.

    Do not tell me about 101 anything, you derailing, disingenuous ass. If PZ changes the TOS, I will comply. Until then, I will not have people tell me that I am using slurs that insult me and mine. You do not dictate that to me.
    It’s incorrect, it’s rude and it’s fucking stupid.

  66. Jackie the social justice WIZZARD!!! says

    I remember when my husband was a QMRP they were just moving away from using MR to describe the people he provided care for. His facility began to use the term “individual” to refer to their clients. Guess how fast the word “individual” became an insult some people used behind the clients backs?

    in-duh-vidual

    To this day when people call someone else an “individual”, I think of that. It isn’t a good memory.

    That does not make “individual” a slur.

  67. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Three days without the Internets.
    Whatever will I do?

    Hmmm? Rum. Lots of Rum.

  68. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I await if Nerd and others want to continue this silly discussion – silly because apparently no one reads a damn thing I actually write.

  69. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Nerd
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2015/02/13/my-darwin-day-debate-in-fargo/comment-page-1/#comment-912941

    If you can’t provide any evidence for imaginary deities/creators, or that Magick exits, they must be ZERO in any Bayesian equation/calculation. DUH. What part of reality don’t you understand?

    I understand that you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.

    Richard Carrier is someone who knows what they’re talking about. I suggest you read this
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/5481
    and his book Proving History. Pick up a book math textbook too.

    If your prior probability of a hypothesis was ever actually zero, then it necessarily follows by the math that no amount of future evidence can change your mind. That’s what a zero prior means.

    To view it in another way, we never have absolute 100% confidence of any belief. (100% confidence is just the same thing as 0% confidence of the negative.) For practically all of our beliefs, there is a chance that we are wrong, and that some future evidence can change our mind. You never have 100% or 0% confidence of non-trivial logically-consistent hypotheses in Bayesian reasoning.

    For example, right now I have a very very high high degree of confidence (ex: 99.9999% but not 100%) that monkeys will not fly out of my ass in the next 5 minutes. However, my confidence is not 100%. There is a very, very slim epistemic-chance that monkeys will fly out of my ass. If and when I am presented with the evidence (experience) of that happening, then I will take this new evidence and my priors, and adjust my beliefs accordingly and form new priors.

    So, when you write:

    If you can’t provide any evidence for imaginary deities/creators, or that Magick exits, they must be ZERO in any Bayesian equation/calculation. DUH. What part of reality don’t you understand?

    This is ludicrously wrong, and shows a complete and total ignorance of Bayesian reason, and also rationality and skepticism itself. Are you really embracing the position that a lack of evidence for gods and magic necessarily leads to the 100% absolute confidence conclusion that they don’t exist? That’s what a zero number here means.

    PS: Do we at least agree that I gave a link to a peer reviewed paper (the Boudry paper) in my first post in the other thread? Do we agree that you Nerd did not operate in good faith and/or were dishonest in the other thread when you asked for such “evidence” because I had already provided it? Have you read the Boudry paper yet? Or was your request for a peer reviewed paper merely an empty boast?

  70. Sastra says

    Enlightenment Liberal #107 wrote:

    I await if Nerd and others want to continue this silly discussion – silly because apparently no one reads a damn thing I actually write.

    Well, I was reading and was going to join in and am late to the party on the other thread. If I understand you correctly, you’re arguing that the supernatural (per Carrier et al) is not in principle beyond discovery or examination through science, and that naturalism is therefore a well-supported theory and not a matter of faith or an unfalsifiable metaphysics. I agree.

    The argument here is coming down to semantics, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. I prefer the ‘metaphysical’ definition of supernatural because it deals with content and doesn’t circle endlessly around arbitrary divisions between what’s in and what’s not in nature. I know far too many New Agers who in a burst of enthusiasm for Nature will insist that God and spirit and souls and esp and ghosts and magic energy are all perfectly natural (ie good) and now where the hell are we? In search of a new term for no damn reason.

    “Magic” even in traditional definitions follows regularities and rules (law of contamination; law of similars, etc. etc.) and would be at least partially measurable, codifiable, describable in principle. We don’t believe in magic because there’s no evidence for it, not because there could not be any evidence for it by semantic fiat..

  71. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Sastra
    ~nods~
    Yep. Large agreement.

    PS: I would note that this point is not just some subtle pedantics or semantics which doesn’t matter. It matters hugely. When I engage with creationists and even non-creationist theists, very often I have to spend a great amount of time and effort to unteach them the bullshit that Boudry calls intrinsic methodological naturalism. Unteaching this bullshit is exceptionally difficult when IMN is the official position of most actual legitimate scientists. Unteaching this bullshit is especially difficult when lots of groups on the atheist / secular side embrace this bullshit, such as the National Center for Science Education with Eugenie Scott. It is a huge impediment in my conversations, and it is a huge impediment to teaching proper science and to converting people away from religious belief.

    PPS: Again, if anyone wants a link to the Boudry paper:
    >How not to attack Intelligent Design Creationism: Philosophical misconceptions about Methodological Naturalism
    >Maarten Boudry, Stefaan Blancke, Johan Braeckman
    https://sites.google.com/site/maartenboudry/teksten-1/methodological-naturalism

  72. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    EL, where is your third party evidence for Magick or the Stupornatural having anything other than a ZERO chance of happening? Until you show that evidence that neither is zero, neither exists. That is why skepticism/science is making strides, and philosophy is stuck in the rut.

  73. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    EL, is that philosophical, or SCIENTIFIC? One can and will be dismissed, they other not.

  74. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Nerd

    EL, where is your third party evidence for Magick or the Stupornatural having anything other than a ZERO chance of happening?

    If by “chance” you mean “epistemically possible”, and if by “third party evidence” you mean citations of scientists, PhD historians, and peer reviewed papers which argue that the epistemic possibility is non-zero, then this, again, for the umpteenth time:

    The peer reviewed Boudry paper, which argues that it is epistemically possible that magic and the supernatural exist, and could be observed and measured.
    https://sites.google.com/site/maartenboudry/teksten-1/methodological-naturalism

    PZ Myers in this blog comment post:
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2015/02/13/my-darwin-day-debate-in-fargo/comment-page-1/#comment-912946

    Also, I’ve read the Boudry paper. I agree with the Boudry paper. It’s irrelevant what we’re calling “supernatural” in this case.

    Jerry Coyne in this blog post:
    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/methodological-naturalism-does-it-exclude-the-supernatural/

    Over the past week or so we’ve had a bit of to-and-fro about whether there is any evidence that could in principle count as supporting the existence of gods. My answer of “yes” seems to be a minority view, but it’s true in the sense that yes, I would indeed believe—provisionally—in gods or supernatural forces if I encountered certain types of evidence.

    Richard Carrier and his peer reviewed book “Proving History”.

  75. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Nerd
    Also, I must ask again:

    Do you agree that I gave a link to a peer reviewed paper, the Boudry paper, in the first post of mine in the other thread?

    Do we agree that you were dishonest or acting in bad faith in the other thread when you asked for a peer reviewed citation when I had already provided one?

    Have you read the Boudry paper yet? Or was your request of a peer reviewed paper merely an empty boast?

  76. Sastra says

    Nerd of Redhead #112 wrote:

    EL, where is your third party evidence for Magick or the Stupornatural having anything other than a ZERO chance of happening?

    If magic/the supernatural have a 0% chance of being true, then you are using a purely philosophical argument against the existence of the supernatural.

    If magic/the supernatural is possible in principle but dismissed due to lack of evidence, then you are using a scientific argument.

    Do you prefer to use science or philosophy?

  77. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    If magic/the supernatural is possible in principle but dismissed due to lack of evidence, then you are using a scientific argument.

    Do you prefer to use science or philosophy?

    *snicker*, being a professional scientist, there is no evidence, which is what I am trying to get through to EL. No evidence, no possibility, unless, like the Higg’s boson, there is a theoretical framework that has been shown to be reliable. Even then, It wasn’t shown to exist until CERN published their work to 5 sigma on two detectors. QED.

    Now, what is the proven theoretical framework of Magick and the Stupornatural? I see nothink! (quote from Sgt. Schultz in Hogan’s Heros), except I’m really looking. Now point, not talk.

  78. Sastra says

    No evidence, no possibility…

    That’s obviously wrong. There are many things which we only learned about when the evidence became available. But they existed before we knew about them. Otherwise, it seems like you’re going full Deepak Chopra and arguing that nothing exists — including evidence — until we become aware of it.

    No evidence, no justification. Yes. Which I think you and Enlightenment Liberal and I all agree on. Because of science. Science has something to say about the supernatural. It says “not likely.”

    I’m not sure if there’s an actual argument here, or if we’ve all just been agreeing but talking at cross purposes.

  79. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Nerd

    *snicker*, being a professional scientist, there is no evidence, which is what I am trying to get through to EL.

    Rich, coming from you asshole. I stated there is no evidence in my first post, and that on the basis of the available evidence (lack of expected evidence is itself evidence) I have a strong belief that magic does not exist. I even reminded you that I expressly stated these things in a second post directed towards you.

    You are a dishonest shit. As always. I’ve come to expect this of you, but it pisses me off every time. Yet you seem like a star around here. Hell if I know why.

    Now, what is the proven theoretical framework of Magick and the Stupornatural? I see nothink! (quote from Sgt. Schultz in Hogan’s Heros), except I’m really looking. Now point, not talk.

    You’re having a conversation with yourself. You are strawmanning. I have never claimed to have a “proven theoretical framework” for magic and the supernatural. What are you talking about? I have no intention of attempting to give such a thing, nor have I claimed to have such a thing.

    Go read a book. I suggest the peer reviewed book Proving History by Dr. Richard Carrier.

    PS: Nerd, have you ever played FFXI on Titan server? You remind me of someone. In a bad way.

  80. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Owlmirror
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2015/02/13/my-darwin-day-debate-in-fargo/comment-page-1/#comment-912962
    I don’t know. I have the nagging suspicion that one might able to rigorously define “materialism” in a way that allows for the super-material, but also in such a way that all human minds are the result of the material processes of our brains. Then, one could simply define “naturalism” as “materialism” and “supernaturalism” as “super-materialism”.

    There might be other minds, such as the minds of gods and angels, which are not the result of material processes, but the human mind is the result of material processes. It’s sort of like The Matrix hypothesis or the brain in a vat hypothesis.

    My preferred solution is to say that “natural” and “supernatural” are underspecified, and there is no real need to define the terms because I don’t see a use for them. I don’t see the need to partition the world into two categories with the labels “natural” and “supernatural”. These two labels only serve to confuse us, and to create a false double standard in epistemology.

    Pardon my rambling.

  81. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @We are Plethora, Protectors of the Orb of Tranquility ~+~ Seated on the Throne of Fantasia
    Exactly right.

  82. Owlmirror says

    there is no evidence, which is what I am trying to get through to EL.

    EL agrees that there is no evidence. EL has only been arguing that the probability of there being such evidence cannot be declared by fiat to be zero, a priori.

    You’ve heard of Randi’s Million Dollar Challenge, right? What’s the point of having that if what they are supposed to be testing is declared to be impossible beforehand?

  83. says

    [link]

    I have the nagging suspicion that one might able to rigorously define “materialism” in a way that allows for the super-material, but also in such a way that all human minds are the result of the material processes of our brains. Then, one could simply define “naturalism” as “materialism” and “supernaturalism” as “super-materialism”.

    Umm. This feels to me like mere rewording. What would, or could, ‘immaterial’ consist of?

  84. Owlmirror says

    EL@121:

    I don’t know. I have the nagging suspicion that one might able to rigorously define “materialism” in a way that allows for the super-material, but also in such a way that all human minds are the result of the material processes of our brains. Then, one could simply define “naturalism” as “materialism” and “supernaturalism” as “super-materialism”.
     
    There might be other minds, such as the minds of gods and angels, which are not the result of material processes, but the human mind is the result of material processes. It’s sort of like The Matrix hypothesis or the brain in a vat hypothesis.

    I thought that Carrier was careful enough in his definition that the above scenario would be included as a supernatural possibility. From his essay, with added emphasis:

    If [naturalism] is true, then all minds, and all the contents and powers and effects of minds, are entirely caused by natural [i.e. fundamentally nonmental] phenomena. But if naturalism is false, then some minds, or some of the contents or powers or effects of minds, are causally independent of nature. In other words, such things would then be partly or wholly caused by themselves, or exist or operate directly or fundamentally on their own.

    While mental substance dualism is one type of supernatural scenario by his definition, the scenario of human minds being natural (reducible to the nonmental) but divine or angelic minds being supernatural (irreducibly mental) is a different type of supernatural scenario.

  85. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Daz
    @Owlmirror
    Yea, nevermind. That’s why I phrased it as “nagging suspicion”. I haven’t taken the time to work through it fully myself.

  86. says

    EnlightenmentLiberal,
    Fair enough, in that case please accept our apologies for referring to your “unevidenced fuckwittery” earlier.

    Nerd of Readhead, Dances OM Trolls,
    This seems to be a case where you and EnlightenmentLiberal are talking past each other but are really in agreement. Sometimes that happens when two powerful intellects collide, especially with you approaching this as a professional scientist and EL more as a philosopher.

  87. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Actually, let me try this. From the Boudry paper,

    As an interesting analogy, consider the story Non Serviam by Stanislaw Lem, in which computer scientists have managed to create conscious life forms in an artificial mathematical environment whose properties are fundamentally different from the three space dimensions and single time dimension of their creator’s world (Lem 1999, 167-196). While the programmer is observing and monitoring the actions and behaviour of these ‘personoids’, he discovers that the creatures start to speculate about their own origins and the possible existence of a Creator. Throughout the story, the ‘supernatural’ creator remains completely imperceptible for the personoids themselves, but this is only because the programmer has decided not to reveal his existence to them, and to strictly adhere to the principal of non-intervention (he does this for ethical reasons). If he chose to do so, however, the programmer could easily reveal his own existence to his creatures.

    It might be a reasonable use of language to use “material” and “natural” to refer to the stuff in our temporal-spatial world of matter and energy, and to use “supernatural” to refer to the stuff in the outside world of the creator. With string theory, we can imagine different ways that physics could be, and then there’s all the different ways physics could be outside of string theory. It might be fair to describe on possible outer world as composed of some non-mental substance, just like the individual atoms in our brain is some non-mental substance. The creator in this scenario would be composed of some non-mental substance just like us, and this non-mental substance when it comes together in the right arrangement might produce the mind of the creator.

    In a sense, we’re defining “natural” according to the physics of our local big bang and “supernatural” as any stuff outside of our local big bang / multiverse, which includes hypothetical agents running the computer simulation we find ourselves in, e.g. The Matrix.

    I can see how such a creature might have a mind which is the result of non-mental substances just like our own mind, but which also exists in a world which is so different from our own that words like “material”, and even “time and space” have no meaning or a radically changed meaning.

    Meh, just more rambling. Apologies if I made any mistakes or missed anything obvious.

  88. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @We are Plethora, Protectors of the Orb of Tranquility ~+~ Seated on the Throne of Fantasia
    Currently, I refuse to accept any of the blame. I have been exceedingly clear from the beginning. First post:
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2015/02/13/my-darwin-day-debate-in-fargo/comment-page-1/#comment-912859
    I could not have been more clear. I have provided peer reviewed citations from my very first post. Nerd has been consistently an asshat, asking for peer reviewed citations when they have already been given, insinuating that I had no citations, accusing me of positions which just posts earlier I expressly denied, and so forth. The fault lies entirely with Nerd. Nerd needs to pull their head out of their ass.

    Both you and Nerd need to learn to read.

  89. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I could not have been more clear. I have provided peer reviewed citations from my very first post. Nerd has been consistently an asshat, asking for peer reviewed citations when they have already been given, insinuating that I had no citations, accusing me of positions which just posts earlier I expressly denied, and so forth. The fault lies entirely with Nerd. Nerd needs to pull their head out of their ass.

    Both you and Nerd need to learn to read.

    And you could learn how not to be a pompous asshole who doesn’t acknowledge reality in the form of science. You don’t help your self with your attitude that you are great, and we are not because we don’t agree with you. I see you as nothing but a loudmouth asshole who couldn’t pass an inspection by a government agency. Which I can do with ease, because, if it I evidence my claim, I don’t make it. YOU DO. Stop that.

  90. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    And now Nerd has been reduced to tone trolling rather than engaging the substance of the arguments and/or admit any error. I think I get to declare intellectual and moral victory now.
    ~happy dance~

  91. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Dang, second last sentence in #130

    Which I can do with ease, because, if it can’t evidence my claim, I don’t make it.

    YOU DO. Stop that, and criticism of you will diminish. You don’t understand evidence, and how it effects your arguments. You only pretend you do.

  92. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I think I get to declare intellectual and moral victory now.
    ~happy dance~

    Only in your delusional dreams–of which you have many;

  93. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Nerd
    Do you agree that I provided a peer reviewed citation of my position in my first post?

    Do you agree that you acted in bad faith when you later repeatedly asked for a citation, and made fun of me and derided me for not providing a peer reviewed citation?

    Do you agree that I several times quite explicitly stated that there is no such thing as magic, and that there is no evidence of magic?

    Do you agree that you continued to pretend that I said there is evidence of magic, in spite of many previous times where I clearly said that there is no evidence of magic?

    Do you agree that I, and you, have an estimated non-zero epistemic chance of magic being real, in the Bayesian sense? Do you agree that you were earlier in error? Do you agree that you pretended to know what you were talking about w.r.t. Bayesian reasoning, but that you don’t know the first thing about it?

    Do you agree you have been an unpleasant and dishonest jackass since the first thing you said to me in this particular discussion? Can you agree to shape up and not be dishonest in the future?

  94. consciousness razor says

    My preferred solution is to say that “natural” and “supernatural” are underspecified, and there is no real need to define the terms because I don’t see a use for them. I don’t see the need to partition the world into two categories with the labels “natural” and “supernatural”.

    I don’t understand. You would use them any time you’re evaluating evidence for their existence. If you didn’t have at least a basic idea to work with, you’d be in a very different place than you are.

    Consider this: suppose I told you that I don’t believe tacos exist. People use the word around me, but in fact I have never encountered them myself and strongly suspect that the people are making it all up for some odd reason. Also, I’m telling you not just that I have no experience of it (or merely lack the evidence myself so that I can’t personally make a determination either way), but that that there is no empirical evidence for them whatsoever because they don’t in fact exist. What’s more, I say that the vast history of science and natural philosophy, from at least the Classical era (as well as other traditions around the world I might add) to the most current thought right now this very minute, all of it, strongly supports my view that tacos don’t exist. So I’m quite certain about it. Indeed, so are many other people, for much the same reason. That’s because the topic has been studied extensively and exhaustively, for thousands of years in cultures all over the world, debated, revised and rerevised, different sorts of tacos have allegedly split and joined and mixed together and put in every conceivable combination or juxtaposition. Ideas about tacos have caused wars and schisms and protests and political parties and so on, etc. You know the basic story — except it’s about tacos this time, of course.

    But then, after it’s totally clear to you what the deal is — that I’m really fucking certain about all of this, and it seems even to you that what I’ve claimed about my evidence would be more than sufficient to support my case if what I’m saying about the evidence is true — that’s when I tell you I think I have no idea what the fuck tacos are, and neither does anybody else. I also say not only that knowing what the fuck tacos are is unnecessary, but that “I don’t see a use” for having an idea of what a taco is.

    You would have to conclude I’m full of shit about something, because that would be pretty fucking mind-boggling. Maybe I’m being too fussy about the word and expecting a representation like that to somehow be the thing itself, or to not leave out any possible details at all, so that anything short of “the real thing” just won’t meet my absurdly high expectations. Whenever the word is mentioned, I have to be able to taste the taco in my mouth and be certain that nothing else, conceivable or not, could qualify as a taco except this one here, which just doesn’t “feel” like enough somehow. But whatever the reason for it is, to say I have no fucking clue what it means and don’t need to, considering the context…. that’s just fucking ridiculous.

    These two labels only serve to confuse us, and to create a false double standard in epistemology.

    This I also don’t understand. The labels, if they’re going refer to anything useful and non-confusing, are not epistemic in the first place. That’s the one big substantive thing people on the other side of your argument don’t seem to get. They’re metaphysical categories (i.e., different sorts of stuff), one of which doesn’t exist. What we do about them, how we observe/test/think/explain/calculate/represent/blah/blah/blah, has no effect on that at all.

  95. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    EL, I agree with you no nothing. I’m too tired to go back an see what you fucked up, but if you think magic, or any god is supported by anything other than fuckwittery on your part, you are one sorry person who is not to be listened to. Because with science, it is put up or shut the fuck up. You either show that magick/god/creator exists, or you have no legitimate argument. Which is why in Dover v. Kitzmiller, the creationists lost big time. They couldn’t put up, and they couldn’t/wouldn’t shut up, Just like you. Go away. I’m going to bed.

  96. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @woozy
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2015/02/13/my-darwin-day-debate-in-fargo/comment-page-1/#comment-912985

    The post-death appearances of Jesus in not naturally possible and they know it.

    Do you claim to know that the post-death appearances of Jesus did not happen to absolute 100% confidence, and do you claim that you cannot be wrong about this and that no amount of future evidence might change your mind? If you answer yes, then you are a fool, and no skeptic.

    @woozy

    No. It is *not* scientific because it does not hypothesize *anything*. It merely says “origins didn’t happen by F occurring, and therefore G did it” but it never defines what G *is* and how didding it works.

    Not all garage dragons are invisible, incorporeal, and heatless. Some garage dragons are just normal garage dragons.

    Not all creationists posit unfalsifiable models. Some creationists argue that all of the evidence around us does point to a 6,000 year old Earth, including radiometric decay, tree rings, etc. This is a testable claim. It’s also false. It has been falsified.

    Quoting the Boudry paper:

    However, we have to be careful not to misconstrue the immunizing strategies and ad hoc amendments of creationists as intrinsic problems with supernatural claims. It is true that IDC proponents are guilty of immunization strategies, but as far as we can see, this unwillingness to take empirical risks is just an indication of the dismal state of their research programme. After all, resorting to immunization strategies is a typical feature of pseudo-science, supernatural or otherwise (Boudry and Braeckman 2010).

    @woozy

    But this, nor anything like this, is not what they claim. They claim it wasn’t evolution and cosmology or anything natural and thus it was something different and supernatural but they never define what it actually is. That is *not* scientific.

    This reminds me of a common error that I see from the scientifically literate, but not the philosophically literate. I don’t know if you are making the error, but let me explain the error and why it’s wrong.

    My go-to definition of causation is Hume.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constant_conjunction
    You know those cute shirts which say that correlation doesn’t show causation? There is some truth to the statement, but it’s not entirely true. In fact, I find that many people take that statement to mean something which is clearly false. Showing correlation can show causation, when combined with legitimate attempts at controlling for possible confounding variables and falsification (e.g. control and test groups). That’s all there is to a cliche controlled experiment in a lab. That’s Hume’s idea of constant conjunction.

    It is a common misconception that you need to show mechanism to show causation. Our modern practice of science has made great strides using a reductionist approach, whereby they explain the behavior of one thing in one conceptual model according to the mechanisms of another conceptual model. However, this approach of turtles upon turtles cannot continue forever. Eventually, you will run into the bottom of the explanatory stack. Currently, this bottom is modern physics, quantum theory, the standard model, relativity, etc. We know that matter attracts other matter – or that matter bends spacetime if you want to use that model – but no one has a mechanism why or how. We don’t know how or why gravity works. We only know that gravity does work, based on the available evidence, and we have very precise models describing what gravity does.

    Richard Feynman
    Explaining magnets for a TV interview
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MO0r930Sn_8

    Paraphrasing Feynman in the above video: “I cannot explain gravity to you in terms of something you’re more familiar with, because we do not understand it in terms of something you’re more familiar with.”

    To bring this back, creationists don’t need to say what it is in the sense of explaining its substance and internal mechanisms. That’s a mistake. They only need to explain what it does (in terms of observables). That’s the only thing you need for science. Details about substance and internal mechanism are great, but not required. You only need an accurate, predictive model of future sensory experience for it to count as true science. The creationist could say that the world is 6000 years old, and trees came before stars (as Genesis says), etc. That is a predictive model. It is a failed predictive model. It has been falsified. It might have been otherwise, and had it been otherwise, we would call it the Genesis theory of creation. It would be a science like any other.

  97. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @consciousness razor

    I don’t understand. You would use them any time you’re evaluating evidence for their existence. If you didn’t have at least a basic idea to work with, you’d be in a very different place than you are.

    I don’t need to answer that question. I don’t need to evaluate evidence to determine if the “natural” exists or if the “supernatural” exists. They’re just not interesting questions.

    Tacos? The existing of tacos is an interesting question. I might want to eat one. The existence of Jesus who can raise the dead is another interesting question, but I don’t have to determine if Jesus was “natural” or “supernatural” to answer the question “Did Jesus exist and raise people from the dead?”.

    I’m not quite sure what you’re trying to get at. I think that your argument rests on the assumption that there has been a clear, singular, and consistent usage of the word “supernatural” from “at least the Classical era”. I don’t think that’s true. I think words like “supernatural”, “spiritual”, “transcendent”, are hokey and have never had consistent or clear usages. Whereas, the word “tacos” has a pretty clear usage.

    Again, I’m sorry if I’m not getting your point. I’m pretty sure I’m not.

    This I also don’t understand. The labels, if they’re going refer to anything useful and non-confusing, are not epistemic in the first place. That’s the one big substantive thing people on the other side of your argument don’t seem to get. They’re metaphysical categories (i.e., different sorts of stuff), one of which doesn’t exist. What we do about them, how we observe/test/think/explain/calculate/represent/blah/blah/blah, has no effect on that at all.

    Let me betray my philosophical naivete.

    First, a definition from wikipedia:
    “Metaphysics is a traditional branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world that encompasses it”

    I’m a positivist of sorts. I think that questions of the fundamental nature of reality are not useful. In the olden language of logical positivists, questions about the fundamental nature of reality are not cognitively meaningful. It’s impossible to devise any experiment that might shed light on the fundamental nature of reality, and thus we will remain forever completely ignorant about the fundamental nature of reality.

    Words don’t have intrinsic meaning. They have usages. The meaning of words is by consensus. If someone wants to use the words “natural” and “supernatural” to refer to the fundamental nature of reality instead of describing a discoverable dichotomy of things in our shared observable reality, then I stop caring. It’s not a discussion which I think has any value whatsoever. It’s mental masturbation at its finest.

    Now, if I understand you correctly, and I think chances are high that I don’t, I think that many religious people use the word “supernatural” in the sense of a discoverable dichotomy of our shared observable reality. They’re talking about an observable difference. If I understand the terms right, that means an epistemic difference. When someone like Eugenie Scott says that science is of no use to learn about supernatural things, she is making an epistemological claim. Right?

  98. consciousness razor says

    You either show that magick/god/creator exists, or you have no legitimate argument.

    I suppose that means you don’t have a legitimate argument, Nerd. After all, you haven’t shown “that magick/god/creator exists” either.

    Oh, what’s that you say? “It’s irrelevant and boring and extremely fucking annoying, because he wasn’t claiming so in the first place, if I would just fucking bother to read or else shut the fuck up”?

    Au contraire. Nerd clearly was. I think what I’ll do from now on is suggest that he’s a god-botherer, over and over, no matter what he or anybody else says, until a person’s head explodes. Then I will win.

  99. consciousness razor says

    I’m a positivist of sorts.

    Well, that just about says it all. It’s too bad for you that there’s no evidence to support positivism, or to phrase it as you did, it’s “impossible to devise any experiment that might shed light on whether” positivism is true. Or useful. Or meaningful.

    When someone like Eugenie Scott says that science is of no use to learn about supernatural things, she is making an epistemological claim. Right?

    I was under the impression that you thought that sort of claim was confused, bad for science/education/policy, a transparent and condescending form of accommodationism, and so forth.

    Maybe we really are on completely different sides of the fence. But you say you don’t want to know (or think it means nothing to talk about) what we “really are,” so let’s just hide that away safely inside our little black box and only speak to each other in Bullshitese.

  100. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @consciousness razor

    Well, that just about says it all. It’s too bad for you that there’s no evidence to support positivism, or to phrase it as you did, it’s “impossible to devise any experiment that might shed light on whether” positivism is true. Or useful. Or meaningful.

    Oh come on. That’s just as stupid as when your average theist says that skepticism is self-refuting. My answer is the same.

    This potentially gets us back to an earlier discussion I think we were having. I’m a presuppositionalist. I argue that presuppositionalism is the right answer to the regress argument, e.g. the Münchhausen trilemma. Some of my presuppositions are:

    Science: I can and should use reason, logic, evidence, science, etc., to learn about the world around me.

    Everything Is Not Made For Me: I am not the center of the universe, and thus these other humans have minds like mine.

    Skepticism: I should not hold any beliefs with X level of confidence without sufficient justification, except for my starting presuppositions.

    Scientism: The only acceptable way to learn about our shared material reality (or shared super-material reality) is reason, logic, evidence, science, etc. (Of course, moral truths, mathematical truths, etc., are not bound by this rule.)

    Offhand, I believe a consequence of these starting positions is that it is completely impossible to ever learn anything about ultimate reality, and it is a waste of time to try. Thus, it may be meaningful in some sense to talk about what ultimate reality may be, but it is a waste of time to do so (apart from any enjoyment you might have from wasting time), and anyone making claims about particular properties of any ultimate reality is completely unjustified in their claims.

    EL:When someone like Eugenie Scott says that science is of no use to learn about supernatural things, she is making an epistemological claim. Right?

    CS: I was under the impression that you thought that sort of claim was confused, bad for science/education/policy, a transparent and condescending form of accommodationism, and so forth.

    Again, I think this is because of a confusion over definitions. I don’t recognize an obvious right definition for “supernatural”. I don’t recognize whether it’s a metaphysics term

    I happen to think that the terms aren’t that useful, largely because of the confusion and lack of a single consistent definition. (Even in this conversation, I’m not sure what definition(s) are in use.)

    However, I can see that many people, Eugenie included, understand that string of English words to mean that science has nothing to say about the truths of particular religious claims, which is bullshit.

  101. consciousness razor says

    I’m a presuppositionalist.

    I could’ve guessed. But since you say so, I’ll have to remember that when I need something to laugh about.

    I argue that presuppositionalism is the right answer to [bleh]

    Errrr… why bother? Unfortunately, you’re too late anyway, since I presupposed that presuppositionalism is the wrong answer. It’s a very powerful incantation, with +7 vs. bullshitters (and lizard-people for some reason), so you really don’t stand a chance. Maybe next time.

    Putting that aside, my sincerest condolences, for the loss of any remaining credibility you may have had.

  102. says

    consciousness razor @144,

    We may be totally off base here and don’t want to put words in the mouth of another, but it seems that what EnlightenmentLiberal is describing could be called axioms or basal assumptions as opposed to presuppositions. In other words these are things that EL considers to be unproveable even in principle but they are presupposed or taken to be true because they are useful in understanding and navigating the world. (EL please correct us if this is incorrect)

    Could you clarify what is laughable here because we are not seeing it? Is it the general concept of presuppositions, or is it the specific list of presuppositions mentioned @143? Not being any sort of philosophy expert, we’re having trouble seeing the problem here and would greatly appreciate if you would elaborate.

  103. says

    WTF

    I’m really concerned about dinosaurs, and I think something needs to be done. The science behind them is pretty flimsy, and I for one do not want my children being taught lies. Did you know that nobody had even heard of dinosaurs before the 1800s, when they were invented by curio-hungry Victorians?

    Charles Darwin’s later theory of evolution entirely disproved dinosaurs, yet the dinosaur lie was twisted and adapted to try to make it fit. Any proper look at the facts will reveal that dinosaurs simply never existed.

  104. Owlmirror says

    I had the idea to do something similar in response (but I am too lazy to flesh it out or post it there):

    “Outer Space is a lie fabricated by atheist astronomers to make children believe in NOTHING!!!”

  105. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @We are Plethora, Protectors of the Orb of Tranquility ~+~ Seated on the Throne of Fantasia

    Apology accepted, and I’m sorry myself for being gruff with you.

    Yes, I understand “presupposition” to mean the same thing as “axiom”.

    I also don’t understand consciousness razor’s position. It’s my understanding that the axiomatic approach aka the presuppositional approach to belief, knowledge, and epistemology is a pretty standard position in modern philosophy.

  106. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Finally had time to go back and look at EL’s remarks. He is correct in that he never advocated magic. My apologies. And it ends there. The term magic is used mockingly to refer for the need for “poof”, the sudden out of nowhere appearance of something new, with is what creationism or design require.

    Peer reviewed philosophical literature is not peer reviewed scientific literature. Philosophy need not be present in scientific arguments, but it is so general (like a deity), that it can fall under that wide definition. Funny about the abstract to the Boudry paper. It advocates sticking to a strict scientific position, which is what Amphiox and myself was doing.

    What I saw, was folks were gearing up for the usual fun and games with creobot/IDiot, when EL stomped in either for what he considered was a teaching moment, or that he didn’t like what we were doing, never mind it has a proven track record. Hence his remarks weren’t making sense. There may have been a point, but it was lost due to the inability to explain subtle philosophical techniques and definitions to people who see philosophy as something to avoid in this type of argument. Why? Philosophy lets people get away with “you haven’t disproven my god”, and other attempts to make us prove negatives. Which is why we don’t argue from pure philosophy.

    Skeptics and scientists use two tools in the philosophical toolbox to make these arguments more manageable. One is the Null Hypothesis, which if used right, makes sure the burden of evidence falls where is should, on those proving a positive claim, compared for the need to disprove a negative. In these arguments, one null hypothesis is that evolution is right until refuted by scientific evidence, and another, is that any deity/creator/designer doesn’t exist until it is evidenced to exist with physical evidence. This also mean that Basyesian statistics can’t come into play as the chance for a deity/creator/designer existing without evidence is zero.

    Another tool is parsimony. This shows that any train of thought that goes from a to c with god in it, can have god removed, be simpler, and have the same net effect. It is a tool used extensively by practicing scientists, although it appears some philosophers don’t like it. Que sera, sera..

    But EL #92 DDFargo thread had this to say on the subject:

    Because a Frequentist approach to epistemology is bullshit. Parsimony and the null hypothesis are also bullshit approaches to epistemology. Bayesian reasoning is the correct answer.

    Without showing his tool is the proper one. It can’t work if the possibility of a deity is ZERO, which is without conclusive physical evidence. But what I don’t get, is why are we under attack, and not Didgeman?

    So here we have EL claiming we aren’t arguing a proper manner, but he hasn’t shown what is proper, by actually arguing with Didgeman using his proper techniques.

    This is typical of tone trolls. We’re doing it wrong, but when pressed, they can’t show they are right, but they keep complaining about us.

    EL, you don’t think we argue properly? Then you demonstrate your own skills, and show us with that evidence that we are wrong by getting Didgeman to sign up as an evolution believing atheist on the spot. We both know that won’t happen. In any case, I will keep using the null hypothesis and parsimony, and I don’t give a shit about why you think they are wrong. They work. Like science.

    Meanwhile, quit bothering us who have been at this for years, and argue with the godbots/creobots/IDbots like Didgeman.

  107. David Marjanović says

    Nerd of Redhead!

    Here are a few facts, all of which are obvious from the Darwin Day debate thread without any recourse to earlier threads where EnlightmentLiberal has commented:

    – EL is not a creationist.
    – EL is not a religious believer.
    – EL has not claimed that magick or the stupornatural exist. In fact, they’ve claimed the opposite.
    – EL has talked about Dungeons and Fucking Dragons. D&D is a game in which something called magic exists (an interesting discussion then started about whether that should really be called magic); EL used it as a hypothetical example, a thought experiment, in their attempt to define the stupornatural so we could more easily talk about it.

    Has this finally made it through your osteosclerotic skull?

    For something like seven years now I’ve been telling you – only once every few months on average, because it’s so boring – to read comments for understanding, not for trigger words. Not only do you have a long history of missing even the most blatant satire and believing it’s serious, you also have a long history of taking your favorite words completely out of context and unloading your boilerplate on whoever happened to write them. Seriously, if you weren’t in the [Lounge], I’d long have concluded that you’re a chatbot created by an intelligent designer who wanted to troll creationists and maybe also everyone else; unlike the bit about osteosclerosis, this is not hyperbole.

