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Author Topic: Religion and Science  (Read 7296 times)

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Offline KythiaTopic starter

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Religion and Science
« on: July 02, 2013, 12:39:06 AM »
Ephiral and I have become involved in a discussion via PMs which Ephiral has done me the courtesy of allowing to continue here.  For this first post, I'll transfer over the conversation so far and put up my final response.

I have, in copying and pasting, excised various lines that I felt were merely conversational overhead.  It would make me look way smarter if I cut out a crucial bit of your point, Ephiral, so would you mind glancing through and making sure I haven't put any words in your mouth or taken any out. 

The conversation begun with a section of a post I made in the Religion.  Ethics.  Life thread and I'll start by reposting the relevant bit.

Quote from: Kythia
I believe that most questions/issues facing humanity are most suitable to a "scientific" approach, but (a) most =/= all and (b) I personally have always felt something of a disconnect to the sciences - though I stress that's a personal opinion and I don't want to draw wider points from that - which combine to mean I focus on the minority of issues that I feel are best resolved by a religious/Christian approach.  I also think there's been some bad leadership/tactics used by prominent Christians that have led those issues to be usually either navel-gazing "angels dancing on the head of a pin" arguments or weak "god of the gaps" style excuses.

Quote from: Ephiral
Do you think there are questions with actual, tangible this-makes-a-difference-in-how-we-interact-with-the-world answers that are not aided by an evidence-based approach? This seems to be what you're saying, but there's room for different interpretations. If so... can you give me some examples?

Quote from: Kythia
In answer to your question:


Quote

Do you think there are questions with actual, tangible this-makes-a-difference-in-how-we-interact-with-the-world answers that are not aided by an evidence-based approach? This seems to be what you're saying, but there's room for different interpretations.



then I'm gonna give you a massive almost.  My issue, the reason I don't say yes, is your usage of the word "aided".  On a hypothetical "helpfulness scale" I think an evidence based approach will always score a positive, that it is always a net asset.  So within the strict wording of your question, the answer is no.  I see no massive gain to playing semantic games with you though and understand that that wasn't quite the intent of your question, I just thought it helpful to clear that up as I'll return to it in a moment.

Let's take P=NP as a problem presumably close to your heart.  Prayer and silent meditation has provable (references available on request) benefits to problem solving.  I could pray for the answer, which - divine aspects aside - I think we can agree involves focusing one's mind on the problem.  Maybe I'll get a solution, who knows.  Even if I did though, I think an evidence based, systematic approach is still a better one.  Just because my method paid off doesn't make it the optimum one. As I say, I think most questions/issues facing humanity are most suitable to a etc etc etc.  And for those questions: on my helpfulness scale, by definition, no other approach scores more helpfulness points, and many may even cause a net loss or such a small gain as to not be worth the effort.

However.  Most=/=all in either of my highlighted usages (grammar aside).  I spent the day laying in the sun and reading.  One of the things I read was a pamphlet by the current Archbishop of Canterbury (written before his ascension) entitled "Can Companies Sin?"  It was quite hard to lay my hands on actually, and thats the only reason I'm not wholeheartedly recommending you read it yourself.  Very well argued.  I had assumed the contents would just be the word "No" written over and over again - maybe in various sizes and typefaces for variety.  But in fact, Welby believed they could and made an argument sufficiently convincing to convince me.

Bear with me, I'm going somewhere with this.

He cited articles, had done research, all the other paraphenalia of academia.  As I say, never unhelpful.  Adds value, certainly.  But it was, perhaps unsurprisingly, framed in exclusively Christian thought.  However, it has had a real tangible-this-makes-a- etc etc etc difference on me at least.  I had previously thought companies were only capable of acting amorally, now I believe that they are capable of acting morally and immorally (I'm not yet decided whether to end that with "as well" or "instead" - not yet decided whether they have three moral options or two - but thats by the by).