    *deep breath*

    ░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░

    That’s an interesting discussion that’s unfolding here. I’m very much not a presuppositionalist, but I’m interested in seeing how far I can really take this, so I hope I’ll be able to tackle the axioms in comment 143 tomorrow – well, today, because it’s a quarter to 2 AM over here already. Anyway, I think those axioms may lead straight back to our sort of ongoing discussion about science theory! That way I might finally get to that. :-)

  108. David Marjanović says

    Oops. That was bad timing on my part.

    Anyway, I forgot to mention that it is in fact physically possible that monkeys will fly out of EL’s ass in the next 5 minutes – according to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Relation, which also hints at the probability of such an event being ridiculously low.

  109. says

    Owlmirror #149:

    “Outer Space is a lie fabricated by atheist astronomers to make children believe in NOTHING!!!”

    Well, I remember James Burke claiming that part of the Catholic Church’s objection to the concept of the vacuum was—along with the fact that Aristotle said it can’t exist—that it implies that there might be a place where god, who’s supposed to be everywhere, isn’t there.

    Google is annoyingly unhelpful in the matter of either citations or debunkings of that part of the reasoning though.

  110. consciousness razor says

    We are Plethora & Enlightenment Liberal:

    The paper by Fishman & Boudry that Owlmirror linked to in #152 is much better and more thorough than I would’ve been in a comment here. I agree with it completely. If you claim not to understand that, then make your questions/concerns/whatever more specific.

  111. vereverum says

    @ Daz #147
    Thanks for the link. I hope the other 9 pages are as illuminating as the first one. Gotta love them innertubes. Where else could we find out about
    liquified dinosaurs.
    Indeed.

  112. says

    @142consciousness razor

    I’m a positivist of sorts.

    Well, that just about says it all. It’s too bad for you that there’s no evidence to support positivism, or to phrase it as you did, it’s “impossible to devise any experiment that might shed light on whether” positivism is true. Or useful. Or meaningful.

    The most egregious error I see here is when you say it cannot be tested whether it is “useful”. That’s something that is very much testable. Just use it, and see if doing so accomplishes some desired end.

    But from the wikipedia definition:

    Positivism is the philosophy of science that information derived from logical and mathematical treatments and reports of sensory experience is the exclusive source of all authoritative knowledge, and that there is valid knowledge (truth) only in this derived knowledge.

    I don’t see why it’s truth or meaningfullness would be difficult to support either. For truith, just compare it to an alternative, and show that it is better to an alternative. And do so for all plausible alternatives you currently know. Then you have accumulated evidence.

    As for meaningfulness………not sure what you’re having a problem with. Seems all very straightforward and meaningful.

  113. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    As for axioms…

    The null hypothesis is an axiom. But it is to make sure a party doesn’t get caught in trying to prove a negative. Which really means something doesn’t exist unless you evidence it, or that science stands until refuted by more science.
    Axioms have to be used so decisions can be made.

  114. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Personally, I like axiom since where I attended as an undergraduate, required either philosophy or mathematics for logic distribution requirements. I have a strong minor in mathematics. One more math course and I would have had a double major.

  115. Owlmirror says

    Hoo, boy.

    The ECO was cited in a philolsophy paper . . . ! !

    The Shroud of Turin, the Resurrection of Jesus and the Realm of Science

    Pragmatic MN seems to be preferred even among openly atheist scientists such as cosmologist Sean Carroll or the biologist PZ Myers. Myers thinks for example that “if a source outside the bounds of what modern science considers the limits of natural phenomena is having an observable effect, we should take its existence into account” [27]

    [27] P.Z. Myers, unpublished, ( http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2012/11/08/in-which-i-join-michael-shermer-in-disagreeing-with-jerry-coyne-and-coyne-in-disagreeing-with-shermer ), 2012

    The Shroud of Turin?!?!?!?!?!!??!!!???

    *facepalm*

  116. consciousness razor says

    As for axioms……what about provisional axioms?
    Surely that’s a bit more reasonable.

    Surely it isn’t, if there isn’t a reason. The issue is what exists in reality (as well as what is needed for the sciences to investigate things in reality). That isn’t determined axiomatically, whether provisionally or dogmatically or with whatever qualification you want to attach to that. Nor is it something you “presuppose” or “assume” or whatever other confused fucking abuses of language and basic common sense that EL will come up with. You can of course assume what you like before you get started with the process, but in the end we make conclusions about such things based on empirical evidence. That’s what actually can and does happen, in science and in everyday experiences of all sorts. And, as a bonus, it’s not pure fucking nonsense that EL just happened to pull out of his ass.

    And as I already said, positivism is self-refuting. That should pretty obviously be a problem. Wikipedia probably isn’t very helpful, but I haven’t checked. The Stanford Encyclopedia probably has a decent article though.

  117. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Nerd

    Philosophy need not be present in scientific arguments

    Wait what? Full stop. Wrong.

    Philosophy is a necessary component of science. You cannot do science without doing philosophy. For example, suppose you are in the lab, and you have a hypothesis. You want to test that hypothesis. You necessarily need to determine what sort of observations you should expect to see if the hypothesis is true, and if the hypothesis is false (e.g. Bayesian reasoning). There is no mechanical formulation steps which can do that for you. It necessarily involves logic, reasoning, prior experience (“priors” in terms of Bayesian reasoning), intuition, and other philosophical tools.

    I am taking this specifically Scott Clifton in his Skepticon 7 talk, link here:
    Specifically around 17 min
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQMLFpQEOI8

    Without showing his tool is the proper one. It can’t work if the possibility of a deity is ZERO, which is without conclusive physical evidence. But what I don’t get, is why are we under attack, and not Didgeman?

    I really should have taken this opportunity to teach rather than blindly assume Nerd was just being difficult. My bad. It’s quite obvious Nerd doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Let me try to teach.

    There are two kinds of “chance”, “probability”, “possibility”. (I’m still partially new to all of this, so apologies for any mistakes.)

    One kind of probability is what one might call physical probability. For example, when I flip a coin, one way to view this event is that there is a 50% physical probability that the coin will land heads-up.

    The second kind of probability is epistemic confidence. In the case of a coin flip, I can say that I have a 99% epistemic confidence that a coin flip will result in heads with a 50% physical probability.

    When I make the claim that a coin flip will land heads-up with a 50% physical probability, I am making a knowledge claim. If I claim that a six-sided die will land “1-side” up with a physical probability of 1/6, I am making a knowledge claim. When making a knowledge claim, the burden of proof is on oneself. I have the burden of proof when I make claims like this. When I make a claim about physical probability, I am making a particular, concrete, falsifiable prediction about our shared observable world.

    However, knowledge claims are just a subset of belief claims, and no knowledge claims are held to 100% certainty. Rather, knowledge claims are just belief claims which are held to a high degree, but not 100% degree, of certainty. This degree of certainty is epistemic probability. Epistemic possibility, probability, confidence, etc., all refer to the same thing. Ex: When I say that it is epistemically possible for monkeys to fly out of my ass, I am not asserting that you will actually see that result ever. Rather, I am stating that I do not know to some degree if the world we live in is such a world where monkeys sometimes will fly out of my ass. I remain open to the possibility.

    We can ask how confident am I in these assertions about flipping coins and rolling dice. We can express this kind of confidence on a scale from 0 to 1, or from 0% to 100%. This kind of confidence, or probability, I’m calling epistemic probability or epistemic confidence. A confidence level of 100% means that I am absolutely convinced that it is true, and nothing could possibly change my mind. A confidence level of 0% means that I am absolutely convinced that it is false, and nothing could possibly change my mind. 50% colloquially means that I lack all confidence. Anything in the middle is varying degrees of non-absolute, uncertain confidence, where future evidence and argument could change my mind.

    I am not absolutely confident that “1” result on the roll of a six-sided die has a physical probability of 1/6. I mean, I’m pretty sure. I might have a midlife crisis and breakdown if someone showed me that I was wrong (barring imperfections in the dice, landing on an edge or corner, etc.), but the epistemic possibility that I am wrong remains and it is non-zero. The epistemic possibility that I am wrong on this particular issue I peg at an absurdly low number, ex: 0.00001%, but still non-zero, because I recognize that I could be wrong and future evidence and argument could change my mind.

    One way to model how evidence and argument can change your beliefs is Bayes equation. (In fact, all correct reasoning has an equivalent in Bayesian reasoning.) In Bayesian reasoning, according to the math, the unambiguous result is that a 0% confidence or a 100% confidence means that you will never change your mind. That’s simply what the numbers mean in terms of this model and math.

    The Frequentist way of viewing the world, with its null hypothesis and confidence levels, is a subset of Bayesian reasoning. All valid Frequentist reasoning is valid Bayesian reasoning, but not the other way around.

    It is ok to assert that there is a 0% physical chance of (intervening) gods to some non-absolute confidence. I do that all the time. However, it is not ok to assert that there is a 0% physical chance of gods to 100% confidence. You should never be 100% confidence of anything (except maybe some trivial esoteric statements). That’s part of what it means to be a skeptic.

    Nerd, you really should read Richard Carrier’s peer reviewed book “Proving History”, which covers all of this and more in great detail.

    So here we have EL claiming we aren’t arguing a proper manner, but he hasn’t shown what is proper, by actually arguing with Didgeman using his proper techniques.
    Didgeman never made the wrong-headed statement “it is impossible, even in principle, to get evidence of magic”. Someone else did, and so I took it up with the person that said that wrong-headed claim.

    This is typical of tone trolls. We’re doing it wrong, but when pressed, they can’t show they are right, but they keep complaining about us.

    You have no idea what you’re talking about. I am not tone trolling. I am saying that your philosophy of science is wrong. Completely different things.

    Meanwhile, quit bothering us who have been at this for years, and argue with the godbots/creobots/IDbots like Didgeman.

    You have much to learn. Doesn’t matter if you’ve been doing this for years or not.

  118. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @consciousness razor
    I’ll read those papers in a sec. In the short term, could you remind me – what is your response to the regress argument, aka the Munchausen trilemma? Do you take one of the three prongs? Do you argue that the trilemma does not apply to some epistemologies?

    And as I already said, positivism is self-refuting. That should pretty obviously be a problem. Wikipedia probably isn’t very helpful, but I haven’t checked. The Stanford Encyclopedia probably has a decent article though.

    I very often hear theists say: “Skepticism is the claim that you shouldn’t hold a position without good justification. But what’s your justification for skepticism? Skepticism is self-refuting!”

    What you say is just as foolish and wrong-headed.

    @David Marjanović
    Thanks.
    Also, same question to you please. Could you remind me please – what is your response to the regress argument, aka the Munchausen trilemma? Do you take one of the three prongs? Do you argue that the trilemma does not apply to some epistemologies?

  119. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @consciousness razor

    I believe you asked me to comment on one of the papers of post 152. I happened to read the wrong one, but I found too much that was good, so let me post some here.

    Can Science Test Supernatural Worldviews?
    YONATAN I. FISHMAN, PHD
    http://naturalism.org/Can%20Science%20Test%20Supernatural%20Worldviews-%20Final%20Author%27s%20Copy%20%28Fishman%202007%29.pdf

    I am in full agreement. A lot of this paper is just an introduction to Bayes theorem and Bayesian reasoning, and seemingly a pretty good one. The other points are equally good.

    consciousness razor in post 135 seemed confused by my position that I don’t think the questions “Is it supernatural?”, “Is it natural?” are interesting. I think they’re generally useless (because of the confusion over the terms, the lack of agreement in our culture over the meaning of the terms, and because for most of the possible specific meanings behind those terms, we already have better terms such as “materialism” and “idealism”). I believe the following quote from the paper by Fishman describes this position quite well. I include it here to see if someone else’s wording makes more sense:

    In agreement with other authors (e.g., Laudan, 1983; Monton, 2006; Stenger, 2006a), the present author maintains that demarcating ‘science’ from ‘pseudoscience’ or ‘natural’ from ‘supernatural’ is not only problematic but unnecessary. The crucial question is not, Is it science? or Is it supernatural?, but rather, Is there any good reason to believe that claim X is true? Whether the entities or phenomena posited by claim X are defined as ‘natural’ or ‘supernatural’ is irrelevant to the scientific status of the claim. If the fundamental aim of science is the pursuit of truth – to uncover, to the extent that humans are capable, the nature of reality – then science should go wherever the evidence leads. If the evidence were to strongly suggest the existence of supernatural phenomena, then so be it.

    Quoting consciousness razor

    But you say you don’t want to know (or think it means nothing to talk about) what we “really are,”

    No, I said that I believe it is impossible to talk about what we “really are” with any degree of confidence whatsoever.

    If you disagree, I would ask you for any experiment or argument which could possibly lead to any fact about ultimate reality. I will also argue that any purported ultimate reality might itself have an underlying reality which would be ultimate. Any purported ultimate reality might be the result of brains in vats, or The Matrix, and no conceivable investigation could possibly show otherwise.

    The best that we could do is to construct a model of all reality, a “theory of everything” in physics-speak, which accounts for all of the known facts. Over time, our confidence in the accuracy of this model may grow to be quite high. However, nothing in this model would be a model of ultimate reality. Of course, one could accurately characterize such a model as the ultimate model of accessible, observable reality. I have no qualms with that description.

    When I called myself a sort of positivist, I meant only this much. I think nearly all questions or statements about ultimate reality are not useful, meaningful, intelligable, etc. I think this because it’s impossible to make any assertion about any particulars of ultimate reality with any sound justification whatsoever. (Mostly. I suppose I might buy some esoteric claims, such as pure logic claims. But hopefully our disagreement is not here.)

  120. consciousness razor says

    In the short term, could you remind me – what is your response to the regress argument, aka the Munchausen trilemma? Do you take one of the three prongs? Do you argue that the trilemma does not apply to some epistemologies?

    I won’t be reminding you, because I don’t think I’ve ever bothered with it before. At first glance, I don’t see a problem with saying there are some basic experiences that might serve as reasonable and sufficient starting points, from which I could build up to anything I need which is relevant (although it’s not clear how wide-reaching the “trilemma” is supposed to be).

    Those are not “axioms” or concepts or abstractions of some other sort, nor are they somehow fundamentally epistemic/methodological (whatever that would even mean). They are things which are “real” (a word you were unreasonably skittish about before). Indeed, why would you expect anything in the neighborhood of an axiom to be helpful? I really have no clue what you might be thinking….

    Like the fact that I exist, for example. I know that for sure (well enough for any level of “proof” you could demand, although I don’t know if that’s the issue). And, that’s sure as shit not known by me prior to any experience. And there’s no reason to think that “regress” would be infinite. How’s that? Simple, I would say.

    Am I supposed to be missing something?

    I very often hear theists say: “Skepticism is the claim that you shouldn’t hold a position without good justification. But what’s your justification for skepticism? Skepticism is self-refuting!”

    What you say is just as foolish and wrong-headed.

    Real theists, not villains you’re inventing for this argument, often have no idea what they’re talking about when they refer to “skepticism,” so I don’t care what they say. I care what honest and knowledgeable and non-confused people say (like most professional philosophers, about positivism, for example). In any case, a quick outline: the good justification is that skepticism does work as intended, just like it says on the box, to do what skepticism does, which is using solid evidence and critical thinking to weed out claims about the world which are false/unlikely/confused/etc.

    Unless by “positivism” you mean something very different from what I and everybody else means by it, it isn’t analogous. But this is already too much work on my part, if you’re just going to scoff and pretend like that’s enough.

  121. consciousness razor says

    Cross-posted….

    Whether the entities or phenomena posited by claim X are defined as ‘natural’ or ‘supernatural’ is irrelevant to the scientific status of the claim. If the fundamental aim of science is the pursuit of truth – to uncover, to the extent that humans are capable, the nature of reality – then science should go wherever the evidence leads. If the evidence were to strongly suggest the existence of supernatural phenomena, then so be it.

    I agree with that. I highlighted a few key points that you don’t seem agree with consistently, at least when pressed on it.

    For example, note the word “evidence,” where you would presumably have put the word “axiom” or “presupposition” or some such horseshit. Also notice how this about a figurative place where science can “go,” at the conclusion of something, not where it starts and never leaves.

  122. says

    Leaving positivism aside…

    here’s my favorite article on the whole “grounding of knowledge” thing, I highly recommend it:

    Epistemological End Game

    Here’s a relevant part of it:

    To say something is “properly basic” is to declare that it’s something we get to assume without needing a reason to believe it. In my epistemology, however, in direct contrast to Plantinga’s, only what is literally undeniable gets to be called “properly basic.” For I believe we need a reason, at least some reason, to believe anything else–if it could be false, if there is any chance it could be false, then we need some reason to believe it isn’t false. It needn’t be a weighty or elaborate or air tight reason. Any genuine reason will do. But if we need even a tiny little reason to believe something before we are warranted in believing it, then that belief cannot be called properly basic.

    […] For example, the fact that our thoughts and “interpretations” exist at the moment we experience them is undeniable, regardless of whether they are true or correct, and therefore our belief in the existence of those thoughts and interpretations is properly basic.[…]

    […]When you add up all the reasons (all the reasons) you have right now to believe any x, you will always (always) end up with a finite collection of experiences (whether a combination of perceptions, emotions, thoughts, memories, etc.), which are in turn entirely and without remainder reducible to a finite (not infinite) collection of properly basic, in fact literally undeniable, experiences (again, whether these be perceptions, emotions, thoughts, memories, etc.).

    […]the only difference between my epistemology and Plantinga’s is that he stops with an arbitrarily selected set of deniable evidence, whereas I argue we must keep going until we’ve gotten to the bottom, which is always a finite set of undeniable experiences.

  123. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @brianpansky
    That snippet sounds good to me. I think I aim for those goals w.r.t. my presuppositions, e.g. my properly-basic beliefs. It sure sounds like presuppositionalism – even if people here don’t use to use that word.

    @consciousness razor

    At first glance, I don’t see a problem with saying there are some basic experiences that might serve as reasonable and sufficient starting points, from which I could build up to anything I need which is relevant (although it’s not clear how wide-reaching the “trilemma” is supposed to be).

    I don’t know what you mean by “experience”. I’m talking about beliefs. I’m talking about beliefs in a very, very general sense. I’m including normative and descriptive beliefs. For example, “I believe that I should base my beliefs about the world in accordance with the evidence” is itself a belief. Loosely, I also hold that belief, and it is one of my presuppositions, e.g. one of my properly-basic beliefs.

    They are things which are “real” (a word you were unreasonably skittish about before).

    Am I unreasonable here? I think you need to read some more philosophy. The short of it is that what’s really real, e.g. what is ultimately real, is an ill-defined concept which we don’t need, and of which basically nothing can be said. I don’t need to know what’s ultimately real to live my life. It doesn’t matter if I’m actually a brain in a vat, or in The Matrix. What matters to me is the reality which we experience, our shared observable reality. That’s the “real” which matters.

    In recent memory, this was IMHO best exemplified in the Matt Dillahunty vs Sye debate. If you can withstand the intellectual suffering of watching it, I suggest it strongly. I very much side with Matt (although I think I might have a couple of minor quibbles).

    Indeed, why would you expect anything in the neighborhood of an axiom to be helpful? I really have no clue what you might be thinking….

    Have you read the wikipedia page on the regress argument or the Münchhausen trilemma? It’s pretty simple to get. For example, let’s do some simple Socratic reasoning. Presumably you hold a belief similar to “my beliefs about the world should be in accordance with the evidence”. I could ask you “Why?”. You might do a couple of indirections, like appealing to reasonableness or parsimony, but I could just ask you why you value parsimony or reasonableness. Very quickly, we’ll end up going in a loop (e.g. the circular reasoning prong of the trilemma), or end at a position which you cannot justify (e.g. the presuppositional prong of the trilemma, e.g. the properly-basic prong, e.g. the axiom prong).

    I can understand a little if you disagree, but I do not understand how you can honestly claim to not understand. This is really basic philosophy, and you seem to be well-read. You should be familiar with these philosophical arguments, even if you disagree with them.

    Like the fact that I exist, for example. I know that for sure (well enough for any level of “proof” you could demand, although I don’t know if that’s the issue). And, that’s sure as shit not known by me prior to any experience. And there’s no reason to think that “regress” would be infinite. How’s that? Simple, I would say.

    I would be curious as to how you might apply similar reasoning to justify the belief “I should hold beliefs about the world in accordance with the available evidence”. I don’t think you can.

    Offhand, I even think your given example “I think, therefore I exist” is ambiguous. To the extent that it’s undeniably true, it’s tautological. If you mean “A thing exists if it thinks”, then the statement is vacuous. It’s mostly restatement of your definition of “exists”. You might as well just say “I think”. Even that is ambiguous. What do you mean “I think”? Perhaps you are just a figment of someone’s dream. In that case, would you still consider the statement “I think” true? I don’t know if I would – I don’t know what “I think” might mean in that case. I can see reasonable definitions allowing both a reading where the statement is true, and a reading where the statement is false.

    As Matt Dillahunty said, we all need to presuppose away the problem of hard solipsism. There’s no way you can reason yourself out of the problem. Then throw on the values of humanism, the values of skepticism, and the value of using evidence to inform your beliefs, and you’ve more or less reached all of my presuppositions.

    In any case, a quick outline: the good justification is that skepticism does work as intended, just like it says on the box, to do what skepticism does, which is using solid evidence and critical thinking to weed out claims about the world which are false/unlikely/confused/etc.

    This is an example where I think Sye got it right in the debate, and where Matt Dillahunty was a little weak. Sye is completely right that you are using the belief “I should use what works” to justify skepticism, which leaves you open to the question “Why do you – or why should you – value and use what works?”. That question is just another way of asking “Why do you hold the belief that you should keep your beliefs about the world in accordance with the available evidence?”.

  124. says

    “Why do you – or why should you – value and use what works?”

    Because, in order to acheive what I value, I must have something which works to acheive it. Therefore what works to acheive it is valueable.

  125. consciousness razor says

    Do you honestly not grok the differences between something that’s a priori and something that isn’t? For somebody who thinks they’re steeped in philosophy and ought to lecture me about my ignorance, it should not seem like it’s such a fucking mystery to you. Or maybe it’s that you don’t care what you’re saying or how/whether it’s understood by other people?

    Perhaps you are just a figment of someone’s dream.

    Perhaps I’m the dream-figment a butterfly believing it’s a Boltzmann Brain staring at the wall of Plato’s fucking cave on the set of The Matrix Reloaded. So the fuck what? What exactly is the fucking problem, according to you? When did I last use the words “ultimate” or “ultimately” anyway? Any idea? Just blathering to yourself?

  126. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @consciousness razor

    Apologies for length, but consciousness razor asked for me to review the paper.

    Does Science Presuppose Naturalism (or Anything at All)?
    Yonatan I. Fishman• Maarten Boudry

    I find myself in agreement with nearly all of the paper. (A couple minor nits below.)

    I am confused by consciousness razor. Earlier, I expressed my support for a position, which you ridiculed. Yet, the paper explicitly states and agrees with the position, and I think you said you agree wholeheartedly with the paper. From the paper:

    Before going further, it is important to clarify the meaning of the terms ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’, which have been notoriously difficult to pin down. By the end of this paper, we will express doubts about whether any epistemic significance should be attached to them. However, in order to evaluate the claim that supernatural hypotheses are scientifically untestable, or that science presupposes ON, we have no choice but to engage with these terms.

    If gods, ghosts, and spirits are able to interact with the spatiotemporal world, such that we could directly or indirectly detect their effects—as is implied by standard religious miracle claims—then it doesn’t matter much whether these entities are labeled as ‘natural’ or ‘supernatural’. Whether the entities or phenomena posited by claim X are defined as ‘natural’ or ‘supernatural’ is irrelevant to its scientific status (Fishman 2009).

    Thus, ID should not be taught in science classes as an alternative to Darwinian evolution not because it may make reference to a supernatural designer,32 but rather because its claims do not meet the standards of good explanations (see also Clark2009; Laudan1982).

    Under “3 Evaluation of Metaphysical Presuppositions of Science”, under paragraph starting “Let us first consider (a), the presupposition of ontological realism.”. This bit is consistent with everything I’ve said. Here, it is not talking about the ability to learn about ultimate reality. It’s simply talking about learning about observable reality. I’m in full agreement with the paper on this point, and I still disagree with you consciousness razor.

    I fully appreciate and agree with the paper when it says science need not assume full regularity of all things. I commonly hear that science assumes lawful regularity of everything from creationists, and it annoys me greatly. Similarly, I full agree with the paper when it rightly argues that “something does not come from nothing” is a scientific conclusion, not a premise of science. (Further, I would argue that the evidence used to support that statement should limit its bounds of applicability to things inside our local big bang universe, and that it is inapplicable when reasoning about the potential start of time itself.)

    I also fully appreciate the paper’s takedown of metaphysical causation. We don’t need that to do science. We just need Hume’s constant-conjunction causation. It is IMHO a philosophical mistake when people talk about metaphysical causation (a position shared by Hume and by Daniel Dennett).

    I like the paper’s discussion of “(e) the no-psi principle” and “(f) the no-supernature principle”. However, I feel they could have done better. In short, the paper argues against Mahner who argues that if our thoughts, desires, expectations, etc., could affect the outcome of experiments, then science would be done for. That’s bullshit, for several reasons. (To the extent that there must be some sort of limit on it, e.g. that there must be some lawful regularity somewhere.)

    First, there’s a reason why we try to do double-blind studies instead of single-blind studies. We know that our own thoughts, desires, expectations, etc., can color our perception of the evidence, and even influence the evidence itself by changing the behaviors of the experimentors. We can already control for this by controlling our own thoughts, desires, expectations, etc., such as by keeping the experimentors ignorant of the outcomes by conducting a double-blind experiment.

    As another example, I was listening to NPR about an interesting study / meta-study. The study looked at how mice reacted to pheromones of male humans. There was a problem in the literature involving mice studies where some labs couldn’t replicate the results of other labs. This study pinpointed the likely problem: Some of the human experimenters were female, and some of the human experimenters were male, and the different human pheromones significantly affected the mice’s behavior, changing the results of their experiments. This is another example of a confounding variable from the experimentor. We can control for this variable, just like we could control for a hypothetical “psi” confounding variable where the experimentors thoughts, desires, expectations, etc. affected the results of their experiments.

    Regarding: “6 Is the Supernatural a ‘‘Science Stopper’’?”.
    This part seems very close to coming to my conclusion that you do need a presupposition to solve the problem of hard solipsism. You need to presuppose the world was not created 5 minutes ago in its present formation, just like you need to presuppose that the world was not created 6,000 years ago to look like it was created 5 billion years ago (e.g. the Omphalos hypothesis).

    Also, yes! Thank you based gods of rationality and atheism. The paper uses my favorite argument that this so called “show stopper” argument applies equally to purely natural phenomena, such as sufficiently advanced aliens in a cloaked spaceship in orbit who maliciously mess with your experiments in an undetectable fashion.

    The paper includes a good diversion on Bayesian reasoning. Most of this content (and more) can be found in Richard Carrier’s peer reviewed book “Proving History”.

    The paper even (partially) supports my position w.r.t. our discussion on positivism and “really real”.

    However, philosophers of science have long appreciated that theories are underdetermined by observations. Empirical evidence can always be accounted for by a potentially infinite number of explanations—just as a set of data points can be fit by a potentially infinite number of curves.

    Thus, it is useless to talk about what is “really real”. What matters is whether something is “real” in the sense of falsifiable predictive models about our shared observable reality. There are an infinite number of such models, and in some cases there may be two models which have roughly the same complexity, and thus parsimony / Occam’s razor cannot help us. In that case, does it matter which is “really real”? No. Not as long as the two models offer equivalent predictions.

    Similarly, the generic explanation ‘‘God did it’’ can be rejected on the grounds that it offers no compression of the data and provides no information at all about what we should expect to observe in the world (Boudry and Leuridan2011). Hence, in order to account for the data, we would have to specify this detailed information explicitly, by ‘‘hard coding’’ it into the hypothesis. Indeed, the length of the hypothesis would be equal to or greater than that of the description of the world! Accordingly, given the information-theoretic considerations discussed above, the explanation ‘‘God did it’’ is inconceivably complex and has a correspondingly low posterior probability.27 Thus, the doctrine of occasionalism, according to which every event in the world is directly caused by God’s will, is in fact extremely improbable a priori, contrary to what Mahner suggests.

    I love you paper and authors of the paper!

    I might have to disagree with the paper on one point:

    Similarly, we can discount the unparsimonious hypothesis that we are just ‘‘brains in a vat’’ being manipulated by scientists living a different dimension purely on probabilistic grounds, without having topresuppose(as perhaps Mahner would do) that this, or similar hypotheses relating to Cartesian skepticism, are false.

    It’s non-obvious that all such hypotheses would be less parsimonious on purely probabilistic grounds. I’ll have to review this section further and think about it.

    Offhand, I think you can use this kind of reasoning to dismiss with some problems, such as Omphalos hypothesis, but I don’t see how one might use this method to compare the hypothesis “the world is really real” to the hypothesis “we are all figments in someone’s dream”. IMHO, this also relates to several other problems, some relating to my some-kind-of-positivist stance.

    The paper also misses out on a fundamental error about causation and mechanism, which I explain in post 139.

    So, this paper says nothing which I haven’t already said. Thus I don’t know if there is any disagreement between us on the topics:

    1- “Natural” and “supernatural” are ill-defined concepts.

    2- It is not necessary to use the labels “natural” and “supernatural” to do science.

    3- It is generally wrong-headed to claim that science is ill-suited to learn about supernatural things.

    4- Talk about what’s “really real” is not useful or interesting. Only what is observably real or testably real is interesting. In this sense, we also care about is “parsimoniously real” because it A- eases calculations of future-predictions, and B- what is more parsimonious comes out better in Bayes equation, and such things are less likely to be overturned in the future (according to the basic presupposition of using reason, logic, parsimony, evidence, and science to inform your beliefs). However, note that this doesn’t get you any closer to what’s “ultimately real”.

  127. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @brianpansky

    Why do you – or why should you – value and use what works?

    Because, in order to acheive what I value, I must have something which works to acheive it. Therefore what works to acheive it is valueable.

    Of course. Good answer. I use the same answer. Note that it also immediately leads to the problem of induction. Why would you, me, or consciousness razor, think that what works today will work tomorrow? That another thing you need to take as a presupposition. You need to take some degree of the uniformity principle axiomatically.

    @consciousness razor

    Do you honestly not grok the differences between something that’s a priori and something that isn’t? For somebody who thinks they’re steeped in philosophy and ought to lecture me about my ignorance, it should not seem like it’s such a fucking mystery to you. Or maybe it’s that you don’t care what you’re saying or how/whether it’s understood by other people?

    I wrote a lot. I need more context please. I don’t know what you’re addressing.

    Perhaps I’m the dream-figment a butterfly believing it’s a Boltzmann Brain staring at the wall of Plato’s fucking cave on the set of The Matrix Reloaded. So the fuck what? What exactly is the fucking problem, according to you? When did I last use the words “ultimate” or “ultimately” anyway? Any idea? Just blathering to yourself?

    I specifically agree with this sentiment: “So the fuck what?”. That agreement leads me to the conclusion that talking about what’s real, in the sense of really real, is irrelevant. What matters is what’s testably real, what’s observably real, what’s parsimoniously real. Yet, you ridiculed me earlier when I stated this position. I think you don’t know what you’re talking about.

  128. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    PS:
    Quoting me:

    I specifically agree with this sentiment: “So the fuck what?”. That agreement leads me to the conclusion that talking about what’s real, in the sense of really real, is irrelevant. What matters is what’s testably real, what’s observably real, what’s parsimoniously real. Yet, you ridiculed me earlier when I stated this position. I think you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    To continue this sentiment:
    To the extent that the quoted position is included in positivism, that’s the extent to which I’m a positivist. An important part of positivist thought is that it doesn’t matter if I’m a figment of someone’s dream vs in The Matrix vs in the really-real world, unless and until someone could show a difference. If someone wants to talk about the dreamer hypothesis and the really-real hypothesis, but also claim that they have absolutely no observable or testable differences, then I don’t know what the speaker is talking about. It’s cognitively meaningless to use the words of logical positivism. This other hypothetical person is having a conversation, but the conversation is entirely detached from the world I actually live in, and thus I find the conversation to be rather useless and meaningless.

  129. David Marjanović says

    [27] P.Z. Myers, unpublished,

    “Unpublished”? What the fuck.

    Tyops, shmyops.

    Subthread won.

  130. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    EL #169, I can tell you how many times I have heard scientists say “we need to consult with a philosopher or a philosophy book about this problem” during my 35+ year career. ZERO.

  131. consciousness razor says

    So, this paper says nothing which I haven’t already said.

    Yet the title of the fucking paper, the primary topic addressed in it, not simply the bits and pieces you’ve chosen, has an answer. And that answer, according to the authors, is no. You said you fucking disagree with that, but you’re too dishonest or too confused to comment on that, much less explain it. Funny how that works.

    Let’s go back to this:

    I find myself in agreement with nearly all of the paper.

    Taken together, isn’t it compelling enough that you’d change or retract the position you articulated, which denies the conclusion of the paper? Or if your claims aren’t simply bullshit that you’d happily drop, don’t you think it’s worth your time to defend yourself? You could at least mention the issue, just so we know you’re not completely fucking lost.

  132. consciousness razor says

    EL #169, I can tell you how many times I have heard scientists say “we need to consult with a philosopher or a philosophy book about this problem” during my 35+ year career. ZERO.

    And clearly the scientists you’ve heard talking during your career can do no wrong.

    Boring as ever, Nerd.

  133. says

    @180, EnlightenmentLiberal

    Note that it also immediately leads to the problem of induction. Why would you, me, or consciousness razor, think that what works today will work tomorrow? That another thing you need to take as a presupposition. You need to take some degree of the uniformity principle axiomatically.

    I don’t see how that’s necessary. The idea of regularity is a hypothesis/model about how things are, just like any other hypothesis. And it is based on observation.

    The worst anyone can complain is that we don’t know this model is true with 100% certainty. But….that’s just like any other model or hypothesis. None of which need to be axioms or pressupposed.

  134. says

    consciousness razor @158,

    We are Plethora & Enlightenment Liberal:
    The paper by Fishman & Boudry that Owlmirror linked to in #152 is much better and more thorough than I would’ve been in a comment here. I agree with it completely. If you claim not to understand that, then make your questions/concerns/whatever more specific.

    Thank you. Our reply @146 was merely an attempt to better understand what you meant @144. You have subsequently elaborated on this and comment 172 in particular makes clear what you meant and where you are coming from.

    With no formal training or background in philosophy, it sometimes takes us a little while longer to catch up with those like yourself who clearly have a much stronger grasp and a more sophisticated understanding of these topics and terms. We very much appreciate your patience and willingness to explain.

  135. AlexanderZ says

    I’ve been trying to convince my mother to get a flu shot in the late summer/autumn of this year. She heard from the news that here the shot has an average effectiveness of about 50%.

    My mother: “Makes sense. It either works or it doesn’t. Fifty-fifty.”

  136. consciousness razor says

    I don’t see how that’s necessary. The idea of regularity is a hypothesis/model about how things are, just like any other hypothesis. And it is based on observation.

    Exactly. Thank you. It’s nice that I’m not the only one who gets that.

    I didn’t pop out of my mother’s womb, with a bunch of ideas fully-formed about what supposedly must be lawlike in nature. And besides the fact that I’m not claiming (and don’t need to claim) that they’re necessary anyway, I have no idea why I would need to keep believing such things must be just so, even after they turn out not to be laws at all, if that ever happened. If, for whatever reason, gravity stops being what I think it is, I’m pretty sure I will simply change my fucking mind about it, how it works, etc. (assuming any of us would manage to survive such an event). So, the claim that I (or you, anybody, science itself, etc.) must assume things like that is very obviously false. How many different ways do we need to explain why you’re just fucking wrong, EL?

  137. says

    I searched the article I posted for the word “axiom” and the axioms listed are “imperatives”, or practical rules. And are said to be true by definition..?.and he says they’re circular in a way.

    Searching for “circular” is also interesting.

  138. David Marjanović says

    @David Marjanović
    Thanks.
    Also, same question to you please. Could you remind me please – what is your response to the regress argument, aka the Munchausen trilemma? Do you take one of the three prongs? Do you argue that the trilemma does not apply to some epistemologies?

    All I know about the Münchhausen* trilemma is on Wikipedia. The relevant section begins:

    If we ask of any knowledge: “How do I know that it’s true?”,

    Stop! The question is wrong.

    Ultimately, we don’t know that it’s true.

    I haven’t thought enough about je doute, donc je pense, donc je suis to tell whether I accept that as true; but if we suppose for the sake of the argument that I accept it, that doesn’t help, because I ultimately can’t be sure that I can communicate it to anyone else – if indeed there is anybody else.

    It is not possible to disprove solipsism, Last Tuesdayism or Last Thursdayism. It follows that I cannot have metaphysical certainty about anything (except maybe the famous quote). Anything I say (except maybe the famous quote) is prefixed by: “Assuming that I’m not the solipsist and that Last Tuesdayism and Last Thursdayism are both wrong, …”

    Unsurprisingly, I’m not the first to come up with this radically agnostic position (assuming, again, that I’m not the solipsist and that Last Tuesdayism and Last Thursdayism are both wrong); the Wikipedia article mentions it in the same section, calls it “fallibilism”, and (after an imperfect explanation) correctly adds: “This position is taken for granted in the natural sciences.”

    I don’t actually worry about solipsism etc. etc., because they’re highly unparsimonious; they’re not required to explain anything I know. I remain aware, however, that an argument from parsimony is not a proof; it’s only provisional, it’s a grasp at probabilities in the interval ]0;1[.

    Apparently, you can’t live with this residual ignorance; I can.

    Short version: the trilemma is irrelevant to me, because I don’t make a claim to metaphysical certainty in the first place.

    …Oh. I just remembered another unfalsifiable idea about the basic nature of truth: it says that God is the solipsist – the whole universe isn’t “real” or “material” or anything, but only exists in the thoughts of some superbeing. Against it I make the same argument from parsimony – je n’ai pas besoin de cette hypothèse – while remaining aware that that doesn’t prove anything.

    * Münchhausen. Münch-hausen; there’s “monk” and “house” in it, as in “town where there are monks”.

  139. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @brianpansky

    I don’t see how that’s necessary. The idea of regularity is a hypothesis/model about how things are, just like any other hypothesis. And it is based on observation.

    And how would you test that hypothesis? How would you test any hypothesis? We’re about to go pretty deep into semantics, which is unfortunate.

    Let me try to understand what your argument looks like. I think it looks something like:

    > The universe of yesterday looks like the universe of today.
    > The universe of 2 days ago looks like the universe of today.
    > Thus the universe of tomorrow will look like the universe of today.

    That seems like induction to me. How could you possibly “test” anything without induction?

    Now, if you want to argue that parsimony is a replacement to induction, then my question becomes “Why do you think the most parsimonious explanation is probably the right one?”. IMHO, it’s still the problem of induction, just with different dressing.

    The worst anyone can complain is that we don’t know this model is true with 100% certainty. But….that’s just like any other model or hypothesis. None of which need to be axioms or pressupposed.

    How could you arrive at any certainty at all without solving the problem of induction? Equivalently, how could you arrive at any certainty at all without asserting that the most parsimonious explanation is probably the right one?

    @consciousness razor
    It would really speed up this conversation if you could clearly state your point. I did not realize that you were basing your entire argument off a particular reading of the title of the paper which was not discussed at all in the actual paper itself. As far as I can tell, you are taking the title of the paper, “Does Science Presuppose Naturalism (or Anything at All)?”, to mean “science requires no presuppositions”. Again, this is not the position of the paper, and it is not actually addressed by the paper at all. Rather, the paper discusses only possible presuppositions of methodological naturalism, provisional and intrinsic, and ontological naturalism / metaphysical naturalism. IIRC, at no point does it address the problem of induction, the uniformity of nature, etc.

    Did you read the paper?

    I also really wish you would engage with my specific questions. Thus far, you haven’t been answering them at all. It would help me understand your position a lot if you engaged with my questions. Basically the same questions I’ve been asking brianpansky.

  140. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @David Marjanović

    Apologies. I think you took away the wrong meaning.

    The Münchhausen trilemma (and the regress argument)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regress_argument
    is not about knowledge in the sense of absolute confidence. It’s talking about all justified beliefs of all confidence levels, not just absolute knowledge.

    The Münchhausen trilemma is not about solving hard solipsism. It’s talking about all of your justified beliefs. For example, your justified belief that a hammer will fall to the ground in normal household conditions when released from a height. Let me try to go through the regress argument for you on this particular belief.

    > I believe that hammers fall to the ground in normal household conditions when released from a height.

    > Why?
    > Because I have performed this particular experiment many times in the past, and the outcome has always been the same, and thus I expect it to be the same the next time I do it.

    > Why do you expect the future to behave like the past?
    > I take the value, utility, and correctness of induction axiomatically. (Of course, I don’t take any particular induction to be foolproof. I take the result of any particular induction according to Bayes equation, which gives me a certain epistemic confidence level which depends on my priors and on the evidence.)

    David, I know you disagree that induction is properly-basic, and instead you use parsimony. However, I think a similar line of questioning will end with me asking something like “Why do you conclude that the most parsimonious solution is probably the right solution?”. As I said above in a different post, IMHO it seems that assuming “the most parsimonious solution is probably the right one” is just another way of solving the problem of induction.

  141. says

    @193, EnlightenmentLiberal

    And how would you test that hypothesis? How would you test any hypothesis?

    I’m still not sure what the difficulty is. You test a hypothesis by comparing its prediction to some observation(s).

    How could you possibly “test” anything without induction?

    I think you just do it. Where abouts is the difficulty?

  142. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @consciousness razor
    I really think that you haven’t read the paper, and that you’re just talking out of your ass. I am now questioning your honesty.

    The Fishman & Boudry paper mentions “induction” in all of two places. This is the relevant one. (Bolding added)

    According to evolutionary epistemologists, evolution has endowed us with an extraordinary ability to detect patterns and to assume that the world follows a lawful and regular course (De Cruz et al.2011; Papineau 2000). These mental heuristics allowed our ancestors to exploit regularities in the environment so as to successfully navigate through the world. Science is a more refined and systematic way of identifying these regularities. In science, as in everyday reasoning, we provisionally assume that the laws of nature are not going to change spontaneously or capriciously. Also, if we are dealing with as yet unknown phenomena, it is a safe bet to assume that they will exhibit some form of regularity. This pragmatic default assumption is provisionally adopted in order to further our scientific investigations, and to maximize our chances of capturing true regularities in nature, if they exist.8

    Footnote 8:

    This is essentially Hans Reichenbach’s ‘‘pragmatic justification of induction’’ (see Salmon1991).

    Also, as is clear from reading the rest of the paper, the “provisionally” part of “provisionally assume” refers to hypothetical epistemic-possibility that nature may thwart any attempt at doing science. This would be detectable by science because every induction would fail, and science would make no progress. Thus, the “provisionally” aspect refers to the assumption of the principle of uniformity. Effectively, the paper still takes the idea of inductive reasoning as properly-basic, but also attempts to offer a justification in the form of a weak uniformity principle.

  143. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @brianpansky
    If some hypothesis survives your tests, why should you expect it to survive the next test? Why do you or why should you value and use hypotheses which survive testing?

  144. David Marjanović says

    I’m a presuppositionalist. I argue that presuppositionalism is the right answer to the regress argument, e.g. the Münchhausen trilemma. Some of my presuppositions are:

    Science: I can and should use reason, logic, evidence, science, etc., to learn about the world around me.

    The “can” part is trivial if indeed there is a world around you… OK, that was the short version.

    I like to distinguish “truth” from “reality”. “Reality” is the supposedly perceptible, measurable world around us; in it, the argumentum ad lapidem is valid. Truth might be the same as reality (metaphysical naturalism; incidentally, that’s the most parsimonious assumption), or it might be that reality is a remarkably consistent figment of my imagination (solipsism), or it might be that reality contains misleading information (omphalos), yadda yadda; in discussions of truth, the argumentum ad lapidem is a fallacy.

    Science is about reality, not about truth (unless of course if metaphysical naturalism is true).

    Even if reality is not truth, it is – as far as I’ve noticed so far – consistent enough that science works. That’s the “can” part. I haven’t found a better method than science*; that trivially takes care of the “should” part. Thus, I have derived your “axiom” from an observation: reality is consistent enough that science works.

    Wait. That’s not an observation at all. It’s a generalization across a lot of observations: a law, a hypothesis. It is falsifiable by just making more observations. :-) Science itself is falsifiable. Isn’t it fun to use science theory as metametaphysics?

    BTW, this takes care of the “problem” of induction: induction doesn’t give you metaphysical certainty, it can’t, and I don’t need to pretend otherwise. It’s just a special case of parsimony, nothing less, nothing more.

    * I can discuss this at much more length, but I don’t want to write so much preemptively right now.

    Everything Is Not Made For Me: I am not the center of the universe, and thus these other humans have minds like mine.

    Seriously? That’s supposed to be an axiom? It’s a hypothesis that explains my observations, anyway, much better than the alternative.

    (Plus, I’m prone to projection anyway, so I don’t think about this much. I unthinkingly project a mind like mine into everything that moves up until I notice evidence that another assumption is more parsimonious.)

    Skepticism: I should not hold any beliefs with X level of confidence without sufficient justification,

    Are you even capable of not doubting? Are you capable of doing what American Christians want to you do – to choose to believe? I’m not. I’m unable to hold an opinion at a high level of confidence when I understand that I can’t justify that level.

    except for my starting presuppositions.

    That’s where we would disagree if any of your “presuppositions” were in fact such.

    Scientism: The only acceptable way to learn about our shared material reality (or shared super-material reality) is reason, logic, evidence, science, etc. (Of course, moral truths, mathematical truths, etc., are not bound by this rule.)

    It’s not like a better method exists anyway. :-| What could there be? Off the top of my head, revelation. I’ve never had a revelation, and the claims of other people to have had some have all, to the best of my knowledge, turned out to be so dubious that parsimony suggests I don’t need to consider them. (After all, revelation requires the existence of a… telepathic agent who knows a lot, and that assumption isn’t needed to explain anything I’m aware of.)

    Offhand, I believe a consequence of these starting positions is that it is completely impossible to ever learn anything about ultimate reality, and it is a waste of time to try.

    I’ve arrived at the same conclusion without presupposing anything, as far as I can tell.

  145. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @David Marjanović
    I’ll wait until you respond to the last couple of posts. I think we can make some progress there.

  146. consciousness razor says

    I really think that you haven’t read the paper, and that you’re just talking out of your ass. I am now questioning your honesty.

    The idea that you “really think” about anything is hard to believe at this point.

    What I will do is simply quote the entire conclusions section of their paper. Having read the whole thing, you pretentious fuck, I can report that the rest of the paper is, of course, supportive of their conclusion.

    Here it is:

    If the world were chaotic and displayed no regularities at all, or if supernatural (or other) entities were routinely tampering with or sabotaging our experiments and cognitive faculties, then science would be impossible. This relatively uncontroversial thesis is a far cry from the more radical claim (as promoted by Mahner) that scientists must presuppose or stipulate a priori that the world is in fact lawful and that supernatural entities do not exist (ON).

    We have argued that science does not presuppose ON a priori, but may support ON a posteriori by mustering evidence for natural explanations and against supernatural claims. Conversely, in principle science could unearth evidence for supernaturalism (e.g., positive effects of intercessory prayer). Furthermore, we maintain that the discovery of such evidence would not necessarily undermine the reliability of science. In the end, whether the entities referred to by a hypothesis are labeled as ‘natural’ or ‘supernatural’ is irrelevant to its epistemic status. Science can evaluate supernatural hypotheses according to the same explanatory criteria used to evaluate any other factual claim. These criteria include explanatory power (goodness of fit to the evidence) and simplicity (data compression, unification, parsimony). Because of the consistent failure of supernaturalism, however, science encourages us to keep looking for natural explanations when dealing with strange phenomena before hastily considering supernatural ones. But provisionally adopting this methodological guideline does not mean that science presupposes naturalism. Similarly, we have argued that science does not presuppose any of the other alleged metaphysical principles of science cited by Mahner, but could confirm or (partly) disconfirm them on the basis of the evidence. We maintain that imposing artificial restrictions on science based on arbitrary definitions and classifications is antithetical to the goals of open and unbiased scientific inquiry. Instead, the scientific legitimacy of hypotheses should be judged according to the extent to which they satisfy the aforementioned explanatory criteria. It is important that students appreciate this open-ended character of science, even if doing so brings to light conclusions that conflict with their religious worldview. The positions adopted by the NAS and NCSE and the extensions proposed by Mahner violate this principle of open-endedness in science and artificially restrict its scope of investigation. Science does not rule things out by fiat, and students should not be led to believe that it does.

    So, now that that’s settled, STFU.

  147. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @consciousness razor
    I fail to see how that quote supports your position. What exactly is your position, what is the position of mine which you are attacking, and how do you think that quote supports your position and undermines my position? I am confused. I see your quote as still being entirely supportive of my position.

  148. David Marjanović says

    I don’t see how that’s necessary. The idea of regularity is a hypothesis/model about how things are, just like any other hypothesis. And it is based on observation.

    And how would you test that hypothesis? How would you test any hypothesis?

    Same as any other: by seeing if any observed facts disagree with it to the extent that another hypothesis is more parsimonious.

    Let me try to understand what your argument looks like. I think it looks something like:

    > The universe of yesterday looks like the universe of today.
    > The universe of 2 days ago looks like the universe of today.
    > Thus the universe of tomorrow will look like the universe of today.

    It’s longer than that, of course:

    > The universe of yesterday looks like the universe of today.
    > The universe of 2 days ago looks like the universe of today.
    > Looks like the universe doesn’t change just so.
    > Why should we assume otherwise?
    > The hypothesis that the universe doesn’t change just so is consistent with all observations. Any hypothesis which says that it does change just so requires extra assumptions.
    > Parsimony!
    > Thus I have to expect that the universe of tomorrow will look like the universe of today. Surprises can happen, though.

    Now, if you want to argue that parsimony is a replacement to induction, then my question becomes “Why do you think the most parsimonious explanation is probably the right one?”.

    “Right” is actually beside the point. Science isn’t really a search for truth – it’s a search for a model of reality so good that it’s indistinguishable from the real thing.

    If several such models exist, I’ll let laziness take over and use the simplest one to do my math in. :-|

    (Many years ago abb3w repeatedly posted a link to a mathematical proof that the most parsimonious explanation is usually the right one. I didn’t understand it, though, so I don’t care about it much.)

    Equivalently, how could you arrive at any certainty at all without asserting that the most parsimonious explanation is probably the right one?

    What would I do with that certainty other than shutting up and calculate, which is already what I’m doing? :-) I can’t disprove solipsism etc., so I can’t prove that I can have any certainty at all.

    The Münchhausen trilemma is not about solving hard solipsism. It’s talking about all of your justified beliefs. For example, your justified belief that a hammer will fall to the ground in normal household conditions when released from a height. Let me try to go through the regress argument for you on this particular belief.

    > I believe that hammers fall to the ground in normal household conditions when released from a height.

    > Why?
    > Because I have performed this particular experiment many times in the past, and the outcome has always been the same, and thus I expect it to be the same the next time I do it.

    Well, no. The theories of gravity say it’ll fall to the floor (and the theory of quantum electrodynamics says it’ll stop there) unless a big electromagnet is switched on in the apartment above mine when I let go of the hammer (QED again). Since electromagnets of that sort are not common household items, I parsimoniously assume there probably isn’t one there, and that means I should expect that the hammer will fall to the floor (a deduction from the theories of gravity) and stop there (QED) – although I cannot exclude that surprises may happen (and hold the key to interstellar travel or some such).

    Also, as is clear from reading the rest of the paper, the “provisionally” part of “provisionally assume” refers to hypothetical epistemic-possibility that nature may thwart any attempt at doing science. This would be detectable by science because every induction would fail, and science would make no progress.

    Exactly: the hypothesis of uniformity is testable.

    If some hypothesis survives your tests, why should you expect it to survive the next test?

    Er – you shouldn’t. That’s why you’re doing the test in the first place.

    (You also shouldn’t expect it to not survive the next test. That’s another reason why you’re doing the test in the first place.)

    Why do you or why should you value and use hypotheses which survive testing?

    Because the others make wrong predictions in some cases, unless maybe if I devise complex workarounds.

    Famously, people continue to knowingly do their calculations in Newtonian physics where it makes the same predictions as relativity and quantum physics, because it’s less complex to handle than the alternatives, even though it has survived fewer tests.

    These criteria include explanatory power (goodness of fit to the evidence) and simplicity (data compression, unification, parsimony).

    In other words: These criteria include parsimony (parsimony) and parsimony (parsimony, parsimony, parsimony). :-)

    Goodness of fit = inverse of number of assumptions needed to explain badness of fit. Data compression = inverse of number of assumptions needed to reconstruct uncompressed data from compressed data. Unification = inverse number of assumptions on how many distinct cases there are that need distinct explanations. And so on.

    Because of the consistent failure of supernaturalism, however, science encourages us to keep looking for natural explanations when dealing with strange phenomena before hastily considering supernatural ones. But provisionally adopting this methodological guideline does not mean that science presupposes naturalism. Similarly, we have argued that science does not presuppose any of the other alleged metaphysical principles of science cited by Mahner, but could confirm or (partly) disconfirm them on the basis of the evidence. […] It is important that students appreciate this open-ended character of science, even if doing so brings to light conclusions that conflict with their religious worldview. The positions adopted by the NAS and NCSE and the extensions proposed by Mahner violate this principle of open-endedness in science and artificially restrict its scope of investigation. Science does not rule things out by fiat, and students should not be led to believe that it does.

    In case anyone’s wondering, I agree.

  149. David Marjanović says

    And so, to bed; it’s a quarter past midnight, and I’m about as tired as I ought to be at this time – a good sign that I might be becoming a bit more diurnal, which would have a series of practical advantages.

  150. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    DM#202

    Because of the consistent failure of supernaturalism, however, science encourages us to keep looking for natural explanations when dealing with strange phenomena before hastily considering supernatural ones. But provisionally adopting this methodological guideline does not mean that science presupposes naturalism. Similarly, we have argued that science does not presuppose any of the other alleged metaphysical principles of science cited by Mahner, but could confirm or (partly) disconfirm them on the basis of the evidence. […] It is important that students appreciate this open-ended character of science, even if doing so brings to light conclusions that conflict with their religious worldview. The positions adopted by the NAS and NCSE and the extensions proposed by Mahner violate this principle of open-endedness in science and artificially restrict its scope of investigation. Science does not rule things out by fiat, and students should not be led to believe that it does.

    In case anyone’s wondering, I agree.

    I’ll add my agreement.

  151. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @David Marjanović
    Good, but you carefully dodged the relevant questions IMHO. Let me ask them again.

    Why do you or why should you value and use hypotheses which survive testing?

    Because the others make wrong predictions in some cases, unless maybe if I devise complex workarounds.

    If a model made a wrong prediction in the past, why do you believe that it will make wrong predictions in the future? Do you believe that if a model makes a wrong prediction in the past that it will continue to make wrong predictions in the future?

    What would I do with that certainty other than shutting up and calculate, which is already what I’m doing? :-)

    I appreciate this position. I think this position is my own. However, why do you hold the “shut up and calculate” position? Why do you do it? Why do you value it? Why should you do it? Why not rely on coin tosses, or dowsing, or astrology, instead of your position of parsimony plus “shut up and calculate” ?

  152. consciousness razor says

    I fail to see how that quote supports your position.

    You just fail. I have the same position as they do. That’s how it’s “supportive”: by being fucking identical to what I’ve been thinking for fucking years now.

    What exactly is your position, what is the position of mine which you are attacking, and how do you think that quote supports your position and undermines my position? I am confused. I see your quote as still being entirely supportive of my position.

    Yeah, you’re really fucking confused. Or I’m paying more attention to the crap you’re writing than you are.

    Here you are in #143:

    This potentially gets us back to an earlier discussion I think we were having. I’m a presuppositionalist. I argue that presuppositionalism is the right answer to the regress argument, e.g. the Münchhausen trilemma. Some of my presuppositions are: [blah, blah, blah … nobody cares what they are]

    It shouldn’t have to be said that they are arguing science doesn’t and shouldn’t presuppose any such thing.

    Also, just before that in #140, you referenced (with approval apparently) the incoherent view of Eugenie Scott, who was the executive director of the NCSE, one of the leading people responsible for pushing the claim that religious matters are off-limits (as if science does or should issue such fiats). Maybe you are fucking clueless of this sort of historical background or you’re not connecting the dots somehow, but there’s a good reason why that organization is criticized by name in the part I quoted, along with the NAS.

    Anyway, don’t fucking blame me for your ignorance/dishonesty/confusion or whatever the fuck your problem is.

  153. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I’ll also say adding a null hypothesis that the stupornatural does not exist does doesn’t mean science won’t listen to real, reproducible evidence. Just that the burden of evidence is upon those making any claims that the stupornatural exists, rather than science proving a negative. And from my snark, you can guess don’t think the stupornatural exists (due to lack of evidence, of course). Good conclusion. But I must listen. Then usually laugh at the “evidence”.

  154. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @David Marjanović
    Specifically, I’m beginning to see the beginning of a circle.

    I think you said that the principle of uniformity is testable. I think you also implied that the principle of uniformity has largely survived many and/or all tests in the past which have been thrown at it.

    You said something earlier, and I think you meant the following: You do not rely on models which have had failed predictions in the past because they will (probably) have failed predictions in the future. I have an open question on how you make the conclusion that a test failure in the past indicates a likely test failure in the future. I could see you answering “induction”, but knowing you that answer seems unlikely. I could see you answering “because of the principle of uniformity”, but then that completes the circular reasoning. You could answer “because it’s the most parsimonious explanation”, which leads back to this part of the conversation:

    Equivalently, how could you arrive at any certainty at all without asserting that the most parsimonious explanation is probably the right one?

    What would I do with that certainty other than shutting up and calculate, which is already what I’m doing? :-) I can’t disprove solipsism etc., so I can’t prove that I can have any certainty at all.

    That’s not an answer. Let me ask again: Why do you use the most parsimonious explanation to inform your beliefs and actions? You could use dowsing. You could use the dictates of a holy book. What makes “the most parsimonious explanation” special?

    You are confused. I’m not asking you to disprove solipsism. I’m asking much more basic questions. I’m asking you why do you believe hammers fall to the ground when released at a height. You answered because it’s the most parsimonious explanation. Why do you use the most parsimonious explanation to determine if hammers fall, as opposed to using dowsing, the dictates of a holy book, etc.?

  155. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @consciousness razor

    This potentially gets us back to an earlier discussion I think we were having. I’m a presuppositionalist. I argue that presuppositionalism is the right answer to the regress argument, e.g. the Münchhausen trilemma. Some of my presuppositions are: [blah, blah, blah … nobody cares what they are]

    It shouldn’t have to be said that they are arguing science doesn’t and shouldn’t presuppose any such thing.

    Your quote says no such thing. Your quote, and the paper itself, call out specific presuppositions as being unnecessary, but never does the paper say that science requires zero presusppositions. Further, elsewhere in the paper, it even explicitly says that science requires the assumption of induction (which is possibly justified by the assumption of the weak principle of uniformity).

    You seem to have a reading comprehension issue. Seriously, read the paper again, including:

    If the world were chaotic and displayed no regularities at all, or if supernatural (or other) entities were routinely tampering with or sabotaging our experiments and cognitive faculties, then science would be impossible. This relatively uncontroversial thesis is a far cry from the more radical claim (as promoted by Mahner) that scientists must presuppose or stipulate a priori that the world is in fact lawful and that supernatural entities do not exist (ON).

    Thus differentiating between the weak and strong uniformity principles.

    The weak principle of uniformity: The claim that some things in the universe follow uniform regular laws.

    The strong principle of uniformity: The claim that all things in the universe follow uniform regular laws.

    We have argued that science does not presuppose ON a priori,

    Similarly, we have argued that science does not presuppose any of the other alleged metaphysical principles of science cited by Mahner, but could confirm or (partly) disconfirm them on the basis of the evidence.

    Mahner’s list of presuppositions mentions nothing of induction. The paper includes an explicit list of the presuppositions of Mahner:

    (a) ontological realism
    (b) the (ontological) lawfulness principle [EL: e.g. the strong uniformity principle]
    (c) the ex-nihilo-nihil-fit principle
    (d) the antecedence principle and an ontological conception of causation
    (e) the no-psi principle
    (f) the no-supernature principle

  156. says

    @197, EnlightenmentLiberal

    If some hypothesis survives your tests, why should you expect it to survive the next test?

    Ah, I think this question is much better than your previous one I answered. (from looking into this, it seems maybe I was wrong that induction is merely just like any other hypothesis…it does seem special in some way)

    Let’s get away from this “some hypothesis” thing. (For most everyday hypotheses we answer this question by using induction, as I’m sure you’re aware :P ) Instead, let’s focus on the specific hypothesis we actually care about in this convo: the “induction works” hypothesis itself.

    The “induction works” hypothesis is one we observe to be true.

    Relevant quote from Carrier’s article:

    Hence we end up with the second line of questioning, about our inductive and deductive principles. But all such lines of questioning end with a circular argument: our principles are true because our principles are true.
    […]
    How do I know? Because I observe it to be true. How do I know I observe it to be true? That I am observing it to be true is an undeniable experience. Hence we are back to the first line of questioning, about what I am experiencing, where all questioning ends.

    Note that this is not as detailed of a hypothesis as “the universe wasn’t made for me” or “other humans have minds like mine”.

    Though it is close to some of your others, like “science works” and that sort of thing!

  157. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @brianpansky
    I’m open to the conversation that with just science, one could provisionally demonstrate that one is not the center of the universe, and that other humans have minds like yours. I’m not convinced it can be done, but I’m open to the conversation.

    However, IMHO the problem of induction seems insurmountable. I don’t see how you can escape without making at least one assumption, such as “I should use science”, or “I should use the most parsimonious explanation”.

    When you look at it closely, one realizes that the word “works” is itself defined in terms of induction or parsimony, and thus it’s nonsensical to claim that “inductive reasoning (often) works” or “using the most parsimonious (often) works”. Hence why I prefer phrasing it as a value statement instead of a normative statement, e.g. I say “I should use science” instead of “science works”.

  158. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Err, Correction: Hence why I prefer phrasing it as a value statement instead of a descriptive statement, e.g. I say “I should use science” instead of “science works”.

  159. says

    What makes “the most parsimonious explanation” special?

    (or place other principles in there) They are special because I currently observe them to be working to acheive what I want. Unlike dowsing :P

  160. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @brianpansky

    (or place other principles in there) They are special because I currently observe them to be working to acheive what I want. Unlike dowsing :P

    (I don’t mean to be insulting, just clear:) Ah, but this is just sloppy reasoning. You have a hidden premise in there. Your actual argument is more like: They are special because I have observed that they have worked in the past, and thus I expect that they will work in the future.

    PS: Even then, I think it’s a little sloppy, because it uses the word “works” which itself can only be defined in terms of induction or parsimony. Thus if you try to use that argument to justify induction or parsimony, you are using induction or parsimony to justify induction or parsimony, which is circular.

  161. consciousness razor says

    Mahner’s list of presuppositions mentions nothing of induction.

    Is that what you think this is about? If so, then what was all of that business with supernaturalism supposed to be?

    We don’t need to presuppose “induction” either. Indeed, I have no idea what that would mean if were true, much less do I see any reason to believe it.

    Induction is a physical process, by which we make inferences. That’s not a fucking “axiom” (or a presupposition) like Euclid’s fifth postulate or something similar. It’s definitionally something you do, as a physical organism, a posteriori, utterly consistent with empiricism broadly speaking — and of course you don’t need to be doing “science” to get evidence or infer things. (In fact, it’s a generic problem in empiricism or for empiricism, but you were claiming it’s utterly outside empiricism, which is simply fucking false.)

    There is evidence you can get and think about. That is not postulated.
    You can induce generalizations from it. That is not postulated.
    They sometimes turn out to be accurate generalizations, because it turns out nature is sometimes regular or lawful in ways that we sometimes happen to notice. That is not postulated.
    You remember having done it before successfully, and you try it again with other things. That is not postulated.

    At no fucking point anywhere in this process do you need assume that it must be that way, or else (who knows what you imagine that would be). If it works, then it works. If not, then not.

  162. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @consciousness razor
    I’m sorry. There were at least two conversations going on. I have been exceedingly clear the whole time on both.

    I agree that science does not require any of the following presuppositions:
    – strong uniformity principle
    – ontological naturalism
    – metaphysical naturalism
    – intrinsic methodological naturalism

    I also agree that the provisional methodological naturalism is not a presupposition, and that provisional methodological naturalism is a good and justified tentative conclusion of science and of the available evidence.

    As a second point, I also hold that science requires at least one unjustifiable axiom to justify induction (or parsimony). You need one axiom to overcome the problem of induction.

    Induction is a physical process, by which we make inferences.

    Do you have a belief that what works today will probably work tomorrow? Presumably yes. Does that belief inform your other beliefs, your thought processes, and your actions? Presumably yes. Can you justify that belief? I argue no. The paper which we cite agrees with me on this position – it says that making the assumption of induction is a prereq to do science.

    (One can call this “belief in induction” a value, but values are just a kind of belief.)

    That’s really been the totally of what I’ve been arguing here. Like Nerd, I suggest that you slow down a little, and take a little more time to read what I actually write, rather than just skim and wrongly infer my positions.

  163. says

    @211, EL

    Your last paragraph there (including your correction in 212) is basically what Carrier says as well.

    It’s becoming difficult for me to see if there’s really much left to argue over. We’re basically on the same page. But I get the impression that there are subtle differences in understanding.

    and sure, the word “works” may be defined in terms of other things, see also where Carrier says:

    Each of these general principles is irreducible in the sense that they cannot be made the conclusion of any non-question-begging set of premises. In a sense they are true by definition, insofar as I might choose to define such terms as “true,” “plausible,” “probable,” “credible,” etc., in exactly these ways. But in choosing to define these terms in such a way I am making a normative judgment, which rests on some belief regarding what I ought to do, which in turn rests ultimately on what I want. Do I want any of my desires fulfilled or thwarted? Do I want any of my plans to succeed or fail? Do I want any of my expectations to come true or be dashed? The answer to these questions entails a particular course of action, as much in epistemology as in any other matter.

  164. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To continue for clarity:
    Quoting me:

    Do you have a belief that what works today will probably work tomorrow? Presumably yes. Does that belief inform your other beliefs, your thought processes, and your actions? Presumably yes. Can you justify that belief? I argue no. The paper which we cite agrees with me on this position – it says that making the assumption of induction is a prereq to do science.

    Continuing:

    As I did elsewhere, I could ask why you don’t have alternatives to that belief. Rather than believing “what has worked in the past will probably work in the future”, you could believe “dowsing will work in the future”, or “following the dictates of this particular holy book will produce working results in the future”. The problem of induction is simply why one prefers one of these beliefs over the other beliefs. It’s pretty standard in modern philosophy that this question is basically unanswerable.

    PS: Some modern philosophers might take minor detours and introduce some other unjustified proposition to solve the problem of induction, such as parsimony, but that’s just moving the problem back one step and it solves nothing w.r.t. the regress argument and the Münchhausen trilemma.

  165. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @brianpansky
    I think we have broad agreement. At least, I don’t see any obvious points of disagreement.

  166. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @brianpansky
    One minor response to Carrier’s quote in 217. I completely agree that it’s a normative question, and I completely agree that any sane person starts with “I want to take actions which are the most likely to achieve my goals”. That’s the normative part. You have to start with the value that you want to achieve your goals, and that you want to take actions which are likely to achieve your goals – or the most likely to achieve your goals, or something.

    However, once you identify that you want to take actions to achieve your goals, you have to determine what actions are most likely to achieve your goals. That’s where the problem of induction comes up. That’s where you need to assume that inductive reasoning is the best way to find actions which will achieve your goals.

    I don’t know if Carrier covers that in some related text not in the quote, but I want to include that for completeness. (I strongly suspect that Carrier would agree with me on this particular issue.)

  167. consciousness razor says

    You need one axiom to overcome the problem of induction.

    No I don’t. This is wishful thinking, and I don’t need to do what you wish would happen.

    It’s not something that you “overcome.” It’s like solipsism, in that regard: it’s a stupid expectation to have that it could or would or should be “overcome” somehow. And cooking up a fake solution, like presupposing an answer or whatever, is not really solving anything. It’s already a hot mess. Just leave it the fuck alone if you can’t do anything except add more bullshit of your own.

    Besides, what would be the need for overcoming something that isn’t, strictly speaking, an accurate model of science (if there were one simple thing that was “the scientific method”) in the first place?

    Can you justify that belief? I argue no

    Then your expectations are unreasonably high. I don’t need “absolute certainty” (or anything like it) to have justification that I know things or that I ought to believe things. Nor do all other possibilities need to first be utterly ruled-out somehow before I consider something well-supported or justified or most likely true. Get rid of the naive absolutist thinking, and most of these silly “paradoxes” you think are so critical fall apart all by themselves.

  168. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @consciousness razor

    Then your expectations are unreasonably high. I don’t need “absolute certainty” (or anything like it) to have justification that I know things or that I ought to believe things.

    I never said “absolute certainty”. I clearly wrote “justify”, not “absolutely justify”. In many many posts here, I have been exceedingly clear that “absolute certainty” is a red herring for this discussion, and I have been talking about the normal everyday non-absolute beliefs and non-absolute justifications that we all use. Please try to be honest.

    I ask again: Do you hold the following belief: “What has worked in the past will probably work in the future.” ? Presumably yes. How do you justify that belief?

  169. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Why do I get the perception that EL is trying to show absolute certainty is required, when science knows better, and give “good enough” methodology and certainty, because science can always change with new science and evidence. We know we can be wrong. But we do require scientific evidence to acknowledge we need to rethink our theories, not one persons evidenceless opinion.

  170. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Nerd

    Why do I get the perception that EL is trying to show absolute certainty is required

    You are a liar.

    Quoting every relevant instance of me using the word “absolute” from elsethread:

    109

    To view it in another way, we never have absolute 100% confidence of any belief.

    139

    Do you claim to know that the post-death appearances of Jesus did not happen to absolute 100% confidence, and do you claim that you cannot be wrong about this and that no amount of future evidence might change your mind? If you answer yes, then you are a fool, and no skeptic.

    169

    We can ask how confident am I in these assertions about flipping coins and rolling dice. We can express this kind of confidence on a scale from 0 to 1, or from 0% to 100%. This kind of confidence, or probability, I’m calling epistemic probability or epistemic confidence. A confidence level of 100% means that I am absolutely convinced that it is true, and nothing could possibly change my mind. A confidence level of 0% means that I am absolutely convinced that it is false, and nothing could possibly change my mind. 50% colloquially means that I lack all confidence. Anything in the middle is varying degrees of non-absolute, uncertain confidence, where future evidence and argument could change my mind.

    I am not absolutely confident that “1” result on the roll of a six-sided die has a physical probability of 1/6. I mean, I’m pretty sure. I might have a midlife crisis and breakdown if someone showed me that I was wrong (barring imperfections in the dice, landing on an edge or corner, etc.), but the epistemic possibility that I am wrong remains and it is non-zero. The epistemic possibility that I am wrong on this particular issue I peg at an absurdly low number, ex: 0.00001%, but still non-zero, because I recognize that I could be wrong and future evidence and argument could change my mind.

    It is ok to assert that there is a 0% physical chance of (intervening) gods to some non-absolute confidence. I do that all the time. However, it is not ok to assert that there is a 0% physical chance of gods to 100% confidence. You should never be 100% confidence of anything (except maybe some trivial esoteric statements). That’s part of what it means to be a skeptic.

    194

    The Münchhausen trilemma (and the regress argument)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regress_argument
    is not about knowledge in the sense of absolute confidence. It’s talking about all justified beliefs of all confidence levels, not just absolute knowledge.

    223

    I never said “absolute certainty”. I clearly wrote “justify”, not “absolutely justify”. In many many posts here, I have been exceedingly clear that “absolute certainty” is a red herring for this discussion, and I have been talking about the normal everyday non-absolute beliefs and non-absolute justifications that we all use. Please try to be honest.

  171. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I clearly wrote “justify”, not “absolutely justify”.

    CYA fuckwittery. I know what you mean, and so do you. Science is always uncertain to a degree. I live with that. With the Higg’s boson confirmed to 5 sigma, do you think it is uncertain, or truly defined? If uncertain, what do you require to be certain? Inquiring minds want to know….

  172. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Nerd

    CYA fuckwittery. I know what you mean, and so do you.

    Considering that all you have done since this conversation has began is to willfully or negligently lie about my actual position, I doubt it.

    With the Higg’s boson confirmed to 5 sigma, do you think it is uncertain, or truly defined? If uncertain, what do you require to be certain? Inquiring minds want to know….