Now, you could of course argue that religious arguments only affect me and my purchasing behaviour because I'm religious.  Well, one, that's a distraction from your question and is actually a new one, but again I see no real need for sophist point scoring here.  Way more importantly though is two, that people are prone to precisely the sort of value judgements that religious arguments work through.  The just world fallacy springs to mind, Im certain with another couple of moments thought I could deluge you with countless others. 

You and I may disagree as to the root cause of that, but I assume we can agree on the statement as is.  Evidence based approaches can support arguments related to changing moral behaviour, but I suspect there are vanishingly few people who have changed moral behaviour as a result purely of said approach.  There also needs to be an emotional kick to it - logically there is no difference between knowing your (hypothetical) clothes are made in a sweatshop and touring the place, but most people would be far more likely to change behaviour based on the latter than the former. 

I've focused heavily on religious arguments because I feel they are overwhelmingly the most popular form of moral but not evidence based arguments, but they're not the only example.

In conclusion - finally, I hear you sigh - moral arguments may well benefit from evidence based approaches but in order for them to have tangible-this-makes- etc etc etc effects they need more, and do not strictly need the evidence based aspect.

As a brief addendum, I'm not for one second claiming that exactly how that emotional kicker is delivered is immune to evidence based approaches, in fact I think that is one of the majority of cases where that is the superior approach.  But analysing why an argument works is a different issue to the effectiveness of an argument.

Quote from: Ephiral
Part of my problem in thinking this way is... as I've mentioned, I don't really have faith, as far as I can tell. So I've had to come up with moral and ethical reasoning that is at least grounded in evidence.

As a counterpoint that's near and dear to my heart and yours, let's take feminism. I came to feminism (and subsequently to social justice on a wider scale) from a perspective that is based on evidence and utilitarianism: Causing harm is a moral negative, causing benefit is a moral positive. If we're going to separate out a group of people and treat them as an underclass, causing obvious and measurable harm along the way, there had better be a hell of an offsetting benefit or justification. So we look to the evidence and find... that there really isn't one.

Similarly, your question of "can companies sin?": I define "sin" as "cause more aggregate harm than aggregate benefit", and by simply looking at their actions and the damage done, the answer is "absolutely".

So... I begin to wonder what the merit is of setting aside the best tool we have for understanding the world around us and saying "Not here." Sure, I don't have all the moral answers, but I have a solid framework within which to reason my way to them, based on phenomena that actually affect the world around me in a tangible way. As far as I can see, churches have about the same, minus the "based on..." part.

As far as emotions go: I think it's important to feel strong and appropriate emotional impact when it comes to questions of morality. I also think it's extremely dangerous to reason from emotions, or to craft arguments designed to provoke an overriding emotional response. So... I think emotional impact has its place, but it's at the end of the questioning process. I try to feel outrage because of an injustice, not call something an injustice because it outrages me, if that makes sense. It's not always possible, and generally difficult even when it is possible, but a large part of my approach to reasoning is guarding carefully against behaviours that are instinctual, kneejerk, and dead wrong.

Quote from: Kythia
My turn now, I fear.



Quote

As a counterpoint that's near and dear to my heart and yours, let's take feminism. I came to feminism (and subsequently to social justice on a wider scale) from a perspective that is based on evidence and utilitarianism: Causing harm is a moral negative, causing benefit is a moral positive. If we're going to separate out a group of people and treat them as an underclass, causing obvious and measurable harm along the way, there had better be a hell of an offsetting benefit or justification. So we look to the evidence and find... that there really isn't one.



Now, caveat time.  Im going to come uncomfortably close to claiming atheists have no moral centre here.  Its unavoidable, I'm treading very similar ground.  I just hope you can give me the benefit of the doubt when I say that's not the intent, its a similar argument but not the same.  I hope, at least.