    Your terms are unclear. All of my beliefs are held to varying degrees of confidence. Knowledge is a subcategory of beliefs. A claim to knowledge is just a claim to belief with a high degree of confidence. I have absolute confidence in basically none of my beliefs.

    If the scientific community has demonstrated X to 5 sigma, then my confidence in that belief is about 5 sigma. Colloquially, I would say that I am certain. However, this colloquialism of “certain” which we all use does not mean absolute certainty beyond all doubt and beyond all future evidence and argument. No one operates with absolute certainty (or at least no one should) (except maybe for some esoteric trivial beliefs).

  173. consciousness razor says

    I ask again: Do you hold the following belief: “What has worked in the past will probably work in the future.” ? Presumably yes.

    It makes no fucking difference, but in some cases, yes, I do think some things are like that. In other cases, no, because some conditions do in fact change over time. Obviously.

    The use of “what has worked” is pointless and confusing. I think the sun will probably rise in the East. There’s no reasonable way of construing that as me working or science working or anything like that. So unless you’re going to put words in my mouth….

    How do you justify that belief?

    How fucking specific of you.

    For the example of the sun rising in the East, that is justified by having experienced it every day of my life so far, observing that every other person in recorded history who has had any anything to say about it has shared that same kind of experience, and knowing that numerous physical theories describe and explain what is predictably and reliably going on when sunrises occur. The physical sciences give a clear-enough picture of what would need to occur for that not to be the case (tomorrow morning, for example). It would require a fantastically improbable event, like physical laws changing suddenly, the Earth suddenly ejecting a fuckload of matter/energy to counter its rotation, or conditions elsewhere conspiring to be exactly the “right” way (which would be disastrous for us) to get an equivalent result. I know that, for instance, the sun probably isn’t going to be blown up, be devoured by a black hole, or that the Earth probably won’t captured by some massive rogue object that happens to drift by at just the right moment. And probably, no aliens or other entities will deliberately attempt to mess with our orbit, because there probably aren’t any nearby to begin with, nor would they most likely have a reason (or the ability) to do such things if they were.

    That’s all justified by the science, which I don’t need to personally re-do every fucking day in order for such a belief to be justifiable. But it is, in fact, mathematically speaking, probable, given the physical theories about the specific phenomena in question, which have themselves been extensively observed/tested/experimented/modeled/etc. and definitely not fucking presupposed or axiomatized. That’s basically how I’m justified in believing in it. Because it is in fact probably the case, given the evidence.

  174. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @consciousness razor

    For the example of the sun rising in the East, that is justified by having experienced it every day of my life so far, observing that every other person in recorded history who has had any anything to say about it has shared that same kind of experience, and knowing that numerous physical theories […]

    Could we focus on one argument at a time please?

    For example, you wrote: “For the example of the sun rising in the East, that is justified by having experienced it every day of my life so far”.

    Let’s consider the literal argument:
    1- Every day of my life thus far, I have experienced the sun rising in the east.
    2- Thus, tomorrow, I expect that the sun will rise in the east.

    As written, as a formal syllogistic argument, it is not valid. It’s a non-sequitir. Without some additional premise, the sole premise has no relation to the conclusion.

    Perhaps you meant this argument:
    1- Every day of my life thus far, I have experienced the sun rising in the east.
    2- For all X, if I experienced X being true every day of my life, then X will likely be true in the future.
    3- Thus, tomorrow, I expect that the sun will rise in the east.

    Now we have a valid argument (and sound too IMHO). However, premise 2 is not a mere statement of personal experience. Premise 2 is not physical evidence. Premise 2 is something else. It looks very much like a claim which normally requires justification – supporting evidence and reason. Do you have evidence and reason which supports premise 2?

    For example, you made a simple argument from popularity (which isn’t necessarily fallacious).

    Your argument literally presented is this:
    1- Everyone else makes the claim that tomorrow the sun will rise in the east.
    2- Thus, tomorrow, I should expect that the sun will rise in the east.

    Again, as a formal syllogistic argument, it is not valid. It’s a non-sequitir. Without some additional premise, the sole premise has no relation to the conclusion.

    Perhaps you meant this argument:
    1- Everyone else makes the claim that tomorrow the sun will rise in the east.
    2- For all X, when everyone else makes the claim that X is true, X is probably true.
    3- Thus, tomorrow, I expect that the sun will rise in the east.

    Now we have a valid argument (and sound too IMHO). However again, premise 2 again is not a mere statement of personal experience. Premise 2 is not physical evidence. I want to know if you have some argument, evidence, and reasoning which supports premise 2. I also strongly suspect that this inquiry into this premise 2 will quickly resolve into an inquiry into the above premise: “For all X, if I experienced X being true every day of my life, then X will likely be true in the future.”

  175. consciousness razor says

    Perhaps you meant this argument:

    I meant the “argument” that I actually gave: that whole paragraph, which is obviously only meant to be a brief description of what is actually the result of a fuckton of empirical evidence-gathering.

    You transforming it into the syllogism of your choice is not my concern, nor is it how I do in fact answer your question about how it ought to be justified (when I think it should be). So, I don’t see how that isn’t focused on your question/argument, although I guess I may not be following your script. If it’s not the kind of answer you wanted, I’m going to take that as a sign that I’m probably on the right track.

  176. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @consciousness razor
    I’m not on a script. I’m trying to ascertain how you justify anything. Thus far, you haven’t given a full valid argument yet for why hammers fall, and I’ve been forced to guess what you actually mean. Do you intend to give one? It would be nice for you to give one which you actually support. Please.

  177. consciousness razor says

    Thus far, you haven’t given a full valid argument yet for why hammers fall, and I’ve been forced to guess what you actually mean.

    You seriously wanted a full valid argument for why hammers fall? All over the map, aren’t you?

    I wouldn’t do justice to general relativity in a comment (and don’t even ask about quantum gravity), so take a course in it or something.

  178. Nick Gotts says

    Do you have a belief that what works today will probably work tomorrow? – Enlightenment Liberal

    Not in general, no. For example, if tomorrow I proceed on the assumption that it’s Monday 16th February, it’s not likely to work particularly well. I’d go to my Italian class and find that it wasn’t on, for example.

    You need one axiom to overcome the problem of induction. – Enlightenment Liberal

    So you have this axiom (whatever it is – as far as I’ve read, you haven’t specified, but coming in late, I might have missed it). Anyhow, let’s call it A1.

    Now how do you know A1 “justifies induction”? You’re going to need axiom A2:
    A2: A1 justifies induction.

    But then, how do you know A1 and A2 together justify induction? You’re going to need axiom A3:
    A3: A1 and A2 justify induction.

    I’m sure you can see where this is going. Once you buy the presuppositionalist nonsense that everything either has to be justified in terms of some axiom(s) or presupposed, it turns out that no finite collection of presuppositions/axioms actually suffices. For that matter, nor do infinite collections. Even if you try to form an axiom schema and say:
    A_omega: A1 and A2 and A3 and A4 and… justify induction.
    you will still need A_omega+1.
    Real knowledge (everyday or scientific or even mathematico-logical) doesn’t work like that.

  179. says

    @232, consciousness razor

    You seriously wanted a full valid argument for why hammers fall? All over the map, aren’t you?

    Um, CR, since you were ridiculing and naysaying EL’s method of solving the problem of induction, EL is simply trying to find out what you do instead and why it is better than what EL does. This isn’t unreasonable.

  180. consciousness razor says

    Um, CR, since you were ridiculing and naysaying EL’s method of solving the problem of induction, EL is simply trying to find out what you do instead and why it is better than what EL does. This isn’t unreasonable.

    What’s unreasonable is seeing that I did give a totally clear answer for one sort of example, which can easily be extrapolated to many others, whereupon he said nothing constructive, but asked specifically about a different example, as if that either presented a special problem the other didn’t (it doesn’t) or as if it would clarify anything about my position that I hadn’t already explained at length (it wouldn’t).

    EL is just full of crap and is probably starting to realize that himself, as he’s been slowly backsliding and weaseling out of his previous shenanigans at a steady pace now.

    I’m not going to apologize for deciding my time would be wasted on such pointless bullshit. If it’s an interesting question or seems like there is something a genuinely honest and thoughtful person could be confused about, which I could attempt to answer in some way that the questioner bothers to formulate at least somewhat clearly, I’ll do what I can if I have the time. But in this context, “why do hammers fall?” is not that. In a way, it’s worse than “why are there still monkeys?” I have nothing to say about it, except what I already did say: I get explanations for things like that from physics.

  181. says

    Ya, whatever CR lol :P

    No, your answer (in 228) wasn’t very clear on the points I specified in 234, which is why EL immediately tried to get clarification (in 229) (but you say “it wouldn’t” help clarify, ok).

    I can understand really not being interested in discussing the problem of induction (I’m getting a bit tired of it) but I think EL is justified in trying to understand your superiority, like I said in 234. Your answer (in 228) didn’t even exclude the possibility that you do exactly what EL does and which you ridiculed. As far as I can tell, anyways…?

  182. consciousness razor says

    No, your answer (in 228) wasn’t very clear on the points I specified in 234, which is why EL immediately tried to get clarification (in 229) (but you say “it wouldn’t” help clarify, ok).

    Huh? EL doesn’t have a method for solving anything.

    Anyway, I did answer the question he posed (how I justify a kind of belief), not what you apparently wanted us to have talked about when you specified it after the fact (how my “method” is better than his).

    What exactly do you think I should to do? I would need a clear question or an argument first, if I’m going to be responding to it somehow. Given the audience here, is there something you think I need to explain about the fact that empiricism is better than EL’s “methodology” (if you insist on calling it that), which apparently amounts to something like this: claim to know things prior to getting evidence for them, and assume you’re correct no matter what.

    Without any more to go on than vague or confused assertions…. I already have criticized that general approach, in this thread and various times elsewhere, so is the issue supposed to be that I’m not saying every possible thing there is that’s wrong with it, no matter how obvious? Or I’m expected to say something very specific that’s wrong with it? Seems a bit excessive, but what would that be anyway?

    And why would that be my job? If EL is saying something is impossible (as he does, when it’s claimed I “need” axioms), all I have to do is show how that’s false, not prove that what I’ve got is the best thing since sliced bread or is totally unproblematic. If you’re claiming that I didn’t accomplish that simple demonstration, then it isn’t clear to me at all what you or EL think the problem is supposed to be along those lines.

  183. yazikus says

    So, all of you techie geniuses, I’ve got another computer question I’m hoping maybe someone might shed some light on. My Windows 8 Laptop internet browsers won’t connect to any webpages as of yesterday. It says it is connected to the internet, it can’t troubleshoot the problem & I don’t know what is up? Any ideas?

  184. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @consciousnes razor and brianpansky
    Yes, it is right that I have no answer to the problem of induction in the usual sense. Brian is also entirely right in this sense: consciousness razor has claimed that science doesn’t rely on induction and/or that he has a solution for the problem of induction. I’d like to know what that is. Considering that consciousness razor has already made the claim, that seems like the burden of proof is on them to produce. And no consciousness razor, what you have already provided was a half argument – a half argument which when fully fleshed out looks very much like an argument from induction. I cannot read minds. I don’t know what you actually meant.

    @Nick Gotts
    Yes, I can see where this is going. You Nick Gotts, and consciousness razor, are going to continue to dodge my questions, ridicule my position, purport to have a better position, but refuse to explains yourselves.

    I have a little hope that you Nick Gotts might be willing to explain yourself. If you don’t think science is based on induction. What is your response to the regress argument aka the Münchhausen trilemma? Again, please remember this is not about absolute knowledge or absolute justification. It’s about how you non-absolutely justify any of your regular non-absolute beliefs, such as the belief that hammers fall when released at a height in normal household conditions. If you do not come to this conclusion via induction (directly or indirectly), then how do you come to this conclusion? Parsimony? As I’ve asked many times elsewhere, if yes, then why do you use the most parsimonious explanation? What is your justification for that premise / belief?

    Will you answer “because it works”? How did you make the determination that it works? Sounds an awful lot like induction to me.

    Will you answer “because it worked in the past”? How did you make the determination that it will likely work in the future? Again, sounds an awful lot like induction to me.

  185. says

    EnlightenmentLiberal

    Brian is also entirely right in this sense: consciousness razor has claimed that science doesn’t rely on induction and/or that he has a solution for the problem of induction. I’d like to know what that is.

    Since the ‘problem’ is a matter of philosophical wankery, the solution is to ignore it and go about one’s business. All one has to do is note that induction can, in fact, be used to obtain useful knowledge about the world and generate useful models thereof. Therefore, Hume’s Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding can be used as toilet paper, and nothing of value will have been lost.

  186. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    Sure. I would like some agreement from consciousness razor, Nick Gotts, and David Marjanović. I would also like at the very least for consciousness razor and Nick Gotts to stop pretending that I am wrong when I claim that science does rest on induction, and the problem of induction is insurmountable (more or less – you can move the problem back a step or two by introducing intermediate premises, such as parsimony, but then parsimony becomes the unjustifiable premise).

  187. says

    The problem of induction is not insurmountable so much as inconsequential. The premises are justifiable by results, which is the only justification that matters in the end. When Humean epistemology successfully predicts the qualities of a heretofore unseen element, and that prediction is borne out by subsequent observation of same, then get back to me about the ‘problem of induction. That is the answer, I’m sorry you don’t like it, but it’s still correct. Science, based on induction, has accurately predicted the qualities of elements and stars alike, vastly expanded the scope of human knowledge, and built everything from smartphones to spacecraft. Wanking on about the ‘problem of induction’, on the other hand, has produced a bunch of boring screeds by pompous twits, and nothing more.

  188. vereverum says

    @ yazikus #238
    I’ve not had that problem yet. Sometimes when I’m on wifi, it’ll connect then the wifi goes off and it looks like it’s connected but it isn’t. I’ll reconnect to the network and it starts up again but then wifi goes off again, etc. Other than that, I don’t know. I think computers are magick anyway. As oddball said I just drive ’em, I don’t know how they work. Sorry I couldn’t help you.

  189. says

    I think Nerd needs to show that his posts aren’t a complete kneejerk waste of bandwitdth (with third-party peer-reviewed double-blinded sooper-dooper evidence, natch) or STFU about everything, forever. Seriously you say you’re a “scientist”? Your posts say you’re an asshole who likes to yell at people over any excuse. Proof or poof.

    So it is and so it has always been. Nerd, despite being a simple-minded one-note asshole, is given a pass here because a) once upon a time he was a scientist, b) he’s well established in the community and c) and he mostly directs his attacks at the even simpler-minded godbots, about whom he is generally correct. But he’s too stupid to grasp the difference between “X is possible” and “there is evidence of X”, and when someone like EL addresses that, Nerd attacks them the same way he would a fundie. And because of (b) and the herd dynamics here, invariably several others join in with him.
    Back when I was a regular here (the only recipient of a Molly who was threatened with a ban), I learned to mostly ignore him.

  190. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    But he’s too stupid to grasp the difference between “X is possible” and “there is evidence of X”, and when someone like EL addresses that, Nerd attacks them the same way he would a fundie.

    X is only possible if there is evidence for X. Without providing any evidence, leaving X out of any logic gives the same results as if X doesn’t exist. EL presupposes that science should give room for the stupornatural. WHY? Not my problem, it is his. Same problems godbots have. EL must evidence his claims to be listened to.
    What is alternative medicine that works called? Medicine…. Science listens, but not to assertions alone, or philosophical arguments. Only the e-word.
    The null hypothesis is used to require those claiming the stupornatural to show it exists. Which is why EL poo-poos the null hypothesis, preferring to be “disproved (and ill-defined negatives can’t be disproven, which any philosopher of competence should know) rather than show us positive evidence.. The null hypothesis is very effective tool, very effective against god god bots and newagers (rhymes with sewagers) and he gives prima facie evidence of why it is effective.

  191. says

    @234 @236

    It’s nice to see that intellectual dishonesty is still sometimes challenged here.

    @241

    The question of whether science is based on induction have been dealt with far better elsewhere, e.g., in A. F. Chalmers’ “What is this thing called Science?”

  192. Owlmirror says

    Nerd, despite being a simple-minded one-note asshole, is given a pass here

    He’s been called out by PZ a few times, and by David Marjanović above. I tried to correct him (I’m not sure if that counts as calling out), but he either didn’t see what I wrote or ignored it.

    once upon a time he was a scientist

    I’m not sure that that is relevant, or if the past tense is correct.

    he’s well established in the community

    It’s true that having a sense of his humanity from his Lounge comments does cause me to be reluctant to bring forth the full annoyance I feel at reading some of his stupider statements.

    And because of (b) and the herd dynamics here, invariably several others join in with him.

    I don’t think anyone “joined in with him” here. If you are referring to Nick Gotts and consciousness razor, I think they are fully capable of having their own philosophical opinions and disagreements.

    I would suggest that most commentators with experience are fully aware of Nerd’s problematic fallibility, and are actually reluctant to side with him blindly.

    Back when I was a regular here (the only recipient of a Molly who was threatened with a ban)

    Heh. You’ve missed a lot of drama since then. I am pretty sure that “only” is no longer applicable, although I would have to trawl a lot of archives to verify that PZ actually used the word “ban”.

    I sincerely hope you’re doing well.

  193. says

    X is possible unless you can show that X [is] impossible.

    This too is wrong. Not only are there things that are impossible despite either your or my ability to show that they are impossible, but there are things that are impossible that no one can possibly show are impossible. (This follows from Gödel.)

  194. says

    Jim Balter #252:

    X is possible unless you can show that X [is] impossible.

    This too is wrong. Not only are there things that are impossible despite either your or my ability to show that they are impossible, but there are things that are impossible that no one can possibly show are impossible. (This follows from Gödel.)

    Yeah, please read as ‘should be considered to be.’

    My bad phrasing.

  195. says

    He’s been called out by PZ a few times

    I didn’t say everyone gives him a pass … I was responding to someone who didn’t.

    I’m not sure that that is relevant

    I think it’s relevant to why he is often given a pass.

    or if the past tense is correct

    He uses it … frequently. I’m pretty sure he’s not a practicing scientist.

    I don’t think anyone “joined in with him” here.

    Some people did in the original thread, driving EL to ask “What is wrong with this place?”

    I would suggest that most commentators with experience are fully aware of Nerd’s problematic fallibility, and are actually reluctant to side with him blindly.

    Your experience is far better informed than mine, but (limited anecdote) that’s not what it looked like to me in the original thread.

    Heh. You’ve missed a lot of drama since then.

    No doubt. :-)

    I sincerely hope you’re doing well.

    Thanks, I appreciate that.

  196. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Some folks think I dismiss the possiblity of the stupornatural. Nope, but in order to avoid problem, like “you can’t prove god doesn’t exist”, there a tools available and are used routinely by scientists and skeptics to make sure that the burden of evidence is where it ought to be, on those making the claims.
    You claim “stupornatural cause”, OK, show me with positive evidence that your claim is verified. Simple and easy logic.

    Otherwise, anybody must accept the claim to be true until it is falsified. Proving a negative requires the claim to be sufficiently detailed so it can be falsified, which usually isn’t the case.

    And EL’s description of the scientific method in #169. Bekeley says this:

    “The Scientific Method” is often taught in science courses as a simple way to understand the basics of scientific testing. In fact, the Scientific Method represents how scientists usually write up the results of their studies (and how a few investigations are actually done), but it is a grossly oversimplified representation of how scientists generally build knowledge. The process of science is exciting, complex, and unpredictable. It involves many different people, engaged in many different activities, in many different orders.

    Sometimes theory gets in the way of practice. Which is why reality checks are always a good thing.

  197. says

    My bad phrasing.

    It’s hard to get it right. Generally, all we can say is that X is possible unless it isn’t. Occasionally we are able to offer proofs one way or the other.

    But saying that X is only possible if there is evidence for it is plain stupid … as bad or worse as most of what we get from the godbots and other ignorant and intellectually dishonest cranks. And like them, Nerd swathes it with layers of other ignorant stupidity, and absurd attacks like his repeated idiotic and false claim that EL has made unevidenced claims.

  198. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    The premises are justifiable by results, which is the only justification that matters in the end.

    I largely agree. However, that just contains the implicit premise that what works in the past will likely work in the future. What you wrote is just an assertion that induction is the right answer, without an attempt at justification that induction is the right answer (or a a circular justification). But that’s been my position the entire time. Thus, I don’t know why you think I wouldn’t like it.

  199. chigau (違う) says

    So, since I can’t get to sleep, I caught up.
    This is nice, insults, name-calling, “I’ve been here for umpty-mumble years” just like
    The Good Old Days.

    Jim Balter
    are you anyone?

  200. says

    Yeah, please read as ‘should be considered to be.’

    I didn’t pick up on where you meant to insert it. So …

    X should be considered to be possible unless you can show that X is impossible.

    This is seductive, and I almost said I agreed with it, but … I really really do not think, for instance, that it is possible that all NP-complete problems have polynomial-time solutions, even though no one has been able to prove otherwise (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P_versus_NP_problem). I’ll grant that, by a strict semantics, it is logically possible by virtual of not having been proved otherwise, but “consider possible” is a mental state that I find myself withholding from a lot of propositions.

  201. says

    chigau @260:

    So, since I can’t get to sleep, I caught up.
    This is nice, insults, name-calling, “I’ve been here for umpty-mumble years” just like
    The Good Old Days.

    Jim Balter
    are you anyone?

    What was the point to asking the above question? Does Jim Balter have to be someone you’re familiar with for his grievances with Nerd to carry weight with you?

  202. says

    Jim Balter #261:

    I don’t claim to be either a scientist or a philosopher, and it’s gone 3:00 AM here. Tired as hell but suffering from insomnia. Which all adds up to ‘Could you simplify that please?’

    You appear to be saying that even though X cannot be shown to be incompatible to the way the universe is observed to behave, there may still be reason to consider X not just highly improbable, but impossible. Am I correct?

  203. says

    However, that just contains the implicit premise that what works in the past will likely work in the future.

    No, there’s more than that. The scientific method is in practice an “effective procedure”, and it can be shown to be consistently effective in certain sorts of worlds … “lawful” ones. While induction isn’t logically sound, it is nomologically sound. Of course, there is still a problem … why should we expect the current laws of physics to still hold, or hold in the same way? But this is movement from an unsound expectation that is invalid in an infinity of possible worlds — that what worked in the past will likely work in the future — to a plausible belief that this world does have underlying laws, for some or no reason. And it’s worth noting that things like us will not come to exist in worlds without such laws. Our evolution depends upon our existing in a lawful, predictable world, without evolution making any assumptions (that would be a category mistake, as evolution is not the sort of thing that can) … so we might as well take advantage of the regularity that made our existence possible. And we can do no better … logically sound or not, inferring the future from past observation is the best strategy.

  204. says

    @264

    Yes. My position in re, say, P == NP, or that the moon has a core of blue cheese is, perhaps, a fallacy of argumentum ad ignorantiam, but I’m sticking with it. I could be wrong about these being impossible … but then I could be wrong that I’m not a brain in a vat and all my empirical beliefs are incorrect.

    @266

    Yes, that’s me.

  205. Owlmirror says

    Some people did in the original thread, driving EL to ask “What is wrong with this place?”

    One person — or rather, one ‘nym, since “We are Plethora” prefers the plural — did cheer on Nerd, on that thread. And I was embarrassed for them for that, but they did apologize to EL @127 above.

    Everyone else on that thread was, so far as I can remember, addressing what EL wrote — possibly misunderstanding the details, but engaging with the actual statements.

  206. says

    and by David Marjanović above

    I just read it and David is spot on (as he so often is). QFT:

    For something like seven years now I’ve been telling you – only once every few months on average, because it’s so boring – to read comments for understanding, not for trigger words. Not only do you have a long history of missing even the most blatant satire and believing it’s serious, you also have a long history of taking your favorite words completely out of context and unloading your boilerplate on whoever happened to write them.

  207. Owlmirror says

    @Daz & Jim Balter:

    As I understand it, the problem of P vs NP is that some problems are so intractable that showing that they are intractable is itself an intractable problem. But even though it cannot be shown that such problems are all so intractable, the intractableness of showing intractability gives at least some reason to form an intuition that the problem is in fact intractable, even though it cannot be proven to be intractable.

  208. says

    Everyone else on that thread was, so far as I can remember, addressing what EL wrote — possibly misunderstanding the details, but engaging with the actual statements.

    Nerd addressed what EL wrote, but misconstrued it. It seemed to me that more than one adopted Nerd’s attitude of treating EL as being anti-science. I think it has occurred in this thread as well. I had similar experiences in the past, so perhaps I’m doing some projecting. I also know that it was very easy to rally people against a target … but perhaps this place has matured some.

  209. Owlmirror says

    @Jim Balter:

    Something I have been thinking about is the supernatural, and definitions thereof. As I recall, you disagreed with the “something irreducibly mental” definition that Richard Carrier proposes (summarized in the cited paragraph @125 above, more fully described in this essay: http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2007/01/defining-supernatural.html )

    Do you still disagree, and if so, can you remind me why, or have you changed your mind?

  210. says

    As I understand it, the problem of P vs NP is that some problems are so intractable that showing that they are intractable is itself an intractable problem.

    The different “intractable”s aren’t related in the way you’re suggesting. P refers to problems that can be solved with algorithms that operate in polynomial time. NP refers to problems where there’s an algorithm that can verify a solution in polynomial time. There’s some set of NP problems that are “hardest” to solve; those are the NP-complete problems. If the hardest problems to solve can be solved in polynomial time, then NP == P, otherwise NP != P. If NP == P, then all the known NP problems that the entirety of computer science has tried — but failed — to find polynomial time solutions for do in fact have polynomial time solutions. This is so improbable that I’m not willing to “consider” it to be possible.

    The problem of determining whether P == NP or P != NP is a quite different problem, in a quite different problem space. Finding polynomial-time algorithms is an engineering problem; finding a proof for P vs. NP is a problem in the domain of computational logic. It is an extremely difficult problem, and may in fact be undecidable. But that’s a different sort of intractability than that of finding polynomial-time algorithms for NP-hard problems — that is (almost certainly) impossible due to there not being any.

  211. Tethys says

    Chigau

    Creepy, neh?

    I guess there is some appeal in military battle and glory and heroic death, though I’ve never quite understood it myself. Youtube is truly kind of an amazing thing. I have found some footage of music and television shows that have me feeling all nostalgic for the 70’s. Rosie Perez dancing up the line on Soultrain. Levar Burton as a police officer in an 80’s music video . Football player Rosie Grier singing It’s allright to cry from Free to be You and Me. Michael Jackson and Roberta Flack from the same show. It’s so odd how I can remember all the words to these songs and my body remembers exactly how to do the Hustle and the Freak when it hears the right music.

  212. says

    EnlightenmentLiberal

    However, that just contains the implicit premise that what works in the past will likely work in the future.

    Nothing implicit about it. That premise has been determined to work most of the time, and when it doesn’t, examination of the causes for it having been the way it was reveal why.

    But that’s been my position the entire time

    You were the one who said that the problem of induction is insurmountable, in post #241. If that’s not your position, then you shouldn’t state it that way, because frankly I’ve had a lot of trouble working out what your position actually is. If it’s not that, than it’s maybe the bits about not declaring anything categorically impossible? Because that’s still wankery. While it’s true that induction cannot produce 100% certainty, 99.9 repeating is as near as makes no difference, and that is the status of claims like “The sun will rise tomorrow” or “Jesus didn’t come back from the dead”. So yes, I will say with absolute certainty that if there was such a person as Jesus, he didn’t come back from the dead, as there are no known instances of this occurring, nor any known mechanism which would explain it, and a vast body of data indicating that it cannot happen. That’s basically 100% certainty. Even if it were demonstrated that there were such a person, and that he appeared and preached three days after he was declared to be dead by local authorities or medical personnell, the reasonable assumption is that those who declared him dead were mistaken. People being mistakenly declared dead happened with great regularity. People coming back from the dead has never happened.

  213. chigau (違う) says

    Tethys #283
    I agree on the depth and breadth of youtube.
    If a video exists, in any format, someone will post it.

  214. chigau (違う) says

    Daz #282
    I have been Internet commenting only since 1994, … @ … was not a way to refer to a commenter way back then.
    Name and/or comment number was the protocol.
    .
    .
    get off my lawn
    .
    .
    shovel the sidewalk as you go

  215. Owlmirror says

    Football player Rosie Grier singing It’s allright to cry from Free to be You and Me. Michael Jackson and Roberta Flack from the same show.

    Huh. I never knew it was a show. My family got the record album.

    (The album sleeve might have referenced the show, but I don’t remember the text.)

  216. says

    As I recall

    Wow. I too remember disagreeing with Carrier on that, but I don’t remember any details of what I said. Here’s my current view:

    Everything that I have reason to think exists is natural, not supernatural, and I think many scientifically minded people have the same notion of natural vs. supernatural. Carrier writes

    if I suddenly acquired the Force of the Jedi and could predict the future, control minds, move objects and defy the laws of physics, all merely by an act of will, ordinary people everywhere would call this a supernatural power

    but that’s circular by a) taking “the laws of physics” as prescriptive rather than descriptive and b) using “ordinary” to refer to just those people who would think this.

    Consider heaven and hell … these are surely supernatural. Now imagine that all the gods and demons and angels and people abandon them. There is nothing at all “mental” about these empty places, but they are still supernatural. Imagine 1000 undetectable angels dancing on the head of a pin. I don’t know what that even means, but it’s certainly supernatural. Now suppose the undetectable angels were instead undetectable robots with nary a mental state, just the ability to dance. I still don’t know what this means, but it’s still supernatural and it’s not mental.

    I disagree with Carrier that

    we need a proper definition of “supernatural” (and, therefore, of the word “natural” as well)

    Being a naturalist, I reject the notion that there are “super”-natural things and that “the laws of physics” can be “defied”; the laws of physics are our inventions, and if they are “defied” by reality then they are flawed and should be repaired. This remains my position regardless of whether “ordinary” people use the word “supernatural” to refer to ESP (mental) or unicorns (not mental). “supernatural” is a vague folk concept that is not in line with our best scientific and semantic theories. We need proper definitions of theory terms; we do not need proper definitions of folk terms.

  217. says

    because ‘folks’ are not ‘we’

    No, that’s not what I said or meant. I didn’t use the word “folks”. Among folk concepts are sunrises and sunsets, which “we” subscribe to.

  218. Owlmirror says

    This remains my position regardless of whether “ordinary” people use the word “supernatural” to refer to ESP (mental) or unicorns (not mental). “supernatural” is a vague folk concept that is not in line with our best scientific and semantic theories. We need proper definitions of theory terms; we do not need proper definitions of folk terms.

    Hm. I will need some time to formulate a better response to the rest of what you wrote, but I’m more confident in articulating a disagreement with this conclusion, now.

    A very large majority of people are confused enough to hold to stronger or weaker versions of supernatural folk belief, and for the large portion of those people who are creationists, for example, part of their personal metanarrative is that those who disagree are “dogmatically” opposed to the supernatural. It was part of Ken Ham’s arguments in the debate with Bill Nye last year; and the creationist didgeman in the “My Darwin Day debate in Fargo” articulates something similar.

    By having a clear definition of the supernatural, articulating it and presenting it to creationists, and arguing that embracing naturalism is a provisional conclusion from the evidence, rather than a dogmatic rejection, I think we can promote the idea that science is far more reasonable than its opponents claim.

    I think Bill Nye may have made more than a few mistakes in the abovementioned debate, but the concluding comments where he argued that he was willing to change his mind with evidence, and Ken Ham responded that he was not, was, I think, the decisive point.

    Somewhat germane to the point, have you read Does Science Presuppose Naturalism (or Anything at All)?, by Fishman and Boudry, or Fishman’s Can science test supernatural worldviews?

    Richard Carrier has a much more formal defence of naturalism, by the way, which might be worth reading, even if you disagree with his definition of the supernatural.

  219. Owlmirror says

    but that’s circular by a) taking “the laws of physics” as prescriptive rather than descriptive

    I think this is a fair point. One of the things that I’ve been thinking of is how the putative supernatural would fit into the hierarchy of the possible (which I first saw described by Daniel Dennett). Clearly, the Force of the Jedi is logically possible. But if it has physical effects, as it obviously does, why would it not fit in to the physically possible, if it actually manifested?

    However, this may just be a semantic issue.

    Consider heaven and hell … these are surely supernatural. Now imagine that all the gods and demons and angels and people abandon them. There is nothing at all “mental” about these empty places, but they are still supernatural.

    I think Carrier goes to the length of distinguishing between things that are supernatural in themselves, and things that are of supernatural origin, but are otherwise reducible to the non-mental. So, heaven and hell, presumably, are just non-mental places (even if they are perpendicular to our reality, or whatever) constructed by the irreducibly mental God or gods using their irreducibly mental powers.

    Imagine 1000 undetectable angels dancing on the head of a pin. I don’t know what that even means, but it’s certainly supernatural. Now suppose the undetectable angels were instead undetectable robots with nary a mental state, just the ability to dance. I still don’t know what this means, but it’s still supernatural and it’s not mental.

    I’m not sure why you’re calling non-mental robots supernatural, given Carrier’s explicit definition.

    (Undetectable robots might be nanobots, or non-baryonic robots, or non-baryonic nanobots)

    Being a naturalist, I reject the notion that there are “super”-natural things and that “the laws of physics” can be “defied”; the laws of physics are our inventions, and if they are “defied” by reality then they are flawed and should be repaired.

    I should add that this looks similar to what I’ve also articulated in the past, and I still have a certain sympathy for this. I have certain reservations about Carrier’s definition, but I’m still thinking about how to express them.

  220. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Jim Balter and Daz in 261 264
    You have to be careful to distinguish between physical probability and epistemic probability aka epistemic confidence. It’s totally ok to have a 50% epistemic confidence when you lack relevant evidence. It is wrong to claim any sort of physical probably absent supporting evidence. See in my post 169 for a full explanation of these terms.

    @Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    While it’s true that induction cannot produce 100% certainty, 99.9 repeating is as near as makes no difference, and that is the status of claims like “The sun will rise tomorrow” or “Jesus didn’t come back from the dead”.

    The problem of induction isn’t about 100% confidence. It’s about all levels of confidence.

    As for your Jesus example, I disagree with your position as literally stated. However, an implied position is that sufficient evidnece could convince you that Jesus did die, stay dead for 3 days in normal condition, and rose back to life. Of course medical reports aren’t good enough, but if Jesus started raising people every week in New York Times Square, under the best scientific inquiry we can do, that should be good enough evidence that Jesus can raise people from the dead. It would become another mundane aspect of our life. When friends die, we take their bodies to Jesus on Sunday in New York Times Square, and he fixes them. How does Jesus do it? In this case, irrelevant to the question of whether Jesus can.

    You were the one who said that the problem of induction is insurmountable, in post #241. If that’s not your position, then you shouldn’t state it that way, because frankly I’ve had a lot of trouble working out what your position actually is.

    I fear we’re talking past each other. Hopefully this post clears it up a little. Succinctly, IMHO my major point has been this:

    EL: However, that just contains the implicit premise that what works in the past will likely work in the future.

    Dalillama: Nothing implicit about it. That premise has been determined to work most of the time, and when it doesn’t, examination of the causes for it having been the way it was reveal why.

    My response is: I agree the premise has worked in the past. That’s just a restatement of personal experience. How did you determine that this premise, this methodology called inductive reasoning, will continue to produce good results in the future? I argue that the justification for this conclusion is inductive reasoning. That means our expectation that inductive reasoning will continue to produce good results in the future is itself a result of inductive reasoning. And if one does not allow circular reasoning, then it appears that this question has no answer.

  221. Arren ›‹ neverbound says

    @ Chas

    Have to admit, I came to the same peremptory conclusion and have been biting my figurative tongue…..

  222. Arren ›‹ neverbound says

    @ Chigau:

    I have been Internet commenting only since 1994, … @ … was not a way to refer to a commenter way back then. Name and/or comment number was the protocol.

    Oh, get off it. There was no universally adopted commenting protocol on BBS or forum threads (AOL, CompuServe, whatever) in the early nineties when I got online. I wasn’t deep into USENET, but due to its anarchic nature I’m fairly certain @ was used this way somewhere therein, as well.

    (Yer lawn is astroturf, in this case…..)

  223. says

    By having a clear definition of the supernatural, articulating it and presenting it to creationists,

    I think you have gone astray. Carrier is trying to produce a definition that fits common usage. My objection is that he isn’t accurately capturing common usage. Presenting definitions to creationists is a very different sort of task … and one doomed to failure, I think.

    arguing that embracing naturalism is a provisional conclusion from the evidence, rather than a dogmatic rejection, I think we can promote the idea that science is far more reasonable than its opponents claim.

    It would hardly be the first time … but you can’t reason someone out of a position that they didn’t arrive at through reason. (That’s hyperbolic, but not very.)

    I’m not sure why you’re calling non-mental robots supernatural, given Carrier’s explicit definition.

    Eh? I said I don’t accept Carrier’s definition. I’m illustrating that it’s wrong … that it doesn’t capture everything supernatural and omit everything not supernatural … as the term is actually applied. If I have to accept Carrier’s definition, then it’s pointless to ask me to comment on whether I still disagree with his definition.

    (Undetectable robots might be nanobots, or non-baryonic robots, or non-baryonic nanobots)

    I mean undetectable in principle. This includes lacking mass, as with angels dancing on a pin, which can be innumerable. The point is simply that the speculations by Aquinas et. al. as to whether multiple angels could occupy the same space could just as well apply to supernatural entities without minds and not crafted by minds … the claim that “supernatural” is about the mental is ad hoc, unsupported by actual usage or logic. Angels, leprechauns, wood nymphs and unicorns are all of a type, and that type is “supernatural”, not “paranormal”. By unicorns I mean the sort that can only be captured by virgins, and have the power to heal the sick. While something with that description could exist, no one means that … the very conception of unicorns, as with leprechauns etc., is intended to be supernatural.

    I think that Carrier’s attempt (and I do admire his rigorous approach, even when it fails) goes seriously awry in re ESP, mental powers, etc. He writes

    if I suddenly acquired the Force of the Jedi and could predict the future, control minds, move objects and defy the laws of physics, all merely by an act of will, ordinary people everywhere would call this a supernatural power, yet it would be entirely testable.

    What the heck is “merely by an act of will”, and how can he know that’s the cause of these testable phenomena? This is a form of goddiditism … no scientist would be satisfied with “merely by an act of will” as a causal explanation. And if the claim that this is just what is meant by “supernatural” … that it applies to something if people think that something is done “merely by an act of will” … that falls flat when he gets here:

    ESP could be a natural phenomenon of human brains producing and transceiving radio waves, or it could be a supernatural power that doesn’t involve any such mechanism.

    Now something is supernatural or not depending on the actual state of affairs, not just what “ordinary people everywhere would call this”. So we can’t even know whether ESP is supernatural until we have ruled out all possible mechanisms for it. Carrier says “doesn’t involve any such mechanism”, but how can he rule out some other mechanism? He can’t, of course. The hypothesis “ESP is supernatural” can never be confirmed.

  224. says

    Oh, get off it. There was no universally adopted commenting protocol on BBS or forum threads (AOL, CompuServe, whatever) in the early nineties when I got online.

    That’s quite some strawman. All chigau said was that @ wasn’t used for that purpose in 1994. I think she’s right. (FWIW, I’ve been on the ‘net since before Ray Tomlinson adopted @ for email addresses. I was present when the IMP showed up at UCLA in 1969, I worked for Charlie Kline who made the first remote login, and I’m mentioned in RFC 57.)

    I wasn’t deep into USENET, but due to its anarchic nature I’m fairly certain @ was used this way somewhere therein, as well.

    Apparently you draw certainty from your own unsubstantiated beliefs. I was deep into usenet and I have no recollection of such use, nor was there any need for it … the authors of comments were identified in the headers and if you wanted to refer to someone you simply used their name. As far as I can determine, @ was first used on IRC (I don’t know when) but didn’t come into popular use until adopted for Twitter (as chigau speculated). My claim earlier that it had been previously used at Pharyngula was wrong (I tried twice to post a correction but my posts haven’t shown up).

  225. says

    You have to be careful to distinguish between physical probability and epistemic probability aka epistemic confidence. It’s totally ok to have a 50% epistemic confidence when you lack relevant evidence. It is wrong to claim any sort of physical probably absent supporting evidence.

    Um, I was talking about NP vs. P … that’s not a physical phenomenon (although it does have physical entailments). And we were discussing possibility, not probability. I don’t think it’s possible that NP = P … that’s epistemic confidence due to the existing evidence, namely that the entire computer programming community attempting to find polynomial-time algorithms for any of the hundreds of known NP-complete problems has failed to find a single one, while NP = P implies that all of these problems, no matter how dissimilar, do have polynomial-time solutions … and yet no one has been able to find a single one, while finding plenty of polynomial-time algorithms for problems that haven’t been proven to be NP-complete. Such phenomenal bad luck is conceivable but not credible.

  226. says

    It’s totally ok to have a 50% epistemic confidence when you lack relevant evidence.

    I don’t know what you mean by “ok” here. Lots of people have 50% epistemic confidence that they won’t gain if they switch doors in the Monty Hall game (as defined here) but their expectation is irrational. The common intuition that, given any pair of alternatives, each is equally likely, is mistaken. First one must establish that they are equally likely, given one’s state of knowledge.

  227. Arren ›‹ neverbound says

    (@) Jim Balter

    Apparently you draw certainty from your own unsubstantiated beliefs.

    Are you actually claiming that there was a uniform reply etiquette across the countless appendages of USENET, one affirmatively absent of @ to denote a reply?

    Does my opinion’s basis in secondhand accounts and histories justify your snide “unsubstantiated beliefs” jibe, just because I admitted up-front that I’m no expert? What was that about a straw-man?

    Have yourself a nice day.

  228. says

    I argue that the justification for this conclusion is inductive reasoning.

    Do you? Or do you simply claim it? Again, you should read A. F. Chalmers’ “What is this thing called Science?” … also, David Deutsch’s “The Fabric of Reality” — both of these address naive reductionism and offer more sophisticated alternatives. Also see my #267 and … oh yeah, my other post never showed up., the one in which I wrote about the scientific method being an effective procedure in lawful worlds like ours. It isn’t logically sound, but it is nomologically sound. It’s also the best available strategy. And whatever problem there is with it is surmounted by simply ignoring the problem … science works; try it and you’ll see.

  229. Arren ›‹ neverbound says

    ::snort::
    The ol’ high-horse cop-out. Gross fallacies: unsubstantiated. They must be so gross that they defy description.

  230. says

    I swear to fuck if I have to deal with one more head-up-their-ass ignorant fuckwitches who’s only reply to “fifty shades of grey is a pretty problematic rape and abuse apologetic filled novel that is also really poorly written” with “WELL IT’S JUST FICTION GET OVER IT” I am going to scream so loud that everyone within a sixty kilometre radius is going to go all Scanners and I will dance in the fountaining blood and brain matter while chanting paens to the ancient and forgotten gods that roil and dream beneath the greasy waves in the damp and dark forgotten depths of the oceans

  231. says

    Just by pure logic, since @ is often pronounced “at”, it is an obvious and easy internet shorthand to refer to someone or something. Twitter didn’t invent it, and it’s true origins are probably lost in the sands of the internet like a bunch of other shorthands and jargon.

    Except maybe “bug” which was because of a literally bug that shorted out a computer vacuum tube.

  232. says

    In the end, you can define natural and supernatural any way you want. The word is never the important thing. Whatever it is you are trying to refer to is the important thing.

    “Carrier’s definition” (actually a lot of believers in the supernatural use this definition, FYI) seems to make the most useful destinction, in my opinion.

    And Jim, you are very confused in your analysis of Carrier’s writing at times, and other things you say on the subject of “supernatural” things are very confused as well. Given the number and degree of confusions you exibit, I hope I can keep myself away from trying to correct you. I doubt it would go well. It would be the perfect storm of confusion.

  233. consciousness razor says

    Daz:

    While it’s true that induction cannot produce 100% certainty, 99.9 repeating is as near as makes no difference,

    Technically, I’m pretty sure it can be shown (at least under some standard assumptions) that 1.0-repeating and 0.9-repeating are the same number, even though they’re represented differently, since the representations are basically the result of limiting approximations from either direction.

    Jim Balter:

    but that’s circular by […] and b) using “ordinary” to refer to just those people who would think this.

    and later….

    This remains my position regardless of whether “ordinary” people use the word “supernatural” to refer to ESP (mental) or unicorns (not mental). “supernatural” is a vague folk concept that is not in line with our best scientific and semantic theories. We need proper definitions of theory terms; we do not need proper definitions of folk terms.

    There may be people who resist the concept for whatever reason, but the point of that is that we just wouldn’t want to come up with something that’s too far removed from “ordinary” or “common” or “folk” supernatural concepts — plural, which I doubt could be described definitely and consistently while applying to literally everyone’s concepts.

    The reason we ought care about it at least somewhat is that, if we have a very different definition, then the thing we’ve defined may not be relevant in a discussion about the beliefs most or many people have. Since that is what it will need to be in basically every interesting application (describing the beliefs of large populations), that is something we ought to have as a constraint of sorts, while coming up with a definition of our own, or while generating conclusions or other ideas that are supposedly going to be based on such things.

    Don’t think of it as us defining the folk term for the folk. We folk will do whatever we want. It’s a way of being honest with ourselves, to make sure that if we’re going use the terms at all, if we have anything at all to say about those terms or concepts — what they mean, whether they refer to things which exist, and so forth — that’s when we want to be reasonably close to the mark, not make up something of our own which would probably be irrelevant.

    Consider heaven and hell … these are surely supernatural. Now imagine that all the gods and demons and angels and people abandon them. There is nothing at all “mental” about these empty places, but they are still supernatural.

    There might be some marginal cases where we’d need to figure out a different way of defining it. No way to settle it completely, but this I’m definitely not sure about.

    Why do you say “they are still supernatural”? What it seems to mean, correct me if I’m wrong, is that they had (before being abandoned) as their source or as their function something irreducibly mental (probably an agent: gods, souls, that sort of thing). But Carrier is pretty careful to note that containing or being an irreducibly mental entity isn’t necessary, although it is sufficient. The idea is that you could also usefully describe things with the term if they have irreducibly mental origins or effects. Those would count too. So, I’m not sure what exactly you would mean by something like a location qualifying as “supernatural,” other than having deities/spirits as its origin. Maybe you missed that part of his article, or however it happened you failed to take that into account here.

    With the case of the undetectable robots dancing on the head of a pin, it seems problematic to me that undetectability isn’t a state of being in any straightforward sense. You’re describing us or our relationship to something (our inability to detect, at this time with current technology, or in principle), which ought to be excised as much as possible, since it’s purporting to be and gets used as a description of this other object over here and not a description of us.

    If, of course, the robots did have minds which don’t reduce to their robot parts, then they would definitely be supernatural by my reckoning (whether we detect or not, whether they are dancing or not, etc.). I can determine such things about any robot or anything else you like, independent of anything to do with myself, including my own mental states, like having knowledge/beliefs about the other entity we’re interested in describing.

    Notice that, if you were going to talk about yourself, if you were going to attempt to make a coherent distinction like saying “I am a soul” or “I am not a soul,” then detectability or undetectability just won’t have any use here. You know that you exist, and that isn’t an interesting question, so “detecting yourself” is beside the point. A question you can coherently ask is about what you are: whether you belong in the same broad category as these other irreducibly mental entities that people have dreamed up (gods, demons, etc.), or if you belong with things which aren’t irreducibly mental.

    But even aside from the self-referential problems it comes up against, it’s more general than that…. When I say “robot,” what you have in mind is probably something metallic with microchips — or however you imagine it, what the thing is all by itself — but adding the term “undetectable” is more along the lines of a relationship between me (or you, anybody) and this thing, not what it is all by itself. Sneaking that new part in with that adjective just isn’t helpful, when the task at hand is the ordinary one of describing things, which we were capable of doing just a moment before when the word “robot” was considered adequate. We could at least be clear that we’re not doing the same project anymore, as soon as words like “undetectable” find their way into the mix and we can’t have been saying the same things as would have been otherwise.

  234. consciousness razor says

    That was Dalillama, not me.

    Sorry, I had a Brian Williams moment and misremembered lied.

    For financial gain, obviously. Your check is in the mail.

  235. says

    Tashiliciously Shriked
    My sympathies. I’m really sick and tired of people who think that culture clearly doesn’t influence, well, culture.

    +++
    @Whoever
    I used @ for addressing people about 10 years before I ever heard of Twitter. It was also before many forums allowed any kind of formatting so it was a good visual clue that the following was directed at a person.

  236. consciousness razor says

    Cool. I’ve never received an armoured cheque before!

    I was going to put it in the plate, but the postal service charges by weight, so I thought I’d save myself some money. ;)

  237. says

    Jim Balter:

    Back when I was a regular here (the only recipient of a Molly who was threatened with a ban)

    Oh my, still trading on that, are you, TruthMachine? Sad. Well, that answers for your assholism to a 14 year old.

  238. says

    EnlightenmentLiberal

    And if one does not allow circular reasoning, then it appears that this question has no answer.

    The answer, you nitwit, is that it works. In reality, things that worked in the past usually continue to work, and if they don’t, the reason why is amenable to investigation. You can’t eliminate that fact by playing stupid word games, any more than theologians can make god exist that way. Logic is a tool, not a law of nature, and just because you can verbally construct a syllogism it doesn’t mean it corresponds to anything in reality, or has any actual meaning. Put differently, since induction demonstrably does work to produce usable knowledge, if your epistemology doesn’t allow for induction, the problem is with your epistemology.
    consciousness razor

    Technically, I’m pretty sure it can be shown (at least under some standard assumptions) that 1.0-repeating and 0.9-repeating are the same number, even though they’re represented differently, since the representations are basically the result of limiting approximations from either direction.

    Yes, I’m aware of this technicality. I was using it as a shorthand for ‘so many decimals it’s essentially meaningless to count them’, which amounts, for all practical purposes, to 1, even if, very technically, it’s not.

  239. says

    Why do you say “they are still supernatural”?

    Um, because they occur nowhere in nature, yet they are held to exist. Some would say that heaven and hell exist “outside of space and time”. I think this is a clear counterexample to Carrier’s claim that

    “supernaturalism” means that at least some mental things cannot be reduced to nonmental things.

    I hold that a) there is nothing about the concept of the supernatural that entails the mental and b) even if all mental things can be reduced to nonmental things, that does not exhaust the candidates for supernatural entities. Tales of gods and wizards and so on usually include magical artifacts … hammers, swords, potions, scrolls, etc. I think it’s silly to claim that the gods and wizards are supernatural but the artifacts are “paranormal” … that certainly isn’t what people actually mean by the words. Or to argue that the artifacts must have been created mentally or that there must be “at least some” gods in addition to any artifacts — there are no such necessities, and these are desperate attempts to cling to an inadequate framework.

    I find the long discussion of “detectability” quite bizarre. I was simply offering an example of non-mental angels. It wouldn’t really matter if angels are somehow detectable (like tinkerbell, or they leave teeth under your pillow, or whatever), just long as they are supernatural which the dictionary defines as “attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature” — whereas the paranormal is defined as “beyond the scope of normal scientific understanding”; the difference is that scientific understanding can be grown and expanded to include the paranormal, whereas that isn’t possible for the supernatural. Whether or not the supernatural is limited to the mental per Carrier, I consider the notion to be incoherent — whatever exists is natural and can be encompassed by the laws of nature because those laws are descriptive, not prescriptive; the supernatural exists only in the imagination and cannot make its way from there into the world without becoming naturalized — the supernatural of the gaps.

    I was asked whether I disagree with Carrier’s definition and why, and I have answered that. I think I’ll leave it at that.

  240. says

    Ah, yes, this is the place where intelligent mature people like Sastra and Owlmirror are found side by side with the likes of Caine and others who whine about my comment about some 14 year old who already fully displays their sort of intellectual dishonesty. Oh well.

  241. consciousness razor says

    Yes, I’m aware of this technicality. I was using it as a shorthand for ‘so many decimals it’s essentially meaningless to count them’, which amounts, for all practical purposes, to 1, even if, very technically, it’s not.

    Well, not all practical purposes, unless what you literally meant by “all” was 0.95 of them or anything less than exactly 1.

    But, if we’re being honest and realistic about it, the most stringent standards of this sort seem to be in physics, where it’s hardly “so many decimals it’s essentially meaningless to count them.” With the Higgs boson, for example, people waited patiently until there was at least a 5-sigma result (then it was party time). Given a reasonable decimal representation of what that means, it’s nowhere in the neighborhood of a mathematically super-duper-big number, like π or one that repeats forever like 0.9-repeating. I could count the digits in the span of a second or two, and that (as something less than or equal to probability one) is what is more than enough for most practical purposes, which is relatively small and clearly not something like “almost infinite digits” if that had any definite meaning that anybody could/would/should actually bother to pin down.

    And there being lots of decimals in π, for example, doesn’t make it “essentially meaningless” in a physical sense. You could coherently talk about really huge circle, in a physical space if that’s how you’d like to interpret it, which is more or less what it is to be “meaningful”: coherently talking about a thing. Saying something is “in essence” not coherent, is a really strong claim to make and should be reserved for things that actually are incoherent, like EL’s nonsense, and specifically the example of the positivistic claim about “meaningfulness” that I’m arguing against right at this very moment.

  242. says

    Anne, Lurking Feminist Harpy & Support Staff #323:

    A chain-mail letter, perhaps?

    Aye, that was the idea.

    ———————————————————————————–
    Regarding arsehole-ish behaviour toward children. Yeah, that shows real intellectual honesty and maturity, that does. Maybe next week we can take the piss out of a toddler for not understanding long division; that’ll be fun!

  243. says

    consciousness razor
    I was referring to things like “will the sun [appear to] rise tomorrow morning” or “do dead people sometimes spontaneously* come back to life” or ‘If I drop a hammer, will it fall”, such as EL has been bringing up. The probability of tomorrow’s sunrise is technically not 100%, but the percentage chance of it happening is 99.9 followed by several billion more 9s. This is as near to 100% as makes no difference; there is no meaningful probability that the sun will not cross the horizon again at a predictable interval.

    *Excluding things like, e.g. reviving someone who drowned in cold water through medical intervention

  244. says

    EnlightenmentLiberal

    Of course medical reports aren’t good enough, but if Jesus started raising people every week in New York Times Square, under the best scientific inquiry we can do, that should be good enough evidence that Jesus can raise people from the dead.

    And, as with the sun not rising, there is no meaningful probability that Jesus will turn up and start raising the dead in Times Square, any more than there is a meaningful probability that it will be discovered that lighting bolts are, in fact, the javelins of Zeus.

  245. says

    Regarding arsehole-ish behaviour toward children. Yeah, that shows real intellectual honesty and maturity, that does. Maybe next week we can take the piss out of a toddler for not understanding long division; that’ll be fun!

    It’s this sort of thing I’m talking about. Every bit of it is grossly dishonest, and never would you see the mature people here like Sastra say anything like it. Ah, but I’m sinking into the cesspool just addressing it.

    I haz disappointment.

    Me too. Me too.

  246. Owlmirror says

    (@ Jim Balter: I composed most of this before #321 was posted, so there may be some crosstalk.)

    Carrier is trying to produce a definition that fits common usage. My objection is that he isn’t accurately capturing common usage.

    Hm.

    I think that “common usage” of the term “supernatural” is deeply confused, because the people using the term are very confused.

    Which reminds me, the paper by Fishman and Boudry references a splitting of the term into two, and has an interesting discussion about this (pg 11).

    In order to resolve the controversy over the testability of supernatural claims, Mahner suggests that the term ‘supernatural’ has been applied to two different categories of phenomena, which he calls the ‘overnatural’ and the ‘transnatural’ (following Spiegelberg 1951; see also Tanona 2010). Overnatural entities are effectively super-powered beings with quasi-natural properties, whereas transnatural entities are categorically different from ‘natural’ ones, so much so that their properties are essentially mysterious, ineffable, and incomprehensible.

    So bringing this back to Carrier — I would suggest that irreducibly mental entities or powers would fall under “overnatural”, but people use the term “supernatural” to conflate the overnatural with the (probably incoherent) “transnatural”.

    It would hardly be the first time … but you can’t reason someone out of a position that they didn’t arrive at through reason.

    I have the hope that we could reach bystanders who are not dogmatically convinced, and encourage them into thinking about alternatives.

    (Undetectable robots might be nanobots, or non-baryonic robots, or non-baryonic nanobots)

    I mean undetectable in principle.

    Do you think that this might be an example of the transnatural, as described above?

    the claim that “supernatural” is about the mental is ad hoc, unsupported by actual usage or logic.

    I think that describing the supernatural as irreducibly mental encapsulates what people actually mean (“overnatural”), but that turning around and calling those same things undetectable in principle (“transnatural”) is an example of an ad hoc hypothesis to obviate falsification (paraphasing Fishman & Boudry’s quote from Mahner, pg 16 of their paper)

    Angels, leprechauns, wood nymphs and unicorns are all of a type, and that type is “supernatural”, not “paranormal”. By unicorns I mean the sort that can only be captured by virgins, and have the power to heal the sick. While something with that description could exist, no one means that … the very conception of unicorns, as with leprechauns etc., is intended to be supernatural.

    Yes, but that intention, I think, rests on a concept of some fundamentally mindlike aspect to them.

    How does a unicorn detect a virgin? I think the original concept was a virgin has some inherent quality or attribute of purity which was voided by sexual activity, and the unicorn detects that purity with its own inherently pure nature, and is attracted by its presence and repelled by its absence. But that purity is an inherently mental concept.

    The same goes for “curing diseases” — if disease were a contagious impurity, the unicorn dispels it with its inherent purity.

    I realize that simply saying “purity” a lot doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to you or me, with our naturalistic sensibilities, but how else do you think that unicorns were thought of as acting and being?

    If it turned out that unicorns were described as using some sort of nanotech hymen detection, and their power to cure diseases was by using nanorobots that fought disease organisms by detecting surface proteins and killing invading cells, do you think that most people would still describe the unicorn as being supernatural?

    The same goes for leprechauns. They are thought of as being supernatural because they can perform acts of magic; use their minds to affect reality.

    If they were just little people — physically short and slight or having congenital dwarfism — who collected gold, would they be thought of as being supernatural?

    What the heck is “merely by an act of will”, and how can he know that’s the cause of these testable phenomena? This is a form of goddiditism … no scientist would be satisfied with “merely by an act of will” as a causal explanation.

    Alas, there appear to be a small but non-zero number of scientists who believe in the supernatural, and therefore in the concept of “act of will” as causal (the usual religious suspects come to mind).

    And if the claim that this is just what is meant by “supernatural” … that it applies to something if people think that something is done “merely by an act of will” … that falls flat when he gets here:

    ESP could be a natural phenomenon of human brains producing and transceiving radio waves, or it could be a supernatural power that doesn’t involve any such mechanism.

    Now something is supernatural or not depending on the actual state of affairs, not just what “ordinary people everywhere would call this”.

    I think that what he writes makes sense, given what he’s arguing. It’s “what ordinary people everywhere would call this, given their understanding of the actual state of affairs”.

    Again, if brains could communicate by radio waves — the same things that are used by radios, walkie-talkies, cell phones, wireless internet, cordless phones, bluetooth device, etc etc, and subject to the same limitations (line of sight, signal dropoff with distance, signal loss and interference, blockable with the right materials, etc) — and this was understood by everyone to be the case, then what would be called “ESP” would clearly be a subset of radio communication, and I see no reason why it would not be the case that ordinary people would consider it natural (or come to consider it natural, once it was properly understood).

    If people could talk mind-to-mind even if both were inside a Faraday cage in a salt mine (to rule out radio communication), and/or not limited by speed-of-light (there’s at least some SF stories that use this as a conceit; space travellers keep in touch with Earth instantaneously while experiencing relativistic time dilation), and the communication cannot be replicated using mindless technology, and, in general, appears to be an irreducibly mental effect, then (by Carrier’s argument), ordinary people would consider that to be supernatural.

  247. says

    the percentage chance of it happening is 99.9 followed by several billion more 9s.

    What’s your argument for that claim? I believe EL’s position is that it’s circular.

  248. says

    Jim Balter #332:

    It’s this sort of thing I’m talking about. Every bit of it is grossly dishonest, and never would you see the mature people here like Sastra say anything like it. Ah, but I’m sinking into the cesspool just addressing it.

    Are you of the opinion that arsehole-ish behaviour toward children is the behaviour of a mature, honest intellect? Or do you mean to say that my utterance of an entirely subjective judgment of your behaviour is dishonest?

    What, exactly, are you claiming I’m lying about, and on what grounds do you make that claim?

  249. consciousness razor says

    Whether or not the supernatural is limited to the mental per Carrier, I consider the notion to be incoherent — whatever exists is natural and can be encompassed by the laws of nature because those laws are descriptive, not prescriptive; the supernatural exists only in the imagination and cannot make its way from there into the world without becoming naturalized — the supernatural of the gaps.

    I wanted to comment on it before, but I still don’t think I understand what your point here might be. Aren’t you prescribing, ahead of time, that by definition no supernatural things exist? What exactly are you suggesting when you say that not doing that is “prescriptive” as opposed to descriptive?

    Is there anything that the word “natural” means to most English-speaking people, which “exists” doesn’t? What they actually believe doesn’t seem (to me) to be that necessarily, by definition, things which aren’t “natural” (when they’re making claims about anything natural vs. supernatural) therefore do not “exist,” by virtue of being non- or un- or super- or X-natural (for most Xs). We could have another conversation about “necessary beings,” if you think that would be helpful, but I’ll leave that aside for now.

    They do seem to mean that it could logically be that “there are” (there exist) things which are not “natural.” They don’t just use verbs like “is” or “be,” as if they were interchangeable with the word “natural” (or any words like “natural”). It seems to mean something else.

  250. says

    @OwlMirror

    I appreciate your very thoughtful and challenging comments and questions. Thanks for helping me to clarify my thoughts some on this … but not enough, and that’s my failing. I’m sorry to leave you dangling, but I’m already way overdrawn. At the moment, I’m in the position of still disagreeing on points but not having arguments that I think will be convincing to you, or unable to articulate those arguments clearly. Maybe I’ll come back to this at some point, but I can’t now.

    Best wishes.

  251. says

    What exactly are you suggesting when you say that not doing that is “prescriptive” as opposed to descriptive?

    The laws of physics are our creations; they are generalizations over observations … if they don’t fit the observations, then they should be refined or abandoned. Thus they are descriptive, unlike the laws of the legal system, which are prescriptive. Only the latter sort of law can be “defied”. With prescriptive laws, the law has priority and the behavior must be bent to fit it. With descriptive laws, the behavior has priority and the law must be bent to fit it. It’s not I who is “prescribing” this view of the laws of physics; it is fundamental to the nature of science that it describes the world, it doesn’t tell the world what to do. Whatever the world does, that’s what’s “natural”.

    Gotta go.

  252. AlexanderZ says

    Jim Balter
    First coming to this thread to bemoan how everyone (meaning the entirety of two people) are following herd mentality in attacking EnlightenmentLiberal (even though those people have retracted their words), and then whining that people aren’t quick enough to attack a 14 year old.

    That’s from a most noble knight of the Order of Molly, so obviously we must respect that.

  253. says

    First coming to this thread to bemoan how everyone (meaning the entirety of two people) are following herd mentality in attacking EnlightenmentLiberal (even though those people have retracted their words), and then whining that people aren’t quick enough to attack a 14 year old.

    More lies from another dishonest asshole who lives to find someone to attack for something.

    That’s from a most noble knight of the Order of Molly, so obviously we must respect that.

    No, you stupid fucking asshole, I never asked for the award and PZ only granted it grudgingly, and I never asked for any respect for that or anything else. I only mentioned “OM and ban” as a way to identify myself to old timers.

  254. consciousness razor says

    Jim Balter:

    The laws of physics are our creations; they are generalizations over observations …

    Well, I also have a Humean sort of view about physical laws, so I’m not seeing how that could make a difference.

    Whatever the world does, that’s what’s “natural”.

    You’re using the word “natural” in a very strange way to me.

    When things happen, physicists describe/summarize that with the things we create that we call “laws of physics.” That is to say, there is some material stuff which is in spacetime, and when it does things, we can summarize that. Because it’s not interesting (nor is it helpful for explanation or comprehension) to us to say exactly and with infinite precision literally everything that actually happens. That isn’t the whole of nature, nor is it even the whole of what physics as an institution could or does describe, since laws are only a special status given to a class of these inventions of physicists, due to their universality and their usefulness. No problems so far. Right?

    What I don’t get is how it could be that reality must logically be a certain way, given how you’ve defined a particular English word. It could be that there are things, which for whatever reasons physicists can’t summarize as the lawlike behaviors of materials in spacetime…. And what that means isn’t that it simply must be inconsistent with itself or isn’t regular or isn’t observable by physicists who do the summarizing. There could just be something, since we’re doing physics which about some kind of stuff, which isn’t “natural” in the sense of what it’s made of or how it happens, while respecting any/all of the other aspects of things which we think exist like involving regularities or other requirements you may want to toss in. (Or maybe you’d say it’s not “material” or “physical” or even “spatiotemporal,” which people do in fact use as pretty much equivalent to one another and to “natural,” sometimes with a different emphasis here or there, unlike the word “exists” or “is” which has no such use.)

    There could be things like that, logically speaking. It just happens not to be the case in fact, not because of a word or a simple matter of logic, but because of actual substantive discoveries people have made about reality over the centuries, that there are no supernatural things like that. Those kinds of beings, beings which match a certain description, aren’t real. What science hasn’t helped us to “discover” is that some people had the incoherent thought that non-existent things might exist, and we’ve “shown” somehow with definitions that such an idea is incoherent. If that’s what you thought people were up to when they were making what looked like empirical claims about reality, then that’s extremely hard to believe. And I think you’re wrong. And frankly, I’d be confused and see no reason why I (or anybody else) should want to play a game like that, if that’s what was happening.

  255. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Dalillama, Schmott Guy in 320
    Agreed.

    Do you understand that “it works” means “according to inductive reasoning, it works” ?

    Do you understand that “induction demonstrably does work to produce useful knowledge” means “one can use inductive reasoning to demonstrate that inductive reasoning produces useful knowledge” ?

    Do you understand that you just used induction to justify induction?

    The probability of tomorrow’s sunrise is technically not 100%, but the percentage chance of it happening is 99.9 followed by several billion more 9s.

    IMHO you overestimate the odds of the sun rising tomorrow (both epistemic confidence and physical probability). We know about wandering black holes and other astronomical phenomena that could destroy the sun, or the Earth, and that would mean that the sun will not rise tomorrow.

    I’m much more comfortable putting a epistemic-confidence number like that to the idea that gravity works the same way tomorrow, and that the known laws of physics won’t spontaneously change tomorrow. But the sun rising? We have way less confidence in that.

    there is no meaningful probability that Jesus will turn up and start raising the dead in Times Square

    Yes, but that would count as sufficient and compelling evidence.

  256. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    PS: Hell, a billion ‘9’s after the decimal point? It’s possible that the Higgs field will quantum tunnel to a different state tomorrow before the sunrise, which would destroy everything. I think my epistemic probability of that is higher than “0 . [a billion ‘0’s] 1”, which means my epistemic probability and/or my estimated physical probability that the sun will rise tomorrow is less than “0 . [a billion ‘9’s]” because of this alternative hypothesis alone.

  257. AlexanderZ says

    Jim Balter #340

    I only mentioned “OM and ban” as a way to identify myself to old timers.

    Of course! Why use your previous nym, or simply write it in your first comment here, when you can provide a reference so obscure that only Chas managed to figure out?
    Yeah, and I’m the dishonest liar here…

  258. says

    EnlightenmentLiberal

    Do you understand that “it works” means “according to inductive reasoning, it works” ?

    Eppur si Muove. Do you understand that “it works” means “The planes fly, the phones make calls, the sun rises, and the electricity flows”?. These things occur in a place we like to call ‘reality’, where we can make predictions and then test them. No amount of philosophical masturbation will change the fact that the methods we use to test predictions demonstrably achieve results.

    IMHO you overestimate the odds of the sun rising tomorrow (both epistemic confidence and physical probability). We know about wandering black holes and other astronomical phenomena that could destroy the sun, or the Earth, and that would mean that the sun will not rise tomorrow.

    We also have a reasonably good idea of the prevalence of such things, particularly in the area of space nearest to the Earth (hint: there’s nothing near enough that it could hit tomorrow which could destroy the Sun or the Earth; life on Earth possibly, but not the Earth itself. That actually brings us to the point that in a very real sense the chance of the sun not rising is totally irrelevant, since anything that would cause that would also cause our immediate extinction, and there wouldn’t be anyone left to worry about it). The probability of a black hole just appearing out of nowhere and eating the sun is, you guessed it, as near zero as makes no difference. Likewise the chance that the sun will die 5 billion or so years ahead of schedule. Just because you’re ignorant about the probabilities doesn’t change them.

    We have way less confidence in that.

    You have, but that’s because you haven’t actually looked at the matter and/or don’t understand probability (something which looks increasingly like it’s the case).

    Yes, but that would count as sufficient and compelling evidence.

    Yes, and Yoda leaping out of the screen and carving shit up with a lightsaber would be compelling evidence that Jedi exist. Neither one is going to happen, though, so who gives a fuck?

  259. says

    Why [not] use your previous nym, or simply write it in your first comment here

    Because I chose to do something else. “The guy who both was awarded a Molly and a ban threat” (or the first one, if OwlMirror is right that there have been others) is an identifier as much as “Truth Machine”, but it also communicates an “interesting” fact about me.

    when you can provide a reference so obscure that only Chas managed to figure out?

    Wrong, moron … see, e.g., #251. As I said, it was for the old-timers … they would recognize the reference.

    I have no reason or desire to have your respect … I despise people like you.

  260. Rossignol says

    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    No amount of philosophical masturbation will change the fact that the methods we use to test predictions demonstrably achieve results.

    I don’t think EL is trying to change that fact. I think he agrees!
    He’s just pointing out that it’s not unreasonable to accept the use of induction axiomatically. CR mocked him for doing so, and he defended his ideas.

  261. says

    You’re using the word “natural” in a very strange way to me.

    I’m certainly not alone in taking “natural” to encompass everything that exists — that’s naturalism. I go further in saying that this isn’t just a fact about our world but a semantic necessity … but again I am not alone. Even Owlmirror wrote “I should add that this looks similar to what I’ve also articulated in the past, and I still have a certain sympathy for this”, where I think the referent for “this” coincides with my concept of “natural” (but maybe he didn’t quite mean that). But others have certainly argued likewise, and googling brings some up. I found and offer for interesting reading

    http://machineslikeus.com/news/against-supernatural-profound-idea

    Perhaps that will help. It’s too bad that Carrier’s definition is not among those he addresses, but that isn’t necessary to get at my use of “natural” and how it can be justified.

  262. AlexanderZ says

    Jim Balter #346

    … is an identifier as much as “Truth Machine”, but it also communicates an “interesting” fact about me.

    Interesting how? The Molly hasn’t been used for two and a half years now, so the only people who would appreciate that would be the same people who were supposed to guess your nym from your clues.
    See, this is the reason I think you’re a liar – you wanted to play a little game, to see how many of the old-guard remain and how keen their memory is, but when I dared to call it a rather childish attempt at showing off your local cred (you do realize that the site has changed greatly in these years, don’t you? Many new people came, and certain old-timers have discredited themselves so much that being associated with them isn’t exactly a good thing) you lashed out.

    I have no reason or desire to have your respect …

    That much is obvious. And not just mine, it would seem.

    I despise people like you

    People like me? OK, I’m curious. Who are “people like me”?

  263. consciousness razor says

    I don’t think EL is trying to change that fact. I think he agrees!

    I think that’s basically right. EL doesn’t apparently dispute the fact that it works, but seems to think we need “justify” something or other about it, beyond that.

    For example: We sent people to the moon, and we’re not brains in vats who merely believe we sent people to the moon. I’m pretty sure EL agrees.

    What seems to be the issue is whether or not there’s a reason to whine about something being “unjustified” with this process in some way, despite the facts (which EL admits) about how fantastically well it works.

    He’s just pointing out that it’s not unreasonable to accept the use of induction axiomatically. CR mocked him for doing so, and he defended his ideas.

    For the record, that’s still a ridiculous and unreasonable idea which I’ll happily mock, whether he’s really been trying to defend that or not (it’s hard to tell what some of it is even supposed to mean).