I'm not arguing that causing harm is a moral negative, or the inverse.  I'm asking, though (and please feel no obligation to answer) why the hell that matters?  I can trace your line of reasoning from that premise to your position, but I can't trace from your other expressed positions to that premise.  Why is it important if an action is moral or otherwise if you try to avoid basing arguments from emotion?  I mean the question genuinely, I promise.  The only negative to immoral action I can see - leaving aside a whole hierarchy of heaven and sin which doesn't affect your reasoning - is the disgust and outrage immoral acts cause.  But you claim that is a bad place to start an argument from?  It seems to me a partial clue is in "feel outrage because of an injustice" as that moves it from a moral judgement to an absolute one - that injustice is undesirable.  But I do feel there's an initial mover missing there, that we're moving into turtles all the way down territory.  I am certain that I'm misunderstanding your position rather than exposing something you hadn't thought of, but I simply don't see it.

I do hope that didn't come across too close to a personal attack.  Discussing someone else's morals always runs that risk and I am incredibly aware that its a favourite (and, IMHO, spurious) tactic used in precisely this kind of discussion.

Quote from: Ephiral
If I want to be painfully frank, it boils down to a combination of self-interest and game and security theory. This will probably sound horrifyingly calculated, but... to touch on an earlier note, if something is trivial, I'm fine with not thinking overmuch about it and going with what feels right. If it's important, I (try to) shut up and multiply. I'm also on shaky rhetorical ground here, as this is the first time I've actually tried to express it in such depth to someone who isn't on the same page as me with at least part of this, so here goes.

When we talk about "good" and "bad" actions, "right" and "wrong", "moral" and "immoral"... what we're really talking about is taboos. As a society or culture (or subculture), we place high positive value on some actions and negative value on others for some reason. I would argue that part of it is hardwired deep in our instincts, or otherwise universal - the taboo on killing another member of "us" is pretty much anywhere you care to look, for example - but the overwhelming majority of them are merely a function of humans, generally in a group, deciding that certain actions should be encouraged and others should be discouraged. So, with that in mind, let's set out to do something radical, something that is done in only a tiny minority of cases - let's put lots of thought into the set of taboos we're building.

An aside: Ideally, one wants to do this *before* adopting a set of taboos, or making any other important decision. Labelling something even so much as the "current best option" tends to make it sticky - you don't reason to it, or argue its pros and cons, so much as seek justification for it. I did that to the best of my ability before adopting what I hold now, but I was far worse at reasoning then. It seems to hold up to me when I examine it today, but I know I'm not particularly immune to the justification habit, so I would very much like you to point out any obvious holes.

As we've already touched on, I am not a particularly special example of the human species - there's no reason to carve humanity into "me" and "everyone else". So whatever these taboos are, they'd better be pretty universal - if Bob next door adopting my system completely screws me over, it's a pretty poor one, right? I'm looking at you, Mrs. Rand. The obvious conclusion is to formulate something that works across as wide a group of people as possible. Given that I'm one of those people, I want it to help me as much as it can - and so by extension it has to help everyone else. And we're basically there. (Game and security theory basically comes in choosing altruism over greed as a generally guiding

Quote from: Kythia
Interesting...

My first thought is that while that line of thinking might well lead to moral actions in your - Ephiral's - specific case, that's far from a given.  I'm Bob next door, the SWM (also able bodied, cis gendered, of decent relative wealth - I tick all the privilege boxes.)

My (as Bob) adopting your positions that LGB, other ethnicities, females, the disabled, etc etc etc should have the same level of power and prestige in society as I do screws me over.  My relative power - and what is power if not relative? - is diminished as my privilege is "eroded".  In fact, lets go further and say I'm homophobic, racist, sexist, transphobic, etc.  Everyone adopting my belief system helps me immeasurably.  I can have my tea on the table cooked by the little woman, pay my negroid workers in company scrip and not have to see those gross trannys - I trust you'll forgive the language. 

So, by what I understand as your logic, Bob/I has every incentive to not only continue his current behaviour but even intensify.  He wants his belief system to benefit himself, just as you do, and his actions fulfil your criteria of not being detrimental to him if everyone adopts them.

Quote from: Ephiral
That fails on two counts, as I see it: One, the entire premise ignores the part where I am not a separate category from Human as a whole. Two: So Bob's path is "take actions which benefit my subset of humanity". If everybody adopts that, it screws Bob over - there are far more people who can't tick at least one of Bob's privilege boxes than those who can. Suddenly, they're out to take advantage and get what they can at the expense of his tribe.

Furthermore, by dividing the amount of effort and resources we have available into tribes, we've almost surely diminished the total amount of comfort and luxury available. Even if, after everyone's best efforts, Bob is still on his little hill of privilege, he has more relative but less absolute comfort/luxury/wealth than if we'd all been working to raise the total amount there is.

Quote from: Kythia
It does, deliberately, skip the part where you are not a special subsection of humanity and, rereading, you're right that I haven't explained why.  Sorry about that, thanks for calling me on it- I'll try to address both your concerns in one, as they are linked.

Lets assume that you are correct and neither you nor Bob is distinct from humanity as a whole - for reference I agree, but I'm trying to talk in the abstract.  That still doesn't mean that its necessarily in Bob's best interest to work on a belief system that acknowledges that fact.  Firstly, beyond a certain level of basic necessity, people don't care about absolute levels of comfort/wealth, only relative.  Lottery winners are no happier, after a settling down period, than first world paupers.  People compare their cars to their neighbours and people they know, not to the entire spectrum of cars.  Humanity as a whole is too large to keep in your head as a meaningful comparison, your only benchmark of whether you're rich or not is those around you.  If needed I can provide references but it will take me a while to dig them out.  Have you read Kahneman's "Thinking Fast and Slow"?  It talks about this at some length.  So while absolute levels would be raised, relative ones would be lowered and that's the problem.

Now, sure, that's a cognitive bias.  But avoiding that requires every single person in the world to accept your of thinking.  Accepting Bob's viewpoint - that his relative wealth is important - requires no such shift.  While a viewpoint that requires everyone to abandon inherant biases may be worthy, I would question its viability.

So I would argue that Bob defending his tribe against all comers is still in Bob's (perceived if not absolute, but I'm not certain the distinction is meaningful in this case) best interests. 

Quote from: Ephiral
I... think we were operating under different definitions of "relative". I thought it meant "relative to what others have", but it appears in light of the lottery winner case that you actually meant "relative to what I'm used to having". My apologies.

I... would like to see some data showing that people do not care about absolute levels of comfort. Not because I think you're wrong, but because if you're right, then I have been reasoning from a massive bias I was blind to - absolute levels are critically important to me. To use your car example, I don't compare my car to my neighbour's - what he drives is of zero impact whatsoever on my life. What I compare my car to is the ones coming out now with features I wish I had. Humanity might be too large a benchmark to keep in your head, but "yesterday" and "tomorrow" are not.

I... am in the unusual position of holding that my reasoning is correct but not useful, if this is the case - your refutation rests on a failure in reasoning, not in my logic, but that failure is widespread enough to make this system not usable in general.

The correct action in this case, of course, is to try to change people's minds and teach them to reason well. This is a difficult task - but I don't think "It's too hard!" is an adequate counterpoint to any moral system.

Let me turn the question around on you: What is the underlying bedrock of your morality?

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2013, 12:48:05 AM »
The only error that jumps out at me on quick review is at the tail end of the quoteblock fifth from the bottom. It should read:

Quote from: Ephiral
(Game and security theory basically comes in choosing altruism over greed as a generally guiding principle - cooperation is the winning move in Prisoner's Dilemma if you can trust the other guy to cooperate, and... taken across humanity as a whole, you generally can.)

If I notice anything else missing, or you founding arguments on things I've already addressed, I'll bring it up, but I think this unlikely. For the record, that cut seemed to be a good-faith accident in trimming.