    The “reason” he should think we went to the moon (read: that the process “works” or should be “accepted”) is because we actually did. That is, there is a whole lot of evidence, experiences, memories, etc., of moon landings and so forth, which cause him to have such properly-formulated thoughts. The idea that any axioms are required for that specific case is just nonsense. And the idea that it must, according to some axiom, be so in general for all predictions about the future is also nonsense. So it’s just nonsense.

  264. says

    Daz @348:

    What was I lying about, and on what grounds do you make such a claim?

    I’m curious about that too.

    AlexanderZ @

    People like me? OK, I’m curious. Who are “people like me”?

    Ditto.

  265. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Dalillama, Schmott Guy in 320
    http://www.livescience.com/27329-higgs-boson-universe-apocalypse.html

    Let’s do some Fermi estimation.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermi_problem

    For the sake of argument, let’s say it’s plausible that it’s a trillion trillion years expected time before the Higgs field quantum tunnels into another stable state. That’s only 10^24. Throw on a few more digits to change years to days, so 10^27. So, let’s make another assumption that it’s a simple flat random variable which accurately models the odds any day that the Higgs field quantum tunnels into another stable state, which will destroy everything. That gives us the odds of 10^-27 on any particular day that everything will end from the Higgs field.

    You put your confidence / physical probability that the sun rises tomorrow at zero, decimal point, followed by a billion nines. That’s 1 – 10^(-1,000,000,000). Now, compare 10^-27 and 10^-1000000000. It is simply no contest. When you throw on more mundane occurrences, such as wandering undiscovered black holes, the odds you gave for the sun rising tomorrow are ridiculously unjustifiably high. Your probability is not even in the right ballpark.

    You assert that I don’t understand probability? The reasonable conclusion appears to be that you are innumerate.

    That actually brings us to the point that in a very real sense the chance of the sun not rising is totally irrelevant, since anything that would cause that would also cause our immediate extinction, and there wouldn’t be anyone left to worry about it

    Intellectually dishonest cop-out.

    PS:

    Eppur si Muove. Do you understand that “it works” means “The planes fly, the phones make calls, the sun rises, and the electricity flows”?. These things occur in a place we like to call ‘reality’, where we can make predictions and then test them. No amount of philosophical masturbation will change the fact that the methods we use to test predictions demonstrably achieve results.

    Talk about completely missing the point, asshat. If you don’t want to discuss philosophy of science and epistemology, fine, then don’t discuss it. But don’t come in here and tell me that I’m wrong because you don’t like the conversation topic (“philosophical masturbation”).

    @Rossignol

    I don’t think EL is trying to change that fact. I think he agrees!
    He’s just pointing out that it’s not unreasonable to accept the use of induction axiomatically. CR mocked him for doing so, and he defended his ideas.

    Yep.

  266. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I also have to further plans to engage with the intellectually dishonest consciousness razor. I will revise this stance if and when he decides to engage honestly and answer a simple question, like give a formal argument to (non-absolutely) justify his belief that hammers when released at a height in normal household conditions.

  267. Rossignol says

    The idea that any axioms are required for that specific case is just nonsense. And the idea that it must, according to some axiom, be so in general for all predictions about the future is also nonsense. So it’s just nonsense.

    It isn’t nonsense, it’s just describing a thing which I’m pretty sure we all do anyway.
    Maybe you think it’s obvious and aren’t interested in waxing philosophical about it, but I don;t see it as unreasonable at all.
    If there’s no way to resolve the question of induction without relying on induction, or to prove conclusively that we aren’t brains in vats, we just dismiss those questions entirely. They don’t matter, because induction works and who gives a fuck about brains in vats.
    Maybe (probably) I’m missing something here.

  268. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Rossignol

    Maybe (probably) I’m missing something here.

    I’m just defending the rather boring and mundane view of philosophy called Foundationalism.
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/justep-foundational/

    I have no idea what’s going on with consciousness razor and Dalillama. Do they merely think the conversion is not interesting? Do they actually disagree with Foundationalism? I don’t know for either case for either person. Let me know if you figure it out.

  269. consciousness razor says

    I will revise this stance if and when he decides to engage honestly and answer a simple question, like give a formal argument to (non-absolutely) justify his belief that hammers when released at a height in normal household conditions [do in fact fall].

    I added the end, since it looks like you meant that or something close.

    I do not determine such things with formal arguments. That’s kind of the point. It’s circular to expect me to do that, as if such a formal argument would be a replacement for the evidence that I actually, really-for-real, not-shitting-you, do in fact use to determine such things. They’re not.

    We use evidence like that to, for example, make technologies or send people to the moon, which is a good reason to believe it does in fact “work” as we had predicted it would. If you’re not going to deny that people went to the moon, then that’s part of your evidence already too. That actually, really-for-real, not-shitting-you, has worked in the past. And we both know that — don’t we? That’s at least how I know that it has worked: because we have actual, tangible evidence of it having worked. If you seriously believe you need an axiom, because getting to the moon just doesn’t seem like enough to constitute “reasonable evidential-support/proof” somehow, then I’m honestly telling you my simple answer is that I do not see any need for it myself.

  270. Rossignol says

    I do not determine such things with formal arguments. That’s kind of the point. It’s circular to expect me to do that, as if such a formal argument would be a replacement for the evidence that I actually, really-for-real, not-shitting-you, do in fact use to determine such things. They’re not.

    The point is this: you accept the evidence of past experience (hammers falling, moons being visited) because you accept induction. How is it that you do so without relying on an axiom? That’s not rhetorical, I really can’t see how else it could be done.

  271. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Again, I don’t think my position is all that controversial in academia. Or at least it’s fairly common.
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/induction-problem/
    (bolding added)

    Although Hume is the progenitor of modern work on induction, induction presents a problem, indeed a multitude of problems, quite in its own right. The by now traditional problem is the matter of justification: How is induction to be justified? There are in fact several questions here, corresponding to different modes of justification. One very simple mode is to take Hume’s dilemma as a challenge, to justify (enumerative) induction one should show that it leads to true or probable conclusions from true premises. It is safe to say that in the absence of further assumptions this problem is and should be insoluble. The realization of this dead end and the proliferation of other forms of induction have led to more specialized projects involving various strengthened premises and assumptions. The several approaches treated below exemplify this.

    Yes, I recognize that Popper disagrees, and the above link continues right on to discuss Popper. I fail to see a meaningful difference between what Popper calls “corroboration” and what the rest of the world calls “induction”.

    Similarly, I know David likes parsimony, but I also fail to see a significant meaningful difference between his position and mine. Introducing parsimony just introduces an equivalent “problem of parsimony”. Further, I also fail to see a meaningful functional difference at all when using induction (specifically Bayesian reasoning) vs parsimony.

  272. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @consciousness razor

    I do not determine such things with formal arguments.

    Do you consider your reasoning to be valid and sound when making conclusions such “as hammers fall when released at a height in normal household conditions” ? If yes, then you are internally making formal valid and sound arguments, or arguments which can easily be formalized. The alternative is that you admit that your reasoning is invalid or unsound.

  273. says

    Hi John! I hope you’re not one of those old-timers who “have discredited themselves so much that being associated with them isn’t exactly a good thing”, heh heh.

  274. consciousness razor says

    The point is this: you accept the evidence of past experience (hammers falling, moons being visited) because you accept induction. How is it that you do so without relying on an axiom? That’s not rhetorical, I really can’t see how else it could be done.

    Could you understand how cavemen or chimpanzees or dogs do such things, without relying on an axiom? That might be how I do it too. Is that supposed to be the point of your question, or was it something else?

    I haven’t needed some vague and unwieldy pseudo-intellectual framework that EL made up last week, simply to think and remember and act based on things that happened in the past. I haven’t needed it my whole life so far, and neither have lots of other people apparently. Whatever it is, it seems like that sort of thing might just come with the territory of being a reasonably-intelligent animal. And I’m not sure what use I would have for such an axiom in the future, if somebody could first tell me exactly what this axiom is and/or what it’s supposed to be doing for me that I’m not capable of doing without it.

  275. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @consciousness razor

    Could you understand how cavemen or chimpanzees or dogs do such things,

    So, you’re going to praise instinct and intuition over cold hard logical reasoning? Sounds like you’re going in the wrong direction. We invented science precisely to overcome the limitations of instinct and intuition.

    @consciousness razor

    I haven’t needed some vague and unwieldy pseudo-intellectual framework that EL made up last week

    If you seriously think I pulled htis out of my ass, you need to read a book. I suggest any introduction to philosophy.

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/justep-foundational/

    It is surely fair to suggest that for literally thousands of years the foundationalist’s thesis was taken to be almost trivially true.

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/induction-problem/

    It is safe to say that in the absence of further assumptions this problem is and should be insoluble.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%BCnchhausen_trilemma

    It is also known as Agrippa’s trilemma, after a similar argument by Sextus Empiricus, which was attributed to Agrippa the Skeptic by Diogenes Laertius;

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sextus_Empiricus

    Sextus Empiricus (Greek: Σέξτος Ἐμπειρικός; c. 160 – 210 AD),

    PS: I said I wouldn’t enage. I guess I was wrong. Duty calls.

  276. says

    Could you understand how cavemen or chimpanzees or dogs do such things, without relying on an axiom?

    Darwin explained this. Predictability is in a sense an axiom of evolution … without predictability, evolution wouldn’t happen; the correlation between genes and production of viable offspring would be broken.

  277. consciousness razor says

    So, you’re going to praise instinct and intuition over cold hard logical reasoning? Sounds like you’re going in the wrong direction. We invented science precisely to overcome the limitations of instinct and intuition.

    I didn’t mention instincts or intuitions, fool. As I understand it, scientists occasionally make use of their observations. And what I’m “praising” or not has nothing to do with this — please go to a worship service if that’s what you were interested in doing.

    You can call those cold hard facts, if it makes you feel like a badass. Or not. There seems to be little or no point in communicating with you, so maybe I shouldn’t bother if you just call things whatever you want.

  278. says

    Jim Balter
    Your honesty or lack thereof aside, the fact that you’ve now thrown this tantrum across two threads, and tried your damndest to focus the entire conversation on your petty whining bullshit is pretty fucking telling. You really should go back to being a former commenter. Permanently.

  279. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @consciousness razor
    The fault lies with you.

    You have been lying, deliberately, concerning:
    * Your continued assertion that my positions in this contention are fringe, rather than the literal consensus position of all of academia for literally thousands of years.
    * Your continued refusal that the problem of induction is a legitimate philosophical problem, and that the modern consensus position in academia is that it is an insolvable problem (or at least it’s a common position in academia).

    You have been purposefully ambiguous and moving the goalposts. Such as:
    * Your refusal to give a formal argument to justify your belief or to admit your reasoning is invalid or unsound.
    * Recently, how you praised the instinctual behavior of dogs as a good alternative to Foundationalism, and yet denied it after the fact.

    I know you have been deliberately lying or willfully malicious, but for the most part I don’t know if you’re being purposefully obtuse, or whether you are just this bad at understanding philosophy 101. Take your head out of your ass. Stop lying. Stop hiding in ambiguity.

  280. says

    EnlightenmentLiberal

    Do they actually disagree with Foundationalism?

    Yes. That’s what I’m saying: Foundationalism is crap, and this kind of crap is why I have so little time for philosophers in general.
    Rossignol

    How is it that you do so without relying on an axiom?

    Because axioms are elements of formal logical systems, and things supported by evidence do not call for formal logical proofs. Formal logic is a tool, and like all tools it has its uses, but not every situation calls for a pulley system; some things can be dealt with using a hammer or a crosscut saw.

  281. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Dalillama
    Curious then – do you accept the applicability of the regress argument to all epistemologies? What solution to the regress do you take? Or do you think that the regress argument is inapplicable to your epistemology? Could you please give a brief description how and why it doesn’t apply?

  282. Rossignol says

    CR@364:

    Could you understand how cavemen or chimpanzees or dogs do such things, without relying on an axiom? That might be how I do it too. Is that supposed to be the point of your question, or was it something else?

    Yes. I’d say they hold the axiom as well. Just because they don’t or can’t examine their presuppositions doesn’t mean they don’t hold and make use of them.

    Dalillama @371:

    Because axioms are elements of formal logical systems, and things supported by evidence do not call for formal logical proofs. Formal logic is a tool, and like all tools it has its uses, but not every situation calls for a pulley system; some things can be dealt with using a hammer or a crosscut saw.

    But your evidence supporting induction relies on induction. At some point you had to (consciously or otherwise) just decide that induction is acceptable, right?

  283. says

    Your honesty or lack thereof aside, the fact that you’ve now thrown this tantrum across two threads, and tried your damndest to focus the entire conversation on your petty whining bullshit is pretty fucking telling.

    Your lying is not an aside. And my memory may have faded, but I don’t remember quite so many dishonest shitholes hanging out here in the past.

    You really should go back to being a former commenter. Permanently.

    I’ll try, but I can’t guarantee it.

  284. David Marjanović says

    Looks like I’ve been missing a lot of… fun.

    Because axioms are elements of formal logical systems, and things supported by evidence do not call for formal logical proofs. Formal logic is a tool, and like all tools it has its uses, but not every situation calls for a pulley system; some things can be dealt with using a hammer or a crosscut saw.

    This may be off topic… one important thing I’ve learned on Pharyngula is that mathematics is an abstraction and generalization of how physical objects behave, and formal logic is an abstraction and generalization of how mathematical objects behave. They’re not basic, they’re derived. I hereby proclaim the primacy of empiricism and go to bed, because it’s 1:40 at night and I’m way too tired to understand the Stanford Encyclopedia article about foundationalism.

  285. David Marjanović says

    OK, I’m not too tired for some boilerplate: induction is a perfectly cromulent way of generating a hypothesis, as good as any other (Kekulé’s dream is the textbook example). What it can’t do is test a hypothesis.

  286. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @David Marjanović

    I hereby proclaim the primacy of empiricism and go to bed, because it’s 1:40 at night and I’m way too tired to understand the Stanford Encyclopedia article about foundationalism.

    You proclaim the primacy of empiricism. On what basis? Are you disagreeing with me? At first glance, what you wrote seems completely identical to my position that the problem of induction is insurmountable, the correct answer is Foundationalism, and one needs a presupposition that inductive reasoning is reliable and often produces good results. Again, honestly, that’s what I understand “proclaiming the primacy of empiricism” to mean. However, prior context leads me to conclude that you mean something different, and hell if I know what.

    Again, if you want to have the conversation, I think the following are good points to start the conversation, and for you to understand my position. Thus far, I don’t think you’ve tried to answer them. (Apologies if I missed the answers.)

    Do you hold the expectation, the belief, that the most parsimonious explanation to any problem will probably produce good results tomorrow?

    I really hope you don’t answer “no”. A “no” answer seems like clear-cut irrationality.

    On what basis do you hold this belief? Do you have a justification for this belief? What is it? My position (and the seeming consensus of the academic community) is that no justification is possible, and/or any justification is just moving the problem by one step, such as if you relied on induction.

    My position is also that one can call this belief “properly-basic”, which is just the same thing as saying you take it axiomatically, and the same thing as saying that it’s a presupposition.

  287. says

    You proclaim the primacy of empiricism. On what basis?

    Um, didn’t he answer that? “because it’s 1:40 at night and I’m way too tired to understand the Stanford Encyclopedia article about foundationalism.”

    I believe that’s humor. It would make a lot more sense to wait until he’s slept and had a chance to understand the position you’re putting forth.

  288. chigau (違う) says

    Jim Balter#374

    And my memory may have faded, but I don’t remember quite so many dishonest shitholes hanging out here in the past.

    Your memory has definitely faded.

  289. says

    I want to thank Jim Balter
    I recently celebrated my 36th birthday. At that ripe age people don’t often pull a “get off my lawn*” on you. Especially not in a place where you’ve been for about half a decade. You make me feel like a kiddo again.

    *not to mention that it was never your lawn in the first place and that it would be an overgrown mess where people dump empty cans and tires if it weren’t for all us unworthy rabble.

  290. Nick Gotts says

    Do you hold the expectation, the belief, that the most parsimonious explanation to any problem will probably produce good results tomorrow?
    I really hope you don’t answer “no”. A “no” answer seems like clear-cut irrationality.

    On what basis do you hold this belief? Do you have a justification for this belief? What is it? My position (and the seeming consensus of the academic community) is that no justification is possible – Enlightenment Liberal@379

    Can you really not see what self-contradictory nonsense this is? If a “no” answer to the question is clear-cut irrationality, then there must be some good reason(s) for answering “yes” – some “justification” for that answer, to borrow your favourite word. Conversely, if there’s no “justification” for answering “yes”, than answering “no” is not irrational.

  291. Nick Gotts says

    At some point you had to (consciously or otherwise) just decide that induction is acceptable, right? – Rossignol@373

    Wrong. Looking for repeated patterns and expecting them to repeat some more is built in to us (and other animals). Sometimes it works well, and sometimes it doesn’t. A lot depends on what class of events we decide to “induce” from. For example, I could have “induced” from the several thousand days my dog didn’t die, that she was immortal.
    What on earth do you, and EL, think is gained by proclaiming the acceptability of induction an “axiom”?

  292. says

    Giliell @ 382:

    I recently celebrated my 36th birthday.

    Belated wishes for a Happy Birthday, Giliell! You whippersnapper, you.

  293. Rossignol says

    At some point you had to (consciously or otherwise) just decide that induction is acceptable, right?

    Wrong. Looking for repeated patterns and expecting them to repeat some more is built in to us (and other animals).

    I’ve bolded a relevant bit for you. I didn’t mean to imply that it isn’t instinctual.

    What on earth do you, and EL, think is gained by proclaiming the acceptability of induction an “axiom”?

    Well I don’t know about EL, but I think the nature of knowledge and how we come by it is probably a useful thing to think about and discuss if we’re trying to learn more about reality.

  294. Nick Gotts says

    cold hard logical reasoning?

    Is that logical reasoning that’s been left in the pot too long, and now won’t come off without extensive scrubbing?

  295. Nick Gotts says

    Rossignol@388,

    I didn’t mean to imply that it isn’t instinctual.

    We don’t need to decide that it’s “acceptable” at all. We can’t help doing it.

    Well I don’t know about EL, but I think the nature of knowledge and how we come by it is probably a useful thing to think about and discuss if we’re trying to learn more about reality. – Rossignol

    Indeed it is, but since proclaiming something such as the “acceptabilty” of induction (whatever that’s supposed to mean, because it’s certainly not equivalent to logical validity) an “axiom” doesn’t actually get you anywhere. We don’t start from some specific set of “axioms” at all, except in some limited circumstances – mostly in mathematics and logic. Even there, we don’t choose the axioms arbitrarily – IOW, we have (or at least, think we have) good reasons – “justification”, if that’s the term you want to use – for choosing them. Knowledge does not rest, as foundationalists think, on some small number of arbitrarily-chosen “axioms” or “presuppositions”; rather, our beliefs forms a tangled network, in which any specific element can be given a “justification” in terms of other elements, and we have no general way of telling which are true. We started – as individuals and as humanity as a whole – from things we couldn’t help believing – and which were not formulated as propositions at all, but were embodied in non-linguistic behaviours. Sometimes, we discover that some of these things are not true. Sometimes, induction misleads us; our senses mislead us; our conceptual frameworks mislead us; but sometimes, we can discover that we have been misled.

  296. Nick Gotts says

    And I’m not sure what use I would have for such an axiom in the future, if somebody could first tell me exactly what this axiom is and/or what it’s supposed to be doing for me that I’m not capable of doing without it. – consciousness razor@364

    Well you might need it to cut down some treesiom or break down a dooriom!

  297. Rossignol says

    Nick Gotts @ 390

    We don’t need to decide that it’s “acceptable” at all. We can’t help doing it.

    You’re completely right about this; I articulated my thoughts poorly.

    Knowledge does not rest, as foundationalists think, on some small number of arbitrarily-chosen “axioms” or “presuppositions”; rather, our beliefs forms a tangled network, in which any specific element can be given a “justification” in terms of other elements, and we have no general way of telling which are true.

    This makes a lot of sense to me. I think the appeal of the foundationalist endeavor is the idea that we can, by thinking carefully about what and how we know, get to the ‘bottom.’ I have no trouble believing that there isn’t any such bottom, or that there a bunch of different ‘bottoms,’ all of which rely on each other.
    I’d be interested to see what EL has to say about this.

    Nick Gotts @ 392
    Uh…maybe don’t quit your day job.

  298. consciousness razor says

    This makes a lot of sense to me. I think the appeal of the foundationalist endeavor is the idea that we can, by thinking carefully about what and how we know, get to the ‘bottom.’ I have no trouble believing that there isn’t any such bottom, or that there a bunch of different ‘bottoms,’ all of which rely on each other.

    As far as I’m concerned, what’s at the ground level for us, or maybe even in the basement, is the evidence itself. I am a material body, which can observe things, think, form memories, and so on. That’s the sort of thing that I am, whether or not I form such beliefs about myself. Those are some true facts, right there. Trying to shove in some pointless piece of sophistry at the “bottom” looks to me much more like (intentionally or not) you’re undermining all of that instead of supporting anything. And believing otherwise doesn’t make any sense, true enough.

    However, that’s definitely not to say that I must posit some inane abstraction, separately from (or beyond or on top of) such facts obtaining in reality. If I had some other kind of belief, the facts about it still would not be any different, and those are what it all actually depends on at the end of the day.

    As with Nick’s dog, I might be dead tomorrow. I could conceivably postulate that “things will be like they are in the past,” maintaining that this is known by me prior to any experience of the world, and also maintain that it must be believed by everybody on pain of irrationality, which includes not just people but all other sentient animals (rational or not) at all times, for all of their practical purposes. Despite all of that, I could also be very explicit about claiming it’s actually part of a formal logical system, which (to pile on yet more nonsense) supposedly everyone and their brother and their dog literally has anyway from the word “go.” (Maybe, at some point in here, if I were the one saying such absurdities, you might suspect either that I don’t understand what some of these words mean or that I’m totally full of shit.)

    But it’s possible for me to make such claims, and it’s true that I could conclude I have a “proof” of my immortality, based on such first principles and the sheer power of my amazing logic skills. But that would be patent stupidity if anything is, because in fact I obviously will die. I know that I will, from experiences of having seen other animals die. I don’t get to decide that I’ll be immortal just by using logic, nor do I get to decide other things about the physical world that way, whether it concerns the past, the present or the future of the world. Indeed, just having a concept of “being alive” requires that I would first have experiences of living things, because that isn’t something anybody could have deduced logically from no experiences at all. There might not have been anything like that, and in fact we know there are such things in the first place (and can justify a belief in them), because of the evidence that we do continue to get about them consistently, even though of course that could all change five minutes from now for all I know. As I said, we do in fact get that by using the routine, normal, everyday method of having observations, which even non-human animals get. That’s why it’s clearly not axiomatic or presuppositional or a priori, according to reasonable people who understand what those terms actually mean in plain English.

    Did you instead want to know the reason why the world is that way, as opposed to my reasons for having certain beliefs? In that case, I am as clueless as everyone else is. Maybe it just is like that, and the world simply doesn’t care about trying to reason with us about the subject. That seems like a distinct possibility, one that isn’t terribly surprising to me.

  299. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Nick Gotts
    I think you do not accept the Foundationalist definition of justification. Thus I don’t know what you are talking about.

    The following snippet is a short description of what I mean when I use the word “justification”.

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/justep-foundational/

    Principle of Inferential Justification:
    To be justified in believing P on the basis of E one must not only be (1) justified in believing E, but also (2) justified in believing that E makes probable P.

    The link goes into a large amount of detail trying to describe what a Foundationalist means by “justification”. I think I am in complete agreement with the above entry on this point.

    Nick Gotts, what do you mean when you use the word “justification” ? It seems like you are trying to have your cake and eat it too, e.g. you seem to be using the Foundationalist definition of “justification” while ignoring the logically entailed fact that it leads to the problem of the regress argument e.g. the Münchhausen trilemma.

    I also think you are committing the appeal to nature fallacy.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_nature
    I agree that this is an interesting question: What are the material facts about how people (and other animals) think. However, that has little to no relation about how people should think. You are confusing two conversations, e.g. doing the appeal to nature fallacy.

    For example:

    Knowledge does not rest, as foundationalists think, on some small number of arbitrarily-chosen “axioms” or “presuppositions”; rather, our beliefs forms a tangled network, in which any specific element can be given a “justification” in terms of other elements, and we have no general way of telling which are true.

    No one said that humans actually make arbitrary choices for their axioms. This again might be a confusion between a normative claim about epistemology, and a claim from an anthropologist studying the actual behavior of actual humans.

    I understood part of what you just said as saying that a person has a complex web of beliefs which form a complex web of justifications of those beliefs, and that there are no beliefs which are at the bottom. This sounds like Coherentism, which is the “circular reasoning” answer to the regress argument.

    I have some sympathy for some aspects of that position. Perhaps it’s even right to characterize the right answer as a form of Coherentism, in the following sense. (Matt Dillahunty called his position a mix of Coherentism and Foundationalism. I don’t know if what I’m about to advocate is also his position. I’m curious. I should look into it.) (I was going to save this part of the discussion for the “advanced user” who brings it up and who at least admits that the regress argument is applicable.)

    Perhaps it is right to say that the right way of thinking is to rely on a small set of starting principles, values, behaviors, beliefs – instinctual, learned, or otherwise. Perhaps these starting beliefs sometimes come into conflict, and this foundation also contains a means for conflict resolution. Because of the nebulous nature of these starting beliefs, and especially because of the self referential nature and self justifying nature of these beliefs, one might call this a form of Coherentism. However, at a certain level, if the number of starting beliefs are small, one could talk about clumping all of the beliefs together into a single belief unit, and then one could describe the system as Foundationalism. In other words, I don’t see a big difference between 1- Foundationalism and 2- Coherentism with a small number of core mutually justifying beliefs.

    I think this is almost your position. However, then you had to say this:

    Knowledge does not rest, as foundationalists think, on some small number of arbitrarily-chosen “axioms” or “presuppositions”; rather, our beliefs forms a tangled network, in which any specific element can be given a “justification” in terms of other elements, and we have no general way of telling which are true.

    I am more than willing to admit that a reasonable way to describe proper epistemology is that we start with a small number of mutually reinforcing beliefs. Add personal experience, and from that mix we derive everything else. Thus most of our beliefs would qualify as derived, and only a small subset of our beliefs would be the foundation – perhaps a circular foundation. But you seemingly deny even this position.

    I simply don’t agree with your normative characterization of how people should think. On this matter, I also don’t agree with your descriptive characterization of how people actually think. Most people do have some core set of beliefs, values, behaviors, etc., and the rest of their beliefs are derived. Most people have the core set of beliefs of logic, math, inductive reasoning, some degree of skepticism, maybe some learned religious faith beliefs, etc., but the rest of their beliefs – which are the majority of their beliefs – follow as a consequence.

    As a related matter: As Popper noted, to practice modern science, one does not test theories in a vacuum. Thus, one might say that the justification of one particular scientific theory rests on many, many other theories. This creates a tangled web of theories, and which theories “justify” which other theories. In practice, it would be difficult – perhaps nigh impossible – to untangle them.

    However, this has nothing to do with the above point. All of these scientific theories, tangled as they might be, are still built on a foundation which does not rely on any particular scientific theory for its justification. Logic, deductive reason, inductive reason, some degree of human intuition, some degree of skepticism, and other basic reasoning skills, serve as this foundation. No particular scientific theory justifies any part of this foundation. For example, you would never justify any part of the foundation in any way by appealing to the value of the specific heat of water, nor to the atomic theory of matter.

  300. says

    ChasCPeterson @287,

    incidentally, ‘We Are Plethora’ is a deep-cover Poe.
    srsly.

    While we are flattered to have become the center of ChasCPeterson’s conspiracy theory, sorry to disappoint but we are not part of some “deep-cover” anything. This false narrative was crafted by ‘pitters and it’s a bit surprising that anyone here would begin parroting their hurtful nonsense as if it were credible.

    ChasCPeterson you seem determined not to let facts get in the way of your narrative, but if it makes you feel better about yourself to talk shit about us then go for it.

  301. ChasCPeterson says

    I hope you’re not one of those old-timers who “have discredited themselves so much that being associated with them isn’t exactly a good thing”, heh heh.

    tee hee

    AWESOME depseudonymized truthmachine drive-by.

    We: it’s a fine line you’re treading, man. More power to you.

  302. AlexanderZ says

    Say, Chas, how’s that New Year’s resolution thing going for you? Making any progress?

  303. Seven of Mine: Shrieking Feminist Harpy says

    So, this may or may not interest anyone here but I wanted to vent without getting shouted down for being hypersensitive etc. so…

    I play the Blizzard game Hearthstone, which is an online collectible card game. This weekend in California, there is a major tournament coming up with 8 or so of the top players in the world. One of them, who goes by the handle MagicAmy, just had to pull out citing last minute visa problems (she’s from South Korea). A former teammate of hers, decides to post on reddit his conspiracy theory that MagicAmy is really a man based primarily on the facts that she a) doesn’t stream, b) has never attended a live event and has c) declined to join a Skype circle with another top player (they say she makes flimsy excuses every time this guy asks her to join). Here is the Liquid Hearth thread where ESL announces that she’s not attending. A few posts in someone brings up the rumor and links to the reddit thread.

    A couple other guys have posted some chat logs which appear to show MagicAmy connecting from an IP in Canada and there are some odd links between the MagicAmy screen name and a Canadian man. The evidence is all circumstantial but it looks at least possible that this isn’t just tinfoil hat type stuff. But still…

    This is pissing me off for a few of reasons. First, if the rumor is true, a man is at fault but it will be female gamers who suffer for it. Everyone will just be that much more cynical about female pros. They’ll use this as an excuse to doubt the credibility and talent of the few other female pros around.

    Secondly, if this is true and the fake persona had been a man? I doubt anyone would even be questioning. There are a lot of highly ranked players who never stream or attend events. It’s only because this character is female and declined a Skype invite from Forsen that anyone thinks something is up. If this was a male persona, Forsen & Co wouldn’t be badgering him to join Skype circles and getting all suspicious at being turned down repeatedly. There’d be no need for the person to make flimsy excuses for turning them down because, when you’re male, other men don’t feel entitled to your time and will fucking take “no” for an answer.

    Third, Hearthstone streams on Twitch TV are now overflowing with MagicAmy jokes. Every player is getting asked if they’re really MagicAmy etc. There’s also a healthy dose of racism going on because MagicAmy is Korean. There’s a running joke in HS about how the keys to successful Hearthstone streaming are to be Asian and/or female. All female streamers are only capitalizing on boobs and Asians are all apparently just cute or something. Nevermind that virtually ALL the most followed streams on Twitch are run by white dudes. Everyone knows that women who are successful came by their success dishonestly or unfairly somehow and are stealing viewers from some more deserving man. So now Twitch in general has become even more hostile to women than it was.

    So. Fuck everything. It doesn’t even fucking matter at this point if MagicAmy is real or fake. It’s sexism all the way down.

  304. ChasCPeterson says

    how’s that New Year’s resolution thing going for you?

    pretty well, thanks.
    What do you care?

  305. AlexanderZ says

    Seven #401

    First, if the rumor is true, a man is at fault

    No, she isn’t. I (or you, or anyone else) don’t owe anyone anything, and if I choose to have an online persona that is in any way different from me in meat-space, I don’t see how is it anyone’s business (unless I’m making some very specific personal commitments or demands to/from others). Here’s a fourth option – MagicAmy could be a trans* woman, or gender-fluid, or anyone she is or pleases to be, even a guy roleplaying a woman because he’s curious about female experiences. In all of those cases I can see why MagicAmy wouldn’t be eager to come to a dudebro convention and explain everything to a thousand of moronic adolescents.

    Speaking of sexism – here’s something I’ve read on Krugman’s blog today:

    I was looking up educational backgrounds of prominent economists, for a post I haven’t found time to put together yet, and when I got to Janet Yellen…
    Why would Janet Yellen’s height belong here?

    The hell? Why not put her billed height as well, why don’t you?! Another instance of Google being sexist.
    _____________

    Chas #402

    What do you care?

    Just curious.

  306. says

    I was looking up educational backgrounds of prominent economists, for a post I haven’t found time to put together yet, and when I got to Janet Yellen…

    Why would Janet Yellen’s height belong here?

    The hell? Why not put her billed height as well, why don’t you?! Another instance of Google being sexist.

    Clicking through the ‘People also searched for…’ I got heights for Paul Volcker, Janet Yellen, Timothy Geithner, Paul Krugman and Vladimir Putin, but not for the other fourteen.

    So not sexist, just silly, inconsistent, and irrelevant.

  307. Grewgills says

    @Seven #401
    My first thoughts were similar to Alexander’s. The person playing MagicAmy isn’t the one at fault and that person could have a variety or reasons for hiding their identity. The fault lies with the assholes that are attempting to force this person to socialize in ways they choose not to.
    That aside, I’m sorry that space has become more overtly misogynistic, racist, and a less comfortable space for you and others.

  308. says

    Daz

    So not sexist, just silly, inconsistent, and irrelevant.

    Indeed; showbiz people are IME more likely to have their height listed, but I can’t see any real pattern to who does and who doesn’t.

    Seven #401
    Fucking hell. What a load of assholes.

  309. Seven of Mine: Shrieking Feminist Harpy says

    @ AlexanderZ

    No, she isn’t. I (or you, or anyone else) don’t owe anyone anything, and if I choose to have an online persona that is in any way different from me in meat-space, I don’t see how is it anyone’s business (unless I’m making some very specific personal commitments or demands to/from others).

    Perhaps I was unclear. The charge is in fact that this person has made specific personal commitments and demands. If this is true, they’ve misrepresented who they are to their employer. It’s not just a social thing. There’s also questions about scamming people out of money as well as this person putting some woman in front of a camera for online tournaments where you have to have a web cam up, while he was in the background telling her what to do. It’s a question of the person whose name is being given and whose image is being presented to the esports team and to the tournaments not actually being the person playing the game. If the story told by the rumors is true, it’s very ethically shitty behavior, not just some innocent person having people prying into their identity apropos of nothing at all.

    And my complaint is that, regardless of how all the facts sort themselves out in the end, it’s female gamers who will pay the price for it. And if it’s not true, then MagicAmy is still vilified by the community since these people just chose to go to reddit and imgur and broadcast their hunches to the whole world instead of taking it to people who had the means to investigate it properly.

  310. Seven of Mine: Shrieking Feminist Harpy says

    I should also clarify this:

    Secondly, if this is true and the fake persona had been a man? I doubt anyone would even be questioning. There are a lot of highly ranked players who never stream or attend events. It’s only because this character is female and declined a Skype invite from Forsen that anyone thinks something is up. If this was a male persona, Forsen & Co wouldn’t be badgering him to join Skype circles and getting all suspicious at being turned down repeatedly. There’d be no need for the person to make flimsy excuses for turning them down because, when you’re male, other men don’t feel entitled to your time and will fucking take “no” for an answer.

    These things aren’t the only reason the people who broke the story began looking more deeply into it. Apparently a bunch of people were suspicious for various reasons long before this came out. But these sexist reasons are what most onlookers are latching onto as making it obvious that MagicAmy is a fraud.

  311. Seven of Mine: Shrieking Feminist Harpy says

    So update: Here.

    That’s from MagicAmy’s team TempoStorm. The money is personal disputes, they’ve checked travel records, checked with former employers, overturned every rock they could find and there’s no evidence that she’s not who she says she is or that she engaged in any kind of cheaty activity with regard to the game itself. And because she’s decided to take a breather from the pro Hearthstone scene instead of participating in a special offline tournament to “clear her name”, people in the comments are now more convinced than ever that she was a fraud. Because, really, who wouldn’t want to continue to deal with this bullshit, right? Because, obviously, if she participated in the tournament, everyone would just leave it alone and never, ever give her a hard time about it. Obviously. I hate people.

  312. AlexanderZ says

    Daz, Dalillama
    You’re right. I tried to search other women, but the only one with similar status is Christine Lagarde (no height), and another woman (Rachel Kranton) has a limited bio.
    __________________

    Seven #410

    I hate people.

    Rightly so!
    __________________

    In other news, my heating is broken, my neighborhood is covered in snow and I won’t get a repair for at least several days.

  313. chigau (違う) says

    I can do this.
    I have only 2485 comics to catch up.
    I can do this, I’ve done it before.

  314. says

    Daz @ 414, holy cow, what a flaming doucheweasel. I read for a bit, then started to get a bit queasy. Thanks for taking that jackass on.

  315. says

    Daz:

    Caine, my sister agrees. Now I’m waiting for her to finish the damn thing and pass it on.

    Hee. I couldn’t shut up about it to Mister while reading. He’s reading it now.

  316. says

    Daz:

    Already suffering depression, and had that aimed at her.

    Jesus Christ. I’m doing okay at the moment, and reading that doucheweasel’s “oh, cute story, very emotional, probably fictional” had me instantaneously queased out and furious, reminding me of that idiot who went on and on here about me with his “if she was raped” shit.

    There was not a single thing doucheweasel got right, it was all wrong, wrong, wrong. These idiots always think they’ll be bloody James Bond in a bad situation, always be in control, triumphing over a smoking corpse (that they can conveniently dispose of with their backhoe, natch!), and not be troubled at all. Oh my yes, killing is always the best solution! *spits*

    I also noticed that doucheweasel was terribly shy of using the word rape as applied to men, it was always ‘sodomize’. Guess men still can’t be raped for real.

  317. says

    Caine #418:

    These idiots always think they’ll be bloody James Bond in a bad situation, always be in control, triumphing over a smoking corpse (that they can conveniently dispose of with their backhoe, natch!), and not be troubled at all.

    Nah, John Wayne (in any role: they’re all the same character).

    I also noticed that doucheweasel was terribly shy of using the word rape as applied to men, it was always ‘sodomize’. Guess men still can’t be raped for real.

    And also shows a certain prurient attitude toward consensual non-vaginal sex.

  318. Brony, Social Justice Cenobite says

    Would it be alright if I linked to a post I made on Ponychan? I take the criticism of people unwilling to challenge others inside of their communities to heart and spend time working on strategies that work. Ponychan is not free of bigots or triggers, but it is quite a bit better than places like 8chan or its progenitor 4chan. It was porn free and tried to emphasize better community values so I ended up sticking around to help try to make it better.

    I’m hoping that I can get someone to let me know if there is anything my privilege makes it hard to see, or anything really. I’m been considering getting advice for strategy around here and this is as good a time as any.

  319. Nick Gotts says

    Enlightenment Liberal@

    In other words, I don’t see a big difference between 1- Foundationalism and 2- Coherentism with a small number of core mutually justifying beliefs.

    I think this is almost your position.

    You are completely wrong; it is nothing like my position. There is no such “small number of core mutually justifying beliefs”. I don’t know how many times I have to say so before you accept that I consider foundationalism absolutely and completely without any merit whatsoever.

    I simply don’t agree with your normative characterization of how people should think. On this matter, I also don’t agree with your descriptive characterization of how people actually think.

    I know you don’t, So what?

    Most people have the core set of beliefs of logic, math, inductive reasoning, some degree of skepticism, maybe some learned religious faith beliefs, etc.

    [citation needed]

    Logic, deductive reason, inductive reason, some degree of human intuition, some degree of skepticism, and other basic reasoning skills, serve as this foundation.

    None of those things are actually axioms or anything like them.

    More tomorrow.

  320. Nick Gotts says

    sorry, blockquote failure@421. The sentence beginning “Logic, deductive reasoning…” is EL’s.

  321. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Nick Gotts

    In other words, I don’t see a big difference between 1- Foundationalism and 2- Coherentism with a small number of core mutually justifying beliefs.

    I think this is almost your position.

    You are completely wrong; it is nothing like my position.

    Seriously. Read for comprehension. Your response here is flagrantly disohnest. You snipped the quote, which changes the whole meaning. The very next sentence reverses the whole meaning. The quote continued:

    I think this is almost your position. However, then you had to say this:

    And then I follow up with the conclusion that you actually deny the position.

    But you seemingly deny even this position.

    I still don’t know what you mean when you use the word “justification”. In my world, a justification of a proposition X is a set of propositions {Y1, Y2, Y3, …} which form the premises of a valid and sound probabilistic argument whose conclusion is that the proposition X is likely true. (Sufficient for a first approximation. The Stanford link up-thread has a huge discussion in what “justification” means, and I think I wholly endorse it.)

    I don’t know if you accept this meaning of “justification”. If you don’t, please explain what you mean by the word “justification”. I seriously don’t have a clue what you might mean if not this definition.

    If you do accept that this is what “justification” means, and if you accept basic logic and math, then the regress argument necessarily follows. Yet I think you deny even this, which makes you an ignorant dishonest asshat.

  322. Brony, Social Justice Cenobite says

    @ AlexanderZ 424
    Thanks. I just had to ask first. I suspect “*chan” can be somewhat triggering for good reason and I at least wanted to ask first. I’m going to make sure my questions are good now.

  323. Brony, Social Justice Cenobite says

    Here is the link. I’m “Flutterguy (Penitent Parasprite)” and it’s the last comment of the thread as of now.

    It’s hard to tell precisely what I’m asking for because it’s a complicated environment and from my perspective I’m doing everything I can to apply what I have learned here. It’s hard to know how your own filters are preventing you from seeing something. I’m not looking for opinions on anything more than that one comment, but here is some brief context just in case.

    I have reputation as a “tank” to use a gaming analogy. I’m good at fighting but I have a reputation for being fair. The community does not really like overt hostility so a lot of what I do is indirect but often works. That post is a creative summary of what I saw in the thread, and a list of what needs to be done to actually see if people’s assertions were correct. A kind of appeal to fairness that works over there.

    If anyone wants to provide I will also take links to information for the research. My reply was rhetorical but I’m carrying through to have more ammunition. I’m pretty sure I have links to discussions but someone here might have something interesting.

  324. Nick Gotts says

    Enlightenment Liberal (a.k.a. Detective Inspector René “Doubty” Descartes) @425,

    Seriously. Read for comprehension. Your response here is flagrantly disohnest. You snipped the quote, which changes the whole meaning.

    Fuck off with your accusations of dishonesty, you bladder-brained shit. If you say:

    I think this is almost your position.

    then I take it that you think this is almost my position. Nothing you say afterwards changes the meaning of that sentence. If you can’t keep what you say clear and consistent, don’t blame me.

    If you do accept that this is what “justification” means, and if you accept basic logic and math, then the regress argument necessarily follows. Yet I think you deny even this, which makes you an ignorant dishonest asshat.

    Look, numpty, of course it’s impossible to provide a justification for every belief or knowledge claim simultaneously. But picking out some small subset of propositions (and I notice you haven’t actually provided the set of propositions you base all your beliefs on – why is that?) and declaring them “true by fiat”, or “self-evident” or “presuppositions”, or whatever other crap you want to come up with, achieves precisely nothing. No-one else is obliged to accept them, because you’re trumpeted the fact that you don’t have any good reason – any justification – for adopting them. You have deliberately placed yourself on a level with Sye Ten Bruggencate – which I’ve come to think is probably where you belong.

    Since it’s impossible to “solve” the infinite regress:
    (a) There is no point trying to do it, and
    (b) We can’t justifiably claim absolute certainty about anything at all, and
    (c) Since, nevertheless, as far as we can tell we are able to cope in everyday life on the basis of what we do believe, and knowledge does actually advance, we might do better to focus on how these things happen.

    Now, let’s think – well, I’ll think, anyway, you don’t seem to be able to, probably because your head’s so far up your fundament, as your nym suggests – about the things we believe. Just to avoid any stupid digressions, I’ll make clear that I am talking entirely about belief and knowledge, not truth. A proposition P is true iff what it asserts is in fact the case – whether or not anyone believes it, or knows it, or can know it. For my part at least, there are a lot of things I believe: things about my personal history and characteristics, things about the personal histories and characteristics of people I know, things about everyday life (what’s edible, what’s dangerous, what’s hard, what will break if dropped or be damaged by water, etc.), things about what words and phrases mean, things about history, politics, geography, science, philosophy, mathematics… OK, if someone (which could be myself) asks me “Why do you believe P?” or “What is your justification for believing P?”, where P is some proposition, the kind of response I will give will depend both on the kind of proposition P is, and the context in which the question is asked. Let’s take as a first example something about my personal history, say “Why do you believe you graduated in 1975?”. Usually, I’d just say I remember that fact. If pressed as to whether my memory might be faulty, I might recount that I know I was born in May 1954, that I went to university at 18, that it was a three-year course and I did not take a year out, or repeat one, or for any other reason spend more than 3 years on my first degree. So in that context, I might rely on the coherence of these various remembered facts. If I had reason to think my memories might be systematically mistaken, I would dig out my degree certificate, contact my old university for confirmation, appeal to people who knew me at the time, etc. Now of course it’s possible the degree certificate, the university’s records, and the memories of other people are all wrong. If my questioner raised this possibility, there are various strategies I could try to justify – give good reasons for – believing that this is unlikely: other people confirm that their certificates and university records agree with their memories, I don’t know of any cases of such coordinated error coming to light, I cannot think of, or find in any source I have searched, any mechanism by which such diverse records could be wrong and yet in agreement, or any motive any agent would have for such extensive forgery, etc. If the questioner raises last-Thursdayism or evil-demon-deceiving-me-about-everything-possible-ism, I’ll simply say I see no reason to entertain such a hypothesis, although of course I can’t prove it to be false, since it is designed to be irrefutable. So in short, how I “justify” this belief or knowledge claim depends on what alternatives to its truth are up for consideration and what it is reasonable to assume in the current context. (Of course, I can be asked to justify my claim that particular assumptions are reasonable in the current context. Again, what kind of justification I give for that – if any – will depend on the context in which this question is asked.)

    Let’s try one more example. I believe that a Gothic army defeated a Roman army, led by the emperor, in the battle of Adrianople in 378. What is my justification for believing this? If I am asked while away from documentary sources, then I’d have to say I remember this information, I must have read it somewhere (and in fact I remember several sources I have read that would have contained the information), that it fits with other historical facts I remember, that my comprehension of historical texts and memory for such facts, if I feel subjectively confident I’ve got them right, has been reliable in the past, that while there is often doubt about facts from this period and area, the dates of battles are generally consensus conclusions among qualified experts… (In fact, when I first thought of this example, I couldn’t decide if the date was 368 or 386; it was only later that I thought – “no, of course, 378” – remembering at the same time that I had on some previous occasion misremembered it as 376; I couldn’t remember who the emperor was until I checked these things online just now.) If I have relevant historical texts to hand I’ll refer the questioner to them, to the primary sources their authors say they used, to their reputation among fellow-historians, to the absence of any evidence that this particular item of the historical record might be mistaken or reason to suspect someone might want or have wanted to deceive us about it, etc.

    OK. In both these cases my “justification” is context dependent, and also depends on the reliability of various sources: my own memory, those of others, official records, historical texts, the consensus of relevant experts. Notice that I do not assert, nor need to assert, that any of these sources are perfectly reliable. But what is my justification for believing that they are usually so – reliable enough for it to be reasonable, is a particular context, to cite them as justification for a specific fact of personal or general history? It is partly beliefs about how things are in general – that while memories are fallible, and subject to specific types of failure, bureaucracies are fallible and sometimes corrupt, historians disagree and sometimes lie, etc., all these sources are (in the context I find myself in) good enough to be useful. But these beliefs themselves are based on many, many instances of checking my memory and those of others against other sources, of reading history and noting where historians disagree and the consensus can shift, and where they agree and it does not, of finding that the facts bureaucrats have recorded accord with each other and my own memory – in other words, they depend on a large number of specific beliefs about the personal andor historical past; and notice that these beliefs, about my own memory, official records, historical texts – are thoroughly contingent: some people’s memories are extremely unreliable, some bureaucracies forge records on a large scale, historians’ general reliability with regard to battle dates is a product of disciplinary culture and institutions, and does not extend to many other areas. My stock of beliefs thus cannot, in any way, be reduced to a small “core” set which themselves cannot or need not be justified.

    To summarise:
    1) The “infinite regress” is insoluble.
    2) It is also irrelevant to real problems of justifying beliefs, becasue what is required for justification is always context-dependent.
    3) We do not, nor could we, base all our beliefs on some small subset from which everything else can be derived. (With a note that as far as I’ve seen, you, EL, haven’t even tried to formulate such a set.)
    4) You, EL, are a pompous, self-important, swaggering numpty with an absurdly exaggerated view of your own knolwedge and talents, and are far too fond of accusing others of dishonesty when you’ve failed either to understand them, or to make yourself clear.

  325. Seven of Mine: Shrieking Feminist Harpy says

    @ Brony

    Someone in that thread linked to a page which purports to show that domestic violence is committed at roughly equal rates by both men and women. I poked around that site a little bit and at least one of the summaries there states:

    Studies varied in their operational definition and measurement of IPV,
    though a majority (47.4%, k = 118) of studies reported prevalence rates measured using items or
    scales drawn from the Conflict Tactic Scale family of instruments.

    Wiki Article: Conflict Tactic Scale

    The CTS is horrible because it disregards context and motivation. If Partner A chokes Partner B and Partner B responds by punching and kicking Partner A multiple times in self defense, it regards that as bidirectional violence. It will count 1 violent act by Partner A and multiple violent acts by Partner B even though there is a clear aggressor. It does a similar thing with injuries. I only looked at the one paper because that site is a complete mess but the use of CTS in one of them doesn’t speak well for the others.

  326. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Nick
    Next you’ll be quoting Darwin and asserting that Darwin says that the evolution of the eye is impossible. Jackass.

    Stop confusing me for Sye Ten Bruggencate. This conversation has nothing to do with absolute confidence. I’ve been saying that from the beginning. In addition to understanding basic literary devices, you also seem to have a problem distinguishing between previously-unknown positions, such as mine vs Sye.

    Again, this positions of Foundationalism, Coherentism, etc., are not unique to creationists. They are the standard positions of all philosophers for literally thousands of years. I think I lean towards Matt Dillahunty’s position that a combination of Foundationalism and Coherentism, called Foundherentism, is the proper solution. (I gave a brief description of it above.)

    It seems you accept my definition of “justification”. It seems you accept that this inevitably leads to the regress argument. It then seems that rather than deal with the subject matter, you would rather bury your head in the sand. As I said to Dalillama up-thread, if you don’t like the conversation – fine, don’t take part in the conversation, but don’t come in and assert that I’m wrong when you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, and especially when you’re preferred “solution” to a problem is pretending that it doesn’t exist.

  327. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Nick
    As for your thing with Popper. We’ve had this discussion before. I’d like to have it again with David, but with you? No so much.

    My position on this topic in short: When we make conscious decisions, especially important ones, some degree of cost benefit analysis has to happen. We have to determine a list of (epistemically) possible outcomes, and we have to assign an (epistemic) probability to each outcome. Then we assign benefits and costs to each possible outcome. Then we choose the action which seems the best according to our cost-benefit metric. This basic sort of rationality is impossible if you do not attach (epistemic) probabilities, or confidence levels, to your beliefs and knowledge. The only proper way to attach confidence levels to your beliefs is inductive reasoning, and specifically Bayesian reasoning. Popper is fundamentally wrong when he says justification and induction have no place in science. No, we need justification and induction to create confidence levels for our beliefs – rationality would be impossible without it.

  328. Ogvorbis says

    chigau:

    I feel for you. This winter (up in NEPA) has been brutal. Since January 1, we have averaged almost 9F below normal. The snow has compacted into a solid mass. The potholes are frightening. And I got up today and saw that it was 14F and thought, “Oh, a nice warm day!”

  329. ledasmom says

    Oh, this winter. There have been more than a few days when the temperature here, in central Massachusetts, was colder than where my mother lives, in central Minnesota. Also there is this snow. You know you are tired of snow when, on seeing that a dog has pissed on your front walk (more or less composed of compacted snow, by then), your first thought is to note that it has melted through the ice and your second thought is to wonder if you can get the dog to come back.

  330. says

    Daz:

    I’m trying to remember if we still have that old hand-turned Singer sewing machine in the attic… Because; awesomeness!

    :laughs: In general, I stay away from sewing machines, but I’d be tempted by the mad inventor full frame number, ’cause it does all that pesky math and cutting for you!

  331. chigau (違う) says

    Our winter has been swinging between 10° above freezing to 10° below freezing with rain, snow, sleet, blizzard conditions.
    And that was just last week.
    We used a pick-axe on the ice on the sidewalk.
    We bought 20kg of ice-melter and I intend to use it.

  332. ledasmom says

    Our method for removing the ice on the front steps at work? A hammer.
    It does come with eye protection, at least. But it startles the clients.

  333. Grewgills says

    Our winter has regularly been getting down to a chilly 18-20… Celcius. I’ve had to close my bedroom windows several times.

  334. AlexanderZ says

    Preschool kids weapons education in Russia:

    In one of the preschool facilities of St. Petersburg the soldier has started a class of how to use the weapons for kids. He has brought the weapons, including AK-47s, grenade launchers and hand grenades. The man says that “Kids should not be afraid of the arms, get used to them early”.

  335. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    It hit 12 or 13 yesterday. In the afternoon sun, it felt more like 22 or 23. You could take your shirt off and sunbathe, for Cthulu’s sake.

  336. Saad says

    Nick Gotts, #446

    Fucking depressing. I’m bracing myself for the “the attackers aren’t true Muslims” from family and acquaintances. That’s the first response I get. This is usually followed by “didn’t [the blogger/cartoonist] know this would happen?” The murderers also get referred to as jahil, uneducated people who don’t know what they’re doing. Oh, and the damage done to the image of Islam is mourned, because that’s the victim here.

    I’m fearing for Taslima’s safety now.

  337. Nick Gotts says

    Enlightenment Liberal@

    you also seem to have a problem distinguishing between previously-unknown positions, such as mine

    Lackwit; of course I’ve come across foundationalism and coherentism before – in the graduate course I took in logic and epistemology. The comparison with Bruggencate is based on your assertion that we base all our beliefs on a small number of presuppositions, which themselves cannot be further justified. Previously you’ve said that you declare your presuppositions “true by fiat” – thus placing yourself exactly on a level with Bruggencate. If you’ve abandoned that particular piece of stupidity, that’s some kind of progress I suppose; but if so, you’re still left in the same basic position – if you rely on presuppositions which you declare have no rational justification, then you cannot assert that anyone starting from different presuppositions is irrational.

    They are the standard positions of all philosophers for literally thousands of years.

    The argument from authority. I would have though even one as profoundly ignorant as you would know that’s not a sound basis for a conclusion. Those thousands of years of philosophy were pre-evolutionary – which in large part accounts for the basic errors of essentialism and foundationalism common to practically all such philosophers (some of the ancient Epicureans may be an exception; I don’t know enough about them to judge). The fact that organisms function at all is evidence that there is a lot about the world that has remained stable for long periods; the fact that all animals (and at least some other organisms) habituate is already an expression of a prelinguistic belief in such stability, within limited contexts.

    It then seems that rather than deal with the subject matter, you would rather bury your head in the sand. As I said to Dalillama up-thread, if you don’t like the conversation – fine, don’t take part in the conversation, but don’t come in and assert that I’m wrong when you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, and especially when you’re preferred “solution” to a problem is pretending that it doesn’t exist.

    Look, you wooden-headed numpty, saying that a problem is insoluble is not saying it doesn’t exist – it’s saying we should stop looking for a solution because it’s a waste of time. What I am saying is that problems of justification outside the context of the kind of pointless wankery you enjoy are always local: we make some assumptions and show that, given those assumptions, the conclusion must hold, or probably holds, or is plausible, or is possible – depending on what we are trying to show or are able to show. Those assumptions can always be challenged in turn, and, in some cases, justified in terms of further assumptions. There is no need to place any of our assumptions beyond the possibility of challenge, and doing so not only gets you nowhere, it makes your entire position dependent on an irrational commitment – like Sye Ten Bruggencate’s. This was one of Popper’s basic insights, and of course I made it clear that it was this aspect of his thought – the complete rejection of foundationalism – that I agreed with. Since you evidently couldn’t be bothered to actually read what I wrote, I’ll repeat it:

    You cite Popper@396, but you don’t appear to be aware of his complete rejection of foundationalism. -or if you are, you ignore it. In this respect at least, I am in agreement with him. He also, in the context of science, rejects the importance of justification. [emphasis added]

    Now I did not say that I agreed with his complete rejection of the importance of justification, or his view of induction, or anything else he said. It is perfectly legitimate to ask a scientist to justify their reliance on a particular theory, or instrument, or procedure, or piece of software, but that justification will never be traced back to a small set of core beliefs from which everything else is derived, because this is not possible – as I showed, and as you have not attempted to refute. Induction, first, is something we – and other animals – cannot help doing. It is also, like justification, always specific to a context, because it is in general non-obvious whether a set of events or objects constitute a class over which it is useful to induce, and if so, how far it is useful to induce. That decision will depend on our prior (explicit or implicit) assumptions.

    Incidentally:

    When we make conscious decisions, especially important ones, some degree of cost benefit analysis has to happen. We have to determine a list of (epistemically) possible outcomes, and we have to assign an (epistemic) probability to each outcome. Then we assign benefits and costs to each possible outcome. Then we choose the action which seems the best according to our cost-benefit metric.

    No, people really don’t work like that most of the time. Read Gerd Gigerenzer’s Simple Heuristics that Make Us Smart and Herbert Simon’s Models of Bounded Rationality before you make a further fool of yourself with ignorant assumptions in this area.

    The only proper way to attach confidence levels to your beliefs is inductive reasoning, and specifically Bayesian reasoning.

    What is your justification for this claim?

    Finally, let me note that you still have not produced the alleged small set of fundamental axioms or presuppositions which you allege you start from. Why is that? (I think I already know the answer – it’s because you can’t – but it would be amusing to see you try.)

  338. essjay says

    I have been following the discussion between Enlightenment Liberal, Nick Gotts, and others because I find epistemology fascinating. I find myself pretty much agreeing with Gotts, and certainly am waiting for that “small set of fundamental axioms” that EL says he (or everyone?) starts from. As near as I can tell, his presuppositions consist of the sole presupposition that everyone has such a set.

    I don’t personally have a series of fundamental axioms that underlie all of my beliefs. I do have a series of provisional principles that I depend on in developing what I think is true, but they are indeed provisional. So far, using logic and depending only on evidence and personal experience works fine, but I adhere to these only because they do work. If the world started working in ways that no longer made sense, well then logic would have to be thrown out. I don’t expect that to happen, but my trust in logic is not a priori, it is a posteriori.

    This all seems pretty simple and self-evident, and I’m quite puzzled about what EL’s going on about. As is obvious, I know very little about philosophy, so quite possibly I’m simply too ignorant to understand what is going on here. Still, it’s fun to try.

  339. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Nick Gotts
    Regarding the Bruggencate tangent. I still call you a dishonest asshat because you repeatedly implied that I was talking about absolute justifications, absolute confidence, etc., when I am doing nothing of the sort, and when I had taken extreme precautions by disclaiming that position. Normally, I would want an apology and admission of fault, but I won’t hold my breath.

    Previously you’ve said that you declare your presuppositions “true by fiat” – thus placing yourself exactly on a level with Bruggencate. If you’ve abandoned that particular piece of stupidity, that’s some kind of progress I suppose;

    I fail to see a meaningful difference between “true by fiat” and “knowingly believed without justification”. I do not understand your particular criticism here.

    if you rely on presuppositions which you declare have no rational justification, then you cannot assert that anyone starting from different presuppositions is irrational.

    Yes, and? This is a fundamental problem. What do you say to a religious person who denies the supremacy of evidence and scientific reasoning w.r.t. factual questions about our shared reality? There is no logical argument you can construct to refute his point which the religious person will accept because they do not share your premises.

    A similar problem exists for morality. I happen to be a hedonistic humanist. I want to live my life and enjoy it, and I want to make this world a better place for everyone else too. What do I say to someone who proclaims that they will make the world worse off for their own selfish gain? What do I say to a religious person who says that this life is about suffering because god says so? Again, I cannot form a logical argument that they are wrong from premises that we both accept.

    Now, in both cases, some form of persuasion may work. Generally such persuasion rests on the underlying assumption that the other person really does value what you value to some degree, but they just don’t realize it. The goal of such persuasion is to point out inconsistencies in their approach, and show how their position is much more untenable then they first thought. Cognitive dissonance and all.

    But again, I fail to see any alternative, and I fail to see how this critique is specific to my proclaimed epistemology, and thus I fail to see the relevance.

    Those thousands of years of philosophy were pre-evolutionary – which in large part accounts for the basic errors of essentialism and foundationalism common to practically all such philosophers (some of the ancient Epicureans may be an exception; I don’t know enough about them to judge).

    I fail to see how evolutionary theory is relevant at all for this discussion (minus the new tangent about discussions about how people actually think). Again, this seems to be a simple “appeal to nature” fallacy. Whether evolutionary theory is true or false has no relevance to the discussion of what is a proper epistemology, what is a proper justification, etc.

    The fact that organisms function at all is evidence that there is a lot about the world that has remained stable for long periods; the fact that all animals (and at least some other organisms) habituate is already an expression of a prelinguistic belief in such stability, within limited contexts.

    This is circular reasoning. We have to assume a weak form of the principle of uniformity in order to use inductive reasoning and science to make the conclusion that organisms have existed for long periods of time.

    Look, you wooden-headed numpty, saying that a problem is insoluble is not saying it doesn’t exist – it’s saying we should stop looking for a solution because it’s a waste of time. What I am saying is that problems of justification outside the context of the kind of pointless wankery you enjoy are always local: we make some assumptions and show that, given those assumptions, the conclusion must hold, or probably holds, or is plausible, or is possible – depending on what we are trying to show or are able to show. Those assumptions can always be challenged in turn, and, in some cases, justified in terms of further assumptions. There is no need to place any of our assumptions beyond the possibility of challenge, and doing so not only gets you nowhere, it makes your entire position dependent on an irrational commitment – like Sye Ten Bruggencate’s. This was one of Popper’s basic insights, and of course I made it clear that it was this aspect of his thought – the complete rejection of foundationalism – that I agreed with.

    So, you agree the regress argument applies. You should thus agree that all sane people will thus have beliefs for which they have no justification, e.g. they are foundationalists, or they will engage in circular reasoning, e.g. they are coherentists. (Or some combination thereof.) I know you’re about to object to the previous sentence, and I legitimately do not understand why you object or how you object.

    I suspect your reply will be based in part on:

    It is also, like justification, always specific to a context, because it is in general non-obvious whether a set of events or objects constitute a class over which it is useful to induce, and if so, how far it is useful to induce. That decision will depend on our prior (explicit or implicit) assumptions.

    Are you saying that knowledge and belief is not a global thing? Are you saying that sometimes belief X will be a conclusion, and other times belief X will be a premise, and it is inappropriate to try and construct a full graph of all of a person’s beliefs? Why? I rather think that it would be good practice to try to construct that graph of beliefs and justifications, in order to find possible circular justifications, because circular justifications are often a sign of bad thinking, in order to eliminate the circularly justified beliefs.

    Again, I really don’t understand your position. It seems you recognize the problem exists, the regress argument. Thus, you must pick one of the prongs of the Münchhausen trilemma (or some combination of prongs). The alternative is burying your head in the sand, and refusing to critically examine your own beliefs. Again, I think critically examining your own beliefs in this way is important. Again, to use the above example, it is important to do this to identify any circular reasonings you may be accidentally employing, because circular reasoning is generally fallacious. The best and only way to find such circular reasonings is to critically examine your beliefs from time to time by constructing your full belief-justification graph (or constructing a mere outline plus fully constructing certain subsections).

    Induction, first, is something we – and other animals – cannot help doing.

    Again, this is the appeal to nature fallacy. This also appears to be a kind of fatalism. It’s simply a fallacious defense of your epistemology.

    Also, as a simple factual matter of how people behave, I would suggest you look at many religious people, such as couples who let their children die one after another, (purportedly) expecting that prayer will work each time in spite of the mounting evidence against. We can help doing otherwise. At least some of us can. (I don’t actually suggest you do otherwise. Inductive reasoning, and scientific reasoning in general, is very good and useful. You should do it. Training yourself to do otherwise seems like a useless and bad skill to have.)

    The only proper way to attach confidence levels to your beliefs is inductive reasoning, and specifically Bayesian reasoning.

    What is your justification for this claim?

    Carrier, Richard. Proving History: Bayes’s Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus. Prometheus Books, April 24, 2012. Print.

    Although even Richard Carrier ultimately rests the arguments of the book on certain starting principles (explicitly enumerated at the start of the book), and I expect that these starting principles are just a consequence or restatement of my starting presuppositions.

    Finally, let me note that you still have not produced the alleged small set of fundamental axioms or presuppositions which you allege you start from. Why is that? (I think I already know the answer – it’s because you can’t – but it would be amusing to see you try.)

    This thread, post 143, quoting me:

    Some of my presuppositions are:

    Science: I can and should use reason, logic, evidence, science, etc., to learn about the world around me.

    Everything Is Not Made For Me: I am not the center of the universe, and thus these other humans have minds like mine.

    Skepticism: I should not hold any beliefs with X level of confidence without sufficient justification, except for my starting presuppositions.

    Scientism: The only acceptable way to learn about our shared material reality (or shared super-material reality) is reason, logic, evidence, science, etc. (Of course, moral truths, mathematical truths, etc., are not bound by this rule.)

    To complete the foundation for my Foundherentism (a combination of Foundationalism and Coherentism), I probably need to throw on humanism as a basic presupposition. Plus maybe some starting presuppositional value that I want to live my life and enjoy it, e.g. hedonism. Plus the implied and hard-to-specify relative valuing of these difference principles and how to resolve conflicts. I might be missing something, but I think that’s basically it.

  340. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @essjay

    I don’t personally have a series of fundamental axioms that underlie all of my beliefs. I do have a series of provisional principles that I depend on in developing what I think is true, but they are indeed provisional. So far, using logic and depending only on evidence and personal experience works fine, but I adhere to these only because they do work. If the world started working in ways that no longer made sense, well then logic would have to be thrown out. I don’t expect that to happen, but my trust in logic is not a priori, it is a posteriori.

    My reply to you is very similar to many replies above. You seem to have a belief, an implicit premise, which goes something like “If a methodology, such as using logic, fails a test today, I expect that it will fail the same test tomorrow”. Is this belief provincial? “Provincial” means that it can overturned, right? How would – how could you overturn that belief? I claim that you really can’t. You might be able to put off the problem by a step or two, but very quickly you’ll run into the same problem.

    That belief is functionally equivalent to valuing inductive reasoning, and/or holding a belief of the weak version of the uniformity principle. Which of course immediately gets you to the problem of induction, which is just a baby step away from the regress argument and the Münchhausen trilemma.

  341. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    What do you say to a religious person who denies the supremacy of evidence and scientific reasoning w.r.t. factual questions about our shared reality?

    Xi’s a delusional fool who believes in phantasms. QED

  342. consciousness razor says

    Nick Gotts:

    Those thousands of years of philosophy were pre-evolutionary – which in large part accounts for the basic errors of essentialism and foundationalism common to practically all such philosophers (some of the ancient Epicureans may be an exception; I don’t know enough about them to judge).

    As you said, it’s neither here nor there since we shouldn’t accept any of their views dogmatically, but just to spice it up a bit, I will add that some ancient Skeptics and Stoics, as well as Buddhists and Taoists, also tended to lean in the general direction of anti-foundationalism. I also don’t recall Socrates, for example, ever mentioning anything about a baron by the name of Münchhausen, but he was quite certain that he knew nothing, which seems to imply at the very least that his total lack of a systematic worldview built from the ground up — whatever you call it, that thing he didn’t have wasn’t all based on “knowledge” that he must have presupposed, by pulling it out of his ass before he ever looked at the world. And, since none of the Enlightenment-era ideologies like Rationalism and Empiricism existed way back when (so the evidence suggests, I will claim), Socrates and people like him don’t actually fit comfortably in any such camp. Not that it matters.

    EL:

    I fail to see how evolutionary theory is relevant at all for this discussion (minus the new tangent about discussions about how people actually think). Again, this seems to be a simple “appeal to nature” fallacy. Whether evolutionary theory is true or false has no relevance to the discussion of what is a proper epistemology, what is a proper justification, etc.

    This part is still pretty baffling to me. Maybe I just don’t get it.

    If I’m still following along with the dialogue, you don’t think that in fact people do have arbitrary presuppositions that are supposed to be fundamental to everything else. Instead, you seem to be saying that, even if they don’t do that (with you as a possible exception), they should base it all on arbitrary pointless concepts. So, the joke seems to be, we can point out all we like how people actually work, but we just don’t get how important it is morally or epistemically or logically or physically or somehow or another, to have pointless and arbitrary ideas that come from our asses upon which we base everything else which isn’t like that at all.

    Hence our terrible, terrible fallacies and so forth. It sounds really fucking stupid to me, but is that supposed to be the idea? If it means something else, I honestly can’t make any sense of it.

    I could keep trying to tilt my head in different ways all day long, just staring at it, but it’s probably not going to work. That won’t ever look even vaguely like “proper justification” to me, at least not until you start making some fucking sense and say something different about it, which I am able to read literally and unambiguously. What the fuck are you talking about?

    A few questions, in this general form: what if any of your “presuppositions” were wrong? What then? Let’s go through the short list.

    Science: I can and should use reason, logic, evidence, science, etc., to learn about the world around me.

    What if the world did not work that way, so that such things were efficacious in the way they are now? What then? Try to imagine a place, with a history and so on, where there are people who hadn’t already learned lots of facts about the world, because that didn’t work, because of how the world was constituted or how people themselves were built or for any reason. (As an aside, notice how much you personally didn’t have to learn all by yourself in this world, since others did it for you, based on their long years of hard work and experience, not their — or your — presuppositions.) Instead, suppose it were in fact true that praying to Vishnu gave people what wanted or needed. They could ask Vishnu questions and learn any of the answers they wanted that way. They could ask for food or sunny weather or whatever it may be, and in at least some cases they could reliably get it. But trying to reason about the world or gathering evidence just didn’t work. They weren’t good at it. The world wasn’t like that. Whatever. They got what they wanted some other way.

    What use would a “presupposition” like yours have in a world like that? And where exactly did you even get the idea that any of that is or could be or should be presupposed somehow?

    Everything Is Not Made For Me: I am not the center of the universe, and thus these other humans have minds like mine.

    First, being the center has nothing to do with the existences of other minds, for fuck’s sake. If you actually presupposed that…. I don’t even want to call it a chain of logic…. If you really did presuppose that stupid fucking bullshit, then you’re definitely fucking lost.

    But what if either of those things (which, again, for the record, do not follow) were not in fact the case? What good would it do to presuppose them anyway? Aren’t we talking about facts? How do you think people learn such things as “there is no center of the universe”? What does (and should) the process look like?

    Skepticism: I should not hold any beliefs with X level of confidence without sufficient justification, except for my starting presuppositions.

    It’s certainly the case that you are saying things here which are “without sufficient justification.” I’d be surprised if you even noticed that part about it though. (And never mind that this is not “skepticism.”)

    These questions are different from the others — why start with any? Shouldn’t you start with something that’s justified? Why not start with something other than an abstract concept that you insist came out of nowhere? And maybe, as a bonus, what you turn to instead might be justified sufficiently. What exactly would be the point of demanding failure? Isn’t that what you’re doing? Where did the real idea really come from originally, that there is no way for people to justify our most fundamental ideas? Is that a presupposition too? If so, why force yourself into that corner right from the beginning? If someone came to you with a genuinely better option (suppose those are possible), what would make you think it must be worse than this bullshit you’re claiming as your own right now?

    Scientism: The only acceptable way to learn about our shared material reality (or shared super-material reality) is reason, logic, evidence, science, etc. (Of course, moral truths, mathematical truths, etc., are not bound by this rule.)

    Again, leaving aside how hopelessly stupid you’re being here… If this could somehow be “true,” what if the world were a very different place than it is? What if the place we’re in happens to change tomorrow, so that the “acceptable” methods aren’t giving us the results we need anymore? Why would repeating your mantra and stamping your feet do you or me or science or scientism or anything else any good? What would be the fucking point of that?

  343. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Yea, basically. Agreed.

    Except that is a start. You are so worried about the perfect way of thinking, those of us in science don’t have time for your musings on what to us isn’t important at all. We are only interested in what works at the moment, dealing with iffy concepts, imprecise evidence, and other things to try to get closer, but never get to, the absolute truth.
    There’s a reason when I do a report on a new reference standard for a drug that the phrase “consistent with the proposed structure” is used, maybe 15-30 times, prior to the declaration it is what I claim it is. Reality, and the FDA, is my fact checker. If those claims don’t match reality, it isn’t reality. Philosophers lack that reality check. Think about that for a couple of years and get back to us.

  344. says

    @EL

    “If a methodology, such as using logic, fails a test today, I expect that it will fail the same test tomorrow”. Is this belief provincial? “Provincial” means that it can overturned, right? How would – how could you overturn that belief? I claim that you really can’t.