Offline KythiaTopic starter

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #2 on: July 02, 2013, 01:13:18 AM »
Sorry about that, you're quite right.  Must have stuck my cursor at the wrong point.

I was using relative mainly as "relative to what my peer group/neighbours/work colleagues have".  The point of the lottery winner example (P Brickman, D Coates and R Janoff-Bulman (1978) 'Lottery Winners and Accident Victims: Is Happiness Relative?' Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36, 917-927) was that absolute levels of comfort and luxury - the type that would change immensely after a lottery win - don't cause any noticeable gain in happiness after an initial period which, following on from other research (more on that below) would seem to be an acclimatisation period where winners are happier because of their increase in comfort/luxury over their peer group before gradually finding a new one.

Now.  The research I refer to above and Ephiral asked for in her last message to me (the final quote block in my first post) are in a book which I can't immediately lay my hands on.  I will keep looking and post ASAP but in the interests of a speedy response I am glossing over that part a little with the hopes that Ephiral will be kind enough to let me return to it once I've found what I'm after.  My flat isn't that big, it has to be here somewhere.  If you're not happy with that, Ephiral, then please shout and I'll redouble my search.

So, turning the question round.  What is the bedrock of my morality?

I touch on this in the Religion, Ethics, Life thread.  My core belief is that I - Kythia - should be happy.  I put a shit load of time and effort into being.  A strictly amoral, and in fact broadly sociopathic position.  I'm fine with you holding a similar one, though, substituting your name as appropriate (or, better yet, not doing).  There are others that want me to be happy - family, friends, etc - and so my assumption is that any advice they give is aimed - as best they are capable - at making me happier.  I include, your mileage obviously varies, God in that list of "people who love me and want me to be happy".  So, obviously, His advice is aimed at maximising my happiness.

Prior to my conversion to Christianity I approached this in a rather stupid way.  I'm relatively quick witted and relatively sadistic and have a tendency to say the first thing it occurs to me to say.  And I found it pretty hilarious to be mean to people - it built me up and made me feel clever.  Quelle fucking surprise, hold on to your hats, I ended up with few friends. 

Post. God's advice has become important to me.  Forgiveness, love thy neighbour as yourself, its not worth going in to a list.  Now, there's research to support a lot of this (see, amongst a host of others B T Harbaugh, U Mayr and D Burghart (2007) 'Neural responses to taxation and voluntary giving reveal motives for charitable donations', Science, 316 (5831) 1622-1625) but (a) there's also other aspects that - to the best of my knowledge - aren't supported by research (though none that - to the best of my knowledge - are refuted) and more importantly (b) I consider these academic papers as confirmation not justification.

Does that answer?  I'm not clear if it does or not.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #3 on: July 02, 2013, 01:38:39 AM »
Thanks for the cite. That's... pretty revealing of my bias, so thanks. Unfortunately, it renders my position impossible to generalize - though I still hold that the logic of it is sound; the fault is external to it. I may have to see if I can reformulate in a way that makes sense to people who place a high value on status. I'm not sure how to do that at the moment, short of trying to explain to such people why playing an open-ended game is preferable to a zero-sum game.

Yes, you can get back to me with further citations at your leisure.

So... here's the thing. You say you're fine with others holding the same core belief - "I should be happy." as the foundation from which all morality flows. What happens when your neighbour feels little to no guilt over depriving you of your stuff? Or the one on the other side, who enjoys a bit of murder every now and then? I freely grant that, on the whole, people are basically altruistic. But if we're discussing the value of moral systems... well, yours seems to have "allow any number of malicious actors to be as malicious as they want" hard-coded into it. Why is this a good idea?

Offline KythiaTopic starter

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #4 on: July 02, 2013, 02:18:49 AM »
I think, with that final sentence, we might have hit a schism that we've been dancing around a little in a lot of our E interactions. 

Why is this a good idea?