    Are you sure that’s what you want to say? I mean, if I understrand you correctly, you are saying there is no way to deny it. So it solves all epistemological problems. Because it is undeniable…

    But you spoke wrong. It is overturnable, because if you happen to test it tomorrow and it happens to give you a different result……you have just overturned it o___o

    If I understand correctly…

  345. says

    Also, has no one mentioned statistics yet? If you know the true population, you know the true odds of getting a particular sample from it.

    So far so uncontroversial.

    But now, some thoughts:

    We may not know the true sample of the universe (or whatever), but that’s where we make the assumption. Once that assumption is made (that our sample is a close representation of the population) then the actual logic is air tight. You can pretty much drop the word “induction” and just talk in these terms, which somehow seem clearer to me.

  346. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @consciousness razor

    Science: I can and should use reason, logic, evidence, science, etc., to learn about the world around me.

    What if the world did not work that way, so that such things were efficacious in the way they are now? What then? Try to imagine a place, with a history and so on, where there are people who hadn’t already learned lots of facts about the world, because that didn’t work, because of how the world was constituted or how people themselves were built or for any reason. (As an aside, notice how much you personally didn’t have to learn all by yourself in this world, since others did it for you, based on their long years of hard work and experience, not their — or your — presuppositions.) Instead, suppose it were in fact true that praying to Vishnu gave people what wanted or needed. They could ask Vishnu questions and learn any of the answers they wanted that way. They could ask for food or sunny weather or whatever it may be, and in at least some cases they could reliably get it. But trying to reason about the world or gathering evidence just didn’t work. They weren’t good at it. The world wasn’t like that. Whatever. They got what they wanted some other way.

    What use would a “presupposition” like yours have in a world like that? And where exactly did you even get the idea that any of that is or could be or should be presupposed somehow?

    Didn’t we just go through many posts of arguments about how intrinsic methodological naturalism is wrong-headed, and intrinsic methodological naturalism is not a requirement of science? In this scenario, do people come to the conclusion that Vishnu provides? Presumably yes. How did they come to this conclusion? The standard scientific reasoning which we already employ, the very principles I just named: using reason, logic, evidence, science, etc., to learn about the world around us. In this hypothetical world, scientific reasoning leads to the rational, justified conclusion that praying to Vishnu is the thing to do.

    Are you serious with your purported counter-example? Really? It’s like you haven’t bothered to actually try to understand anything I’ve written at all.

    Shouldn’t you start with something that’s justified?

    Mathematically impossible (assuming finite knowledge and no circular reasoning). That’s the jist of the regress argument.

    Where did the real idea really come from originally, that there is no way for people to justify our most fundamental ideas? Is that a presupposition too?

    No, it’s a formal logical deductive consequence of the analytic definitions of “justification” and “belief”. So, in a sense, the claim “it is impossible to justify all of your beliefs (and avoid circular reasoning and avoid infinite regresses of justifications)” is a consequence of certain presuppositions (using logic, using math, etc.), but the claim itself is not presuppositional.

    @brianpansky in 457

    Are you sure that’s what you want to say? I mean, if I understrand you correctly, you are saying there is no way to deny it. So it solves all epistemological problems. Because it is undeniable…

    You’re being too ambiguous. What do you mean by “it” in: “I understrand you correctly, you are saying there is no way to deny it.” ?

    There’s the claim that “one should use logic” is undeniable.

    There’s the claim that “if a methodological fails a test of efficacy today, then one should expect that it will fail a test of efficacy tomorrow” is undeniable.

    Those are different claims.

    But you spoke wrong. It is overturnable, because if you happen to test it tomorrow and it happens to give you a different result……you have just overturned it o___o

    How exactly do you propose to do a test of efficacy without using logic? I don’t know what you’re talking about.

    How exactly do you propose to “test” the claim “if a methodological fails a test of efficacy today, then it is likely to fail a test of efficacy tomorrow” ? By testing it? What would that argument look like? Examine your reasoning. You’re attempting to use inductive reasoning to verify the efficacy of inductive reasoning.

    @Nerd in 456
    I’m not really sure what kind of point you’re trying to make. It looks like a mere dismissal without engaging the argument at all. So, you’ll have to forgive me for similarly dismissing your entire post.

  347. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @brianpansky in 458
    I don’t know if I follow exactly.

    However, in order to do good statistics, it is generally requisite to be able to describe the whole sample space, and put a relative probabilistic number on each element in the sample space.

    Let’s consider a simplified example. The sample space consists of two possible universes: The universe where the laws of physics do not change, and a second universe where there is a Cartesian demon who maliciously continuously changes the universe to subvert any expectation you create and hold. In that second universe, inductive reasoning does not produce useful / accurate / correct results. Science doesn’t work. Nothing works.

    How could you make any determination which puts numbers to the relative probabilities of these two universes? That’s the determination you need to make in order to do statistics to answer the problem of induction.

    A weak principle of uniformity merely assigns a very high confidence level, a very high epistemic probability, to the first kind of universe.

  348. says

    @459, EL

    Well I meant that second one. That’s what I thought you were saying.

    How exactly do you propose to do a test of efficacy without using logic? I don’t know what you’re talking about.

    hmm ya, not sure how to do much without logic :P

    How exactly do you propose to “test” the claim “if a methodological fails a test of efficacy today, then it is likely to fail a test of efficacy tomorrow” ? By testing it? What would that argument look like? Examine your reasoning. You’re attempting to use inductive reasoning to verify the efficacy of inductive reasoning.

    How to test that: gather data, and at some point assume your data represents the true population :P and compare prediction to this new model you have decided to use.

    Why assume at that point that it is close to actual population? Well, because you sincerely think your sample has not been biased in a significant way.

  349. says

    @460, EL

    I don’t quite…?

    in order to do good statistics, it is generally requisite to be able to describe the whole sample space, and put a relative probabilistic number on each element in the sample space.

    ya…um…yes.

    Let’s consider a simplified example. The sample space consists of two possible universes: The universe where the laws of physics do not change, and a second universe where there is a Cartesian demon who maliciously continuously changes the universe to subvert any expectation you create and hold. In that second universe, inductive reasoning does not produce useful / accurate / correct results. Science doesn’t work. Nothing works.

    How could you make any determination which puts numbers to the relative probabilities of these two universes?

    I’m not being thwarted right now (this is an undeniable perception). So there simply is no chance of being in such an omni-subverting place. Not even a small chance. That I am in some place that is at least slightly different from an omni-subverting place is undeniable.

  350. chigau (違う) says

    I had a mercifully short ‘conversation’ at a bus stop.
    Buddy was complaining about all the punks wearing hoodies.
    Buddy did not quite get to including race in his complaint,
    which was good because it is -15°C.
    Everyone is wearing a fucking hoody!
    Including little old white lady, me.
    Buddy was wearing a cowboy hat and cowboy boots with one pantleg tucked-in and the other not tucked-in.
    He may have been drunk.

  351. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @brianpansky
    Ah. I see. Sorry. I was off the mark.

    I think my next question is basically grue.

    In short, let’s consider the sample space of 2 universes. Universe 1- The rules of physics remain constant. Universe 2- The rules of physics have remained constant from the big bang until now, and remain unchanging until tomorrow at 5 o’clock, at which point fundamentally new physics take over.

    How can you assign relative probabilities to these two universes based on the available evidence? The available evidence is an equally good fit for both.

    PS: The second kind of universe isn’t that far-fetched based on modern conjecture that the Higgs field is in an unstable equilibrium, and it might quantum tunnel in the future to some other lower-energy state. Such a transition would cause the nearby spots of the Higgs field to immediately change to the new value, and this would propagate at the speed of light. This would completely destroy chemistry as we know it – at the very least. According to some very plausible conjecture, it might even happen tomorrow, although the odds are predicted to be vanishingly small.

    PPS: One of the Boudry papers else-thread had a reference to the problem of grue. I liked the proposition solution. I think it’s fair to say that it’s basically favoring the most parsimonious explanation, where “parsimonious” includes an idea of computational complexity. The grue hypothesis, aka the hypothesis that the universe will change tomorrow, is more complex to specify than the first kind of universe which simply has unchanging rules, and thus the first kind of universe has a more parsimonious explanation.

    PPPS: It’s for reasons like this that since the start of this discussion, I have now seen why Matt Dillahunty prefers Foundherentism to Foundationalism. I learned something because of this discussion, and now I think I identify as a Foundherentist. I need to do some more reading to make my impression of it is the same as how it’s describe in the literature. <3 Matt.

  352. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To be explicitly clear: If you try to solve the grue problem by appealing to parsimony, then we’re still back at square one – how can one justify favoring the most parsimonious explanation? Specifically, how can one be justified in forming an expectation that the most parsimonious explanation is more likely to be verified tomorrow compared to a less parsimonious explanation?

  353. consciousness razor says

    Are you serious with your purported counter-example? Really? It’s like you haven’t bothered to actually try to understand anything I’ve written at all.

    I have bothered (maybe not a good idea), but you haven’t made sense. Nothing I can do about that. Understanding such things can sometimes take longer than usual.

    Mathematically impossible (assuming finite knowledge and no circular reasoning). That’s the jist of the regress argument.

    Wow, I had no clue mathematical proofs could tell us how we do or should think, what a justification is or ought to be, whether deduction is necessary, what the input or output of such a process is, what the physical world is like which makes that so, etc. Yet you don’t hesitate to say it’s not possible for things to be any other way, even though it’s based on literally zero real facts about the real world. But you have proof! It’s apparently proof that something I’ve never cared about isn’t possible. Okay. Let’s call it “Irrelevant Theorem About Bullshit #1” — I accept that you have such a thing. And I don’t care. Please, just don’t spread your confusions to other people. It’s sad.

  354. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @consciousness razor

    but you haven’t made sense

    Can you be more specific please? What things in particular have I wrote about which have not made sense regarding intrinsic methodological naturalism? In your Vishnu example, described above, surely you meant to posit a scenario where everyone can see praying to Vishu works, and it reliably works, right? In that scenario, it’s a sound rational scientific conclusion that praying to Vishnu is effective, right?

    Again, I don’t understand what you were thinking when you gave that example and purported that it was an example where scientific reasoning is inapplicable, and where some other kind of reasoning is applicable concerning observable facts about our shared reality. It’s simply not the case. Scientific reasoning is totally the right option to use in that hypothetical scenario.

    Wow, I had no clue mathematical proofs could tell us how we do or should think, what a justification is or ought to be, whether deduction is necessary, what the input or output of such a process is, what the physical world is like which makes that so, etc.

    A mathematical argument can tell us that something cannot be X and not X at the same time. (Just simple first order logic, really.)

    A mathematical argument can tell us that some physical object cannot be both a length in inches which is a prime number, and a length in inches which has 3 unique positive integer factors.

    A mathematical argument can tell us that no physical object in the shape of a triangle in Euclidean space can have corners whose angles sum to 500 degrees.

    As I earlier wrote, if you grant me the analytic definitions of justification and belief described above, then I can construct a formal deductive argument, e.g. mathematical argument, that it is impossible to justify all of your beliefs, and not use circular reasoning, and not have an infinite number of beliefs. That’s the jist of the regress argument. Your ridicule changes nothing of this simple mathematical fact.

    I suggest you do some reading on the synthetic vs analytic distinction. And before you get back, yes I already admit that the line is blurry in practice, and perhaps it’s even a continuum in practice. Perhaps even in principle.

  355. consciousness razor says

    Again, I don’t understand what you were thinking when you gave that example and purported that it was an example where scientific reasoning is inapplicable, and where some other kind of reasoning is applicable concerning observable facts about our shared reality. It’s simply not the case. Scientific reasoning is totally the right option to use in that hypothetical scenario.

    How the fuck would you know anything like that?

    I stipulated, in a fictional world I get to dream up to be however the fuck I want it to be, that scientific methods don’t work. I know, because I’m the one who did that, not you. It’s a different and hypothetical world, not like the actual one we’re in, and it hardly needs to be said it also doesn’t even exist. And I gave you possibly the barest description of what I had in mind, so there’s almost nothing to work with. So, again, where the fuck is this even coming from, and why would you think you must be right about it?

    My point, which you don’t understand, is that thing, the obviously ridiculous and obviously nonexistent thing which I dreamed up, not some other thing that you only wish I was talking about, does seem to be a logically possible world. If you believed your “presupposition” in that world, you would look like a stubborn fucking idiot, for reasons that should be obvious at this point. (Making you look like a stubborn idiot, by the way, seems to be the only observable effect and a persistent feature of your “presuppositions,” no matter which world it is.)

    But you’re saying that is impossible. And you know that how exactly? You can assert that science is “totally the right option” all you want, but you’re not doing anything remotely like proving it must be so… or that the world cannot logically exist, because it contains contradictions, would blow up instantly, or some such thing. That’s what you would have to do, logically, and you aren’t doing anything like that. You’re merely bullshitting. Understand?

    If there is something you actually have to dispute about that, then that could be constructive. Go ahead, whenever you’re ready. Maybe we could fix it up a bit somehow, tweak the world just so and it will be the one needed for our purposes. I don’t care, because it isn’t special to me. I definitely don’t see a reason why, among all possible worlds, there are none that match the necessary criteria, namely that science doesn’t work there and your presuppositions of such (if they were presuppositions and not conclusions) consequently make you look like a stubborn fucking idiot. If that’s not the case in any possible world at all, that would be a pretty remarkable fact to learn here in the Thunderdomes. But that won’t happen, will it? I predict you will just keep pushing your useless bullshit, so this will go nowhere.

    Perhaps a less trivial example – a mathematic argument tells us that you cannot square a circle

    Since, we’re not talking about geometry, that’s not helpful.

  356. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @consciousness razor

    I stipulated, in a fictional world I get to dream up to be however the fuck I want it to be, that scientific methods don’t work.

    And I gave you possibly the barest description of what I had in mind, so there’s almost nothing to work with.

    Ok, I thought that you meant for an example where only material, reductionist scientific methods don’t work. I thought this because your “minimal example” was a world where science clearly works. When every time you pray you get something, that forms the obvious basis of a scientific argument with the conclusion that prayer to Vishnu works. That’s why I was confused.

    But you’re saying that is impossible. And you know that how exactly?

    Again, I never said it was impossible. If you want to talk about a world where the methods of science don’t work, I think you need to go all the way to a malicious Cartesian demon who reads your mind and purposefully subverts your expectations. However, even then, I think you would start to form an expectation that the rest of your expectations will be regularly violated. I think the idea of a world where science does not work at all borderline incoherent. Instead, I think a more reasonable question is the extent to which science works.

    I can imagine (epistemically) possible worlds where I am a proverbial rat in a proverbial maze while a Cartesian demon fucks with me. In that kind of situation, I think it would be fair to say that the methods of science would be far less effective and useless than they are in our real world. Totally possible. It would suck to be in this maliciously changing rat maze world. Even if I find myself in a maliciously changing rat maze world, I would never give up trying to use reason, logic, evidence, science, etc., to try to understand the world, even if every try is thwarted and ends in defeat.

    You can assert that science is “totally the right option” all you want, but you’re not doing anything remotely like proving it must be so… or that the world cannot logically exist, because it contains contradictions, would blow up instantly, or some such thing. That’s what you would have to do, logically, and you aren’t doing anything like that. You’re merely bullshitting. Understand?

    Notice that when I described my presuppositions, I very carefully did not claim that science works. I something slightly different. I said this:

    Science: I can and should use reason, logic, evidence, science, etc., to learn about the world around me.

    In effect, I said that I am going to operate under the assumption that the methods of science work. In other words, I am going to use science to try to learn about the world around me.

    Even if I find myself in a proverbial rat maze world where the maze is constantly changing to thwart my expectations, I am never going to stop using science to try to understand the world. Of course, I become despondent and not try very hard to understand the world around me, but I’ll still try occasionally, because there’s no other way that I might learn about the world. It’s science or nothing.

    Since, we’re not talking about geometry, that’s not helpful.

    We are not talking about geometry, but we are talking about graph theory. Modeling the problem with graphs immediately follows from the ordinary definitions of “belief” and “justification”. This should not be controversial. Beliefs form nodes in a graph. Justifications are edges in that graph. Maybe one would want to say that a justification is a kind of super-edge, an ordered pair (conclusion node, set of premise nodes), but we can still apply lots of math stuff to this model and problem.

  357. says

    @464

    well yes, the next step away from complete subversion at the present time would be any (of countless) examples of massive (and/or small?) black swan events. For instance, the demon created me 2 seconds ago and will allow a nice universe for only 2 more seconds and then will switch over to full subversion mode.

    How can you assign relative probabilities to these two universes based on the available evidence? The available evidence is an equally good fit for both.

    Well I already said how all probabilities are being assigned. Assume your data represents the true population when you sincerely think your sample has not been biased in a significant way. Or: assume X when you sincerely think X is true. And indeed it is the case that I do not recall such bias in my sample :P

    Something like that, anyhow.

  358. chigau (違う) says

    iPad is fucked
    internet is fucked
    Ima gonna read a treebook
    Pratchett or Moore?
    (and drink rum)

  359. Nick Gotts says

    Enlightenment Liberal@

    I fail to see a meaningful difference between “true by fiat” and “knowingly believed without justification”.

    Declaring something “true by fiat” simply makes no sense: if it’s true, it’s true and if it’s false, it’s false; your “fiats” make no difference. OTOH, it’s certainly possible to knowlingly believe something without justification – e.g., Martin Gardner declared that his belief in God was without justification, and I see no reason to doubt his claim. He was not claiming that he could fiat God into existence.

    if you rely on presuppositions which you declare have no rational justification, then you cannot assert that anyone starting from different presuppositions is irrational.

    Yes, and? This is a fundamental problem. What do you say to a religious person who denies the supremacy of evidence and scientific reasoning w.r.t. factual questions about our shared reality? There is no logical argument you can construct to refute his point which the religious person will accept because they do not share your premises.

    What I would say to such a person as you posit (actually, I don’t think I’ve ever come across such a person – even Bruggencate claims to use evidence and logic) is that using evidence and reasoning from evidence works rather well, and that in fact they clearly believe this (see below for discussion of “belief”) themselves, because they use evidence and reasoning logically from evidence in their daily lives – they cannot avoid doing so. If they admit this (if they do not, after being given sufficient examples, then clearly they are not arguing in good faith, and I would go and do something more useful), then I would challenge them to explain where they do and do not use evidence, and why, pointing out that if they cannot do so, they are acting irrationally. I would also note that artifacts and procedures they make use of were designed by others using evidence and reasoning from evidence, and ask where their confidence in those things derives from if they do not believe in the usefulness of evidence and reasoning. Now of course they can simply deny that these pragmatic inconsistencies exist, or that they are a problem – but that is no more an answer to the difficulties I would raise than sticking their fingers in their ears and going “La, la, la, can’t hear you!”. Someone’s refusal to accept an argument or justification – which they can always do, at any point – does not mean the argument or justification is not a rational one.

    Now, in both cases, some form of persuasion may work. Generally such persuasion rests on the underlying assumption that the other person really does value what you value to some degree, but they just don’t realize it. The goal of such persuasion is to point out inconsistencies in their approach, and show how their position is much more untenable then they first thought.

    Exactly. But of course doing this is giving a justification for your preference for depending on evidence – that you are acting consistently while your interlocuter is not. That is the relevance to your foundationalism: and here, of course, I’m pointing out that you are being inconsistent, because when necessary you would, rightly, give a justification for the claim that relying on evidence is better than not doing so.

    I fail to see how evolutionary theory is relevant at all for this discussion

    Before Darwin, empiricist philosophers were faced with the question of how the process of acquiring knowledge of the world could ever get started; and generally attributed this to the existence of innate ideas. Post-Darwin, we can see that these innate ideas are themselves the product of knowledge acquisition in the form of the trial-and-error of natural selection; and that this process can be traced back to pre-linguistic and then pre-cognitive forms of “learning”: the genome of every organism encodes “belief” and “knowledge” about the world in an implicit form. This insight does not directly tell us what our epistemology should be, but since it shows that thinking of belief and knowledge as a network of propositions is fundamentally flawed, it should get us to ask whether the epistemological questions asked by pre-evolutionary philosophers are actually fruitful. In many cases, it turns out that they are not.

    This is circular reasoning. We have to assume a weak form of the principle of uniformity in order to use inductive reasoning and science to make the conclusion that organisms have existed for long periods of time.

    Can you actually give a formulation of this principle? Because without that, I don’t know whether I would agree that we have to make such an assumption. Even if we do, we do not have to place it beyond the possibility of revision – i.e., we do not have to accept it as foundational; my view is that there is no such general principle: that instead, we provisionally assume specific types of uniformity, and see where that assumption leads us. Sometimes, we find that these assumptions are wrong (e.g., the assumption that species are fixed, the assumption that space is uniformly Euclidean, Hoyle’s assumption that the universe was in a steady state on a sufficiently large scale).

    We can point to features of organisms that make sense in the light of the hypothesis that they have existed for a long time – such as the pattern of similarities and differences among them, the facts of biogeography, the facts of embryology, the existence of maladaptive features such as humans having too many teeth for the size of their mouths, heads so big at birth they endanger the mother (when a two-part pelvis joined by cartilage could avoid the problem) – and challenge those who dispute the fact to give an alternative explanation. Their failure to do so – over a period of 150 years – is a justification of the belief that they have existed for a long time. Of course it’s not a logical proof – last Thursdayism is immune to disproof – but it explains facts for which the latter has no explanation. That X better explains a class of facts than Y is a justification for preferring X to Y.

    Are you saying that knowledge and belief is not a global thing? Are you saying that sometimes belief X will be a conclusion, and other times belief X will be a premise, and it is inappropriate to try and construct a full graph of all of a person’s beliefs? Why?

    Not inappropriate: impossible. Contrary to what you say, beliefs and their justifications cannot be adequately represented by nodes and links in a graph. A belief is a disposition to act in certain ways – only one of which, and by no means always the one we should regard as determining whether a belief is held, is being ready to assent to a linguistic formulation of the belief. We have potentially infinite numbers of beliefs. Consider just for a start what you believe about the planet Mars. You believe (I would think) that there are no hippopotami there. You believe there are no unicorns there. You believe there are no deliberative assemblies there. You believe there are no hippopotami with socialist principles there. You believe there are no pink hippopotami who loathe Obama there… Or consider what you believe about arithmetic. You believe 2 is greater than 1. You believe 3 is greater than 1. You believe 4 is greater than 1… Maybe you will claim that something is only a belief if it has been explicitly formulated as a proposition. But then you will have to claim that infants and non-human animals have no beliefs, and that (for example), I didn’t believe when I opened the window earlier that no poisonous gases would flood in, or that the stairs I went down would remain solid; you will have to decide whether a proposition formulated and subsequently forgotten is a belief; you will have to deal with uncertainty (which can’t simply be expressed as a percentage); you will have to deal with vagueness – do you believe you have a lot of books? You will have to deal with problems of translation, which notoriously evade definitive answers as to whether a translation is correct in many cases. When we get to justifications, the difficulties multpily further. Does a justification have to have been explicitly formulated in order to count? Because we all believe thousands of things every day without formulating any justification for them. In general, justifications are constructed as and when they are needed.

    Some of my presuppositions are:

    Science: I can and should use reason, logic, evidence, science, etc., to learn about the world around me.

    Everything Is Not Made For Me: I am not the center of the universe, and thus these other humans have minds like mine.

    Skepticism: I should not hold any beliefs with X level of confidence without sufficient justification, except for my starting presuppositions.

    Scientism: The only acceptable way to learn about our shared material reality (or shared super-material reality) is reason, logic, evidence, science, etc. (Of course, moral truths, mathematical truths, etc., are not bound by this rule.)

    To complete the foundation for my Foundherentism (a combination of Foundationalism and Coherentism), I probably need to throw on humanism as a basic presupposition. Plus maybe some starting presuppositional value that I want to live my life and enjoy it, e.g. hedonism. Plus the implied and hard-to-specify relative valuing of these difference principles and how to resolve conflicts. I might be missing something, but I think that’s basically it.

    Even if these formulations were not far too vague to be useful (what are those “etc.”s doing there; what does “minds like mine” mean?), they are quite obviously inadequate to get you anywhere. You need vast amounts of specific information about the world in order to use any of these principles – which should be clear, because since they contain no such information, you can’t possibly arrive at any such information deductively using them alone. To derive any such information from observation, you must rely on the beliefs encoded in your sensory systems, and on your memory for what you observed a second ago, a minute ago, an hour ago, a day ago, a year ago… You must also rely on beliefs about the reliability of your sensory and cognitive systems – and you know they are not totally reliable, so you cannot just add such beliefs to your supposed small set of funamental principles. To derive any information from other people (and of course to formulate your list of basic suppositions), you must also rely on your beliefs about the meanings of words and how they combine to form sentences and arguments. To derive any information from books, you must rely on your beliefs about the written forms of language, the way books are organised, the differneces between fiction and non-fiction. You also need beliefs about which external sources are reliable – some people are, some are not, some are reliable on some topics and not others, ditto with books, with journals, with online sources.

    I might be missing something

    Actually, you’re missing just about everything. I’ve come to think that your nym is actually appropriate – your thinking is stuck in the 18th century.

  360. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @brianpansky
    I don’t think you understand the grue hypothesis. In essence, I think it shows that even your statistical approach rests on the assumption that parsimonious explanations are more likely than non-parsimonious explanations, and the grue hypothesis is meant to exemplify that.

    @Nick Gotts

    if you rely on presuppositions which you declare have no rational justification, then you cannot assert that anyone starting from different presuppositions is irrational.

    What I would say to such a person as you posit (actually, I don’t think I’ve ever come across such a person – even Bruggencate claims to use evidence and logic)

    Which is it? Is it a problem because other people might have different starting principles? Or is it not a problem because basically no one disagrees with my starting principles?

    is that using evidence and reasoning from evidence works rather well

    How do you know that? By using evidence and reason? Sounds circular. How do you know it will work well tomorrow? Because it’s been working in the past? Sounds like the problem of induction. Sounds like you’re assuming induction as a hidden premise. We are just going in circles now. I cannot understand how you do not understand the circularity of your arguments here.

    because when necessary you would, rightly, give a justification for the claim that relying on evidence is better than not doing so.

    This is ambiguous in context. Of course I would argue and give reasons (justifications) why it’s better to use evidence than not using evidence. “Better” in the sense that it will make you happier in your life. However, I would say that it will make your life better because it works, e.g. that inductive reasoning works, e.g. that a weak version of the uniformity principle is true. If they asked me to defend these new positions, I would flatly refuse and explain why they ask the impossible.

    Before Darwin, empiricist philosophers were faced with the question of how the process of acquiring knowledge of the world could ever get started; and generally attributed this to the existence of innate ideas. Post-Darwin, we can see that these innate ideas are themselves the product of knowledge acquisition in the form of the trial-and-error of natural selection;

    Again, more appeal to nature fallacy.

    For example, because of Darwin – particularly later evolutionary scientists – we know that the human brain has also evolved a hyper agency detection system, and we know that this system has a high false positive rate. We have developed methods to help us compensate for our bad instinctual thinking. We have developed methods to correct for our bad cognition. The thinking produced by evolution is not some gold standard. We know it has flaws.

    Again, you are giving a historical explanation as to how people think, a causal, historical explanation. Such historical explanations are simply non-sequitir in the normative discussion that I’m having. To take the common proverb – just because some people jump off a bridge, doesn’t mean that it’s now a good idea to follow them off the bridge. Even if you give good a evolutionary explanation why they’re jumping off the bridge, it still may not be a good idea to jump off the bridge.

    I don’t know how many times I can explain that you are repeatedly doing a naked appeal to nature fallacy.

    Can you actually give a formulation of this principle? Because without that, I don’t know whether I would agree that we have to make such an assumption. Even if we do, we do not have to place it beyond the possibility of revision – i.e., we do not have to accept it as foundational; my view is that there is no such general principle: that instead, we provisionally assume specific types of uniformity, and see where that assumption leads us. Sometimes, we find that these assumptions are wrong (e.g., the assumption that species are fixed, the assumption that space is uniformly Euclidean, Hoyle’s assumption that the universe was in a steady state on a sufficiently large scale).

    I cannot make it any more concrete, because then I wouldn’t agree with it. I still prefer my original phrasing, which is something like: I am sufficiently capable to use the methods of science, and I should use the methods of science to learn about the world around me, and I should base my beliefs about the world around me according to the results of the methods of science.

    I think you can derive this position by assuming a weak version of the uniformity principle, but you rightly noted that a weak principle of uniformity could be false in epistemically possible worlds. I could be living in the world with a malicious Cartesian demon. That’s why I prefer my orignial formation. Even in that world with the malicious Cartesian demon, I am not going to stop trying to use science. There simply is no other sane, rational option.

    Spock once said something insightful in the original television show, which I think you should take to heart. In that particular episode, they landed a planet where everyone was pretending to live in 1920s prohibition gangland USA. The people of the planet were not acting what we might call rationally. Near the end, Spock says something like “It appears that logic does not work here.” Kirk calls him out on it, and pokes fun at him for abandoning logic. Spock counters “To conclude otherwise would be illogical”. What we see here is that Spock is using logic to recognize that the people around him are being irrationally. More generally, Spock is using logic to recognize that many of the usual assumptions do not apply to this situation.

    To take it back to your earlier example: If Spock found himself in the world where reductionist materialistic science did not work, but praying to Vishnu did work, then Spock would be the first to admit that pursuing reductionist materialistic science is foolish, and that praying to Vishnu is the thing to do. “To conclude otherwise would be illogical.”

    I still fear you are acting with a highly contrived definitions of “science”, “induction”, “reason”, and “logic”. It’s almost like you’re confusing my position with a straw vulcan.

    We can point to features of organisms that make sense in the light of the hypothesis that they have existed for a long time – such as the pattern of similarities and differences among them, the facts of biogeography, the facts of embryology, the existence of maladaptive features such as humans having too many teeth for the size of their mouths, heads so big at birth they endanger the mother (when a two-part pelvis joined by cartilage could avoid the problem) – and challenge those who dispute the fact to give an alternative explanation. Their failure to do so – over a period of 150 years – is a justification of the belief that they have existed for a long time. Of course it’s not a logical proof – last Thursdayism is immune to disproof – but it explains facts for which the latter has no explanation. That X better explains a class of facts than Y is a justification for preferring X to Y.

    Again, nakedly circular. You first have to come to the conclusion that the methods of science are a rational and reliable way to learn about the world around us. Only then can you come to the specific conclusion that Darwinian evolution is true. But you try to use this fact to support and justify your use of the methods of science. Again, nakedly circular reasoning. I do not understand how you do not understand.

    We have potentially infinite numbers of beliefs.

    Considering that our brains are just massively complex physical machines, I find your statement ridiculous. Modern physics definitely places an upper limit on the information content of our brain, and consequently on our mind. Even if you want to invoke changes over time, we can still invoke physics to place an upper cap on the total number of possible beliefs which we can hold in our lifetime. “Infinite” – please. Get real.

    Of course, the number might be stupendously bigger than the number of particules in the observable universe, depending on what esoteric definition of “belief” you come up with.

    But again, you are still missing the point. You are still engaging in a non-sequitir. You are doing an appeal to nature fallacy. I don’t care if I happen to have a bazillion beliefs. I want to practice methods to refine my beliefs, to identify faulty thinking. I know I cannot arrive at my model of beliefs in a directed acyclic graph, but neither can I perfectly practice the methods of science. They are goals to aspire to, in order to rid myself of some degree of bad thinking.

    Maybe you will claim that something is only a belief if it has been explicitly formulated as a proposition. But then you will have to claim that […] I didn’t believe when I opened the window earlier that no poisonous gases would flood in,

    That is correct. “Belief” is the state of being (non-absolutely) convinced that a proposition is (likely) true. If you have not considered a statement, then obviously you cannot have a belief regarding the statement. You cannot have a belief and be completely unaware of it.

    When you mentioned the possibility of poisonous green gas, or various large zoo animals on Mars, I took a moment to consider the likelihood of the truth of those claims in a Bayesian framework, taking into account my previous relevant knowledge. I then came to a conclusion on those particular questions. Before that moment, I had no beliefs regarding those claims. I was agnostic. I was ignorant.

    Similarly:

    You believe 2 is greater than 1. You believe 3 is greater than 1. You believe 4 is greater than 1

    I don’t have a concrete belief regarding the relative sizes of two various well-specified, large, but otherwise unremarkable integers. Rather, I have a belief in a particular process by which I can compare the sizes of various two well-specified and large integers.

    We see that humans are not just mere collecitons of passive beliefs. Rather, beliefs can be active. Beliefs can be methods for generating other beliefs, for example when you ask me about large Earth animals on Mars.

    We also see examples of common Bayesian reasoning, and common shortcuts thereof. When I open a window, I have to take a tally of the likely possibilities that will happen when I open it. Perhaps it’ll be a nice sunny day. Perhaps opening the window will expose me to an attack by a honey badger who will rip my face off. The second is possible, though extremely remote, and in the everyday informal reasoning that we all do, we have developed various heuristics to live our lives. In other words, we have all developed heuristics to avoid analysis-paralysis. I wouldn’t even consider the honey badger attack possibility. However, if you press me on it, then you bypass my heuristics, and I start doing more formal analysis, and I can come to a good justified conclusion that there will not be a honey badger attack if I open the window.

    I am not being irrational or illogical when I do not consider the honey badger attack. I’m just being intellectually lazy, in order to avoid analysis paralysis. I know that my heuristics are good enough based on their past results. But of course the confidence level that they produce is much less than if I fully analyze the situation. But we never wait for absolute confidence to act. We often act with far less confidence than many of us would like to admit. Every day involves taking chances on incomplete information. It’s a learned skill, these huerists, and it’s a skill which is subject to formal scientific analysis.

    they are quite obviously inadequate to get you anywhere. You need vast amounts of specific information about the world in order to use any of these principles – which should be clear,

    I’m pretty sure I mentioned the use of evidence science in those starting principles. That seems to constitute “specific information”. I don’t know what you’re talking about. It seems quite obvious to me that everything I believe flows from that small set of premises, plus available evidence (first person experience).

    […] because since they contain no such information, you can’t possibly arrive at any such information deductively using them alone.

    One of my core positions throughout this thread is that deduction alone gets us nowhere, and we also need induction, and specifically Bayesian reasoning. For the umpteenth time, you are attacking a strawman rather than my actual position. This is intellectually dishonest.

    To derive any such information from observation, you must rely on the beliefs encoded in your sensory systems, and on your memory for what you observed a second ago, a minute ago, an hour ago, a day ago, a year ago

    Do you mean the approximate, non-absolute reliability of memory? Do you mean a rejection of Last Thursdayism hyoptheses? I agree. You shouldn’t be surprised. Both of these are obvious inclusions in my list, and arguably they are corollaries of the starting premise that I should use science.

    Also, I don’t know what this means:

    To derive any such information from observation, you must rely on the beliefs encoded in your sensory systems,

    You must also rely on beliefs about the reliability of your sensory and cognitive systems – and you know they are not totally reliable, so you cannot just add such beliefs to your supposed small set of funamental principles.

    Yes, I must. Again, this seems like a corellary of my starting premise to use science. Furthermore, I completely agree – I know my cognition is flawed and limited. However, I do not need to assume perfectly rational, perfect cognition, perfect memory, etc., in order to do science. I only need to assume sufficient capability. I do assume that I’m not batshit insane. This is part of the logic, reason, and science presupposition(s).

    To derive any information from other people (and of course to formulate your list of basic suppositions), you must also rely on your beliefs about the meanings of words and how they combine to form sentences and arguments.

    Words don’t have meaning. Words have usages. I don’t have to belief anything about “the meaning of words”. I just have to have the knowledge, the belief, that when someone says “rabbit”, they don’t mean a scaled animal with no legs. Don’t make the mistake that words are defined in terms of other words. Rather, words derive their meaning from sensory experience and consensus. In the end, we have reached an agreement that the objects in our shared reality defined by certain sensory experience shall be labelled with a completely arbitrary word, “rabbit”. Vocabulary is learned. Dictionaries do not contain definitions; they are references, not authoritative definitions.

    I don’t see what you’re getting at here.

    To derive any information from books, you must rely on your beliefs about the written forms of language, the way books are organised, the differneces between fiction and non-fiction. You also need beliefs about which external sources are reliable – some people are, some are not, some are reliable on some topics and not others, ditto with books, with journals, with online sources.

    I see no particularly difficult or novel proble