That's a valid question up to a point, but I presupposes that I think a given morality system must be a good idea or otherwise I'd adopt a new one.  You have mentioned in a few places that you try to hold positions based on the end result of conscious thought (I use try as you have also mentioned that its hard and you're not always successful - no criticism intending, just clearing up word usage).  It seems to me, and I hope I'm not caricaturing your position here, that you strive to overcome your own biases so far as such a task is possible.

That's fine.  I wish you the best of luck with it.

You talked about, when we discussed the foundation of your morality, the effects that would have if everyone adopted it.  Clearly that is a concern/variable in your thinking.  It's simply not in mine.

I don't want to use "cart and horse" as that would imply that one of our orderings is correct, but one of us is putting the <something> before the <something else> and the other is doing it the other way round. 

Your approach seems to be to eliminate biases wherever possible and to construct from the ground up - you've essentially said as much.  My objection to your proposed system was that it required a shift in thinking of vast swathes of the world.  Maybe - on some undefined but acceptable scale - that would give a "better" end result. Maybe not, though, as there are a host of unforeseen consequences to changing things, butterflies flapping wings and the like. My point is, it seems a little, hmmmm, nearsighted? - I'm dancing around the word "arrogant" - to assume that you can predict the rippling effects of a change of thinking throughout humanity.  No matter how secure you are in your initial predictions once its exposed to the vagaries of chance it becomes something different.  Marx didn't want the Gulags, but there's a clear line between the two points as other people, other factors, other things influenced his original ideas.  Sure, if you could hermetically seal your ideas and instil them directly in people's brains then keep them from developing them in any way, awesome.  But that's not on the cards.

So my answer to "why is this a good idea" is to sidestep the question.  Maybe it isn't, but I simply don't see that as a relevant issue to a moral system.  That's not the criteria I judge a moral system on.  I'm happy for you to adopt mine, mutatis mutandis, but I'm happy for you to adopt your own.  I'm in the happy position of believing there's a plan that will make it all come out for the best (where "best" = "Kythia is happy") but even without that divine guiding hand it seems to me that my method supposes that evolution - social evolution, I mean - has granted humans with precisely the tools to flourish.  Of course, maybe I'm (read: my system) a dinosaur.  Or even a dodo.  Sure, its possible.  Obviously I don't think so, but I'll concede its possibility.  But the free exchange of ideas will only strengthen and refine moral systems.

Offline KythiaTopic starter

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #5 on: July 02, 2013, 02:51:48 AM »
Sorry for the double post here but, rereading, it seems I made my argument quite badly.

I'm not saying "people shouldn't propose new systems because they could go bad".  That's a ridiculous position to hold.  As I say, you are more than welcome to your own moral system.  What I am saying, though, is that regardless of the initial goodness or badness of the system it will inevitably be altered in the wild in ways you can't predict.  So asking if one is a "good idea" at conception is a little bit of a distraction.  Your holding it may well result in nothing but sunshine and puppies for everyone around you, but, IMHO, judging it as a good or bad idea when only a small group of people hold it is premature and unhelpful.  Moral systems don't scale, in practice, and the expression of a system once it is held by a substantial number of people has always been different to the expression intended by its founder.

Offline KythiaTopic starter

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #6 on: July 02, 2013, 06:23:10 AM »
Why double post when you can triple?  I found what I was looking for.

Before I present, though, I just need to say that in the course of looking for it a bookshelf fell on me and I hurt my arm.  It's fine, I'll live, its only a bruise, but it does make clear that I'm selflessly risking life and limb to find this information which is - as if we needed it! - further proof that there should be solid gold statues of me in various heroic poses at every street corner.

Seriously, people, write your politicians.  Tell them you want solid gold heroic statues of Kythia at every street corner and you vote.  Together we can make this happen.   

Anyway.  The key studies seem to be:
Emmons R and Diener E (1985) 'Factors predicting satisfaction judgments: A comparative examination' Social Indicators Research 16 157-168
Lamberti et al (1989) 'Rank amongst peers and life satisfaction' Proc. 97th Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association.
Tversky A and Griffin D (1991) 'Endowment and contrast in judgements of well-being' in Strack F, Argyle M and Schwarz N (eds) 'Subjective Well-Being: An interdisciplinary perspective' (Pergamon Press, Oxford) 101-118


its entirely possible there are some I've missed and just to at least appear fair, here's a dissenter - there are probably others but I don't know them, a footnote hunt might prove useful if you want them:

Veenhoven R (1991) 'Is happiness relative?' Social indicators research 24, 1-34

Also, in reading further, it appears I've misrepresented an earlier statement.  My apologies - I did know this as its in a book I've read but for some reason the Brickman, Coates and Janoff-Bulman study stuck with me better.

Apparently (Fujita; Diener (2005). "Life satisfaction set point: stability and change". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 88 158.) only around 75% of people suffer no lasting change in happiness after a major positive or negative life event and the cut off is higher than the poverty level I had originally stated (Kahneman and Deaton (2010) - available here.)  Apologies once again, a memory failure.  I don't think it affects my core point though.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #7 on: July 06, 2013, 12:20:15 AM »
Sorry about the delay. It's been a rough week.

I think I'm seeing the differences in our approach now - or at least starting to. For one, I've said before that evolution is the shittiest possible successful engineer, and I stand by that statement. We can do better than not failing completely. For another... I've had a hard time putting my finger on my objection to your "I should be happy" concept, but I think what it boils down to is that this system leaves no room for giving any weight or value to anybody else or what they might do or feel. This seems... problematic, to put it mildly.

As to the larger question of "Is this a good idea?" and whether that's worth asking: I still hold that it is. I acknowledge that it is impossible to see all possible  repercussions of an idea and its implementation at the outset - but that hardly means it's impossible to see any of them. This question has utility - it makes us examine those repercussions, and see if they're actually getting us toward our goals. It is, however, an ongoing one - a key factor of my approach is that you must regularly examine and update on the evidence. Judging it as a good or bad idea when only one person holds it is valid - as long as you don't stop there. "Is this actually working?" is a question that, in my experience, is asked all too rarely when it comes to moral and ethical issues.

You seem to grok what I've discussed of my approach pretty well, by the by.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #8 on: July 06, 2013, 12:37:01 AM »
My turn for a double-post; I figure me addressing your arguments is probably best done in-thread.

God's saying shag and be merry, have loads of kids.  Traditionally Moses wrote Genesis.  Obviously he didn't, but lets use "Moses" as a placeholder for the author of that passage, if we might.  The Jews at the time of writing of this section were (probably) in the middle of what's called the "Babylonian Captivity".  They were essentially slaves to the way more powerful Babylonians.  And Moses' writing was influenced by the time and place he was in.  He wanted the Jews (I'm actually wrong to use Jews here, but I hope you'll forgive me) to prosper, to spread, to grow in power.

I believe there is the same message here.  That God wants humanity to grow, prosper and be strong.  Moses has seen it through his glasses as essentially what it is, Paul through his glasses as believing sex that doesn't/can't lead to procreation is morally repugnant.  That's because Paul's a dick.  Hardly a controversial point.

So tying that together, I believe Christian morals were interpreted by man but inspired by God.  Specific rules are, indeed, "designed for a completely different environment" but that's because the authors were fallible and shackled by their culture and prior notions as much as anyone else was.  However, taking everything as a whole, and being mindful of those biases, a consistent message emerges - a glimpse here, a glimpse there, understanding slowly growing as time passages and Christian tradition is added to.  Just as by reading the book you wrote about this conversation and the book Vekseid wrote and the book, errrr, someone else wrote and comparing the similar themes, we can get a clearer picture of the actual conversation than from your book alone.

This is one of those things I just don't get. You explained in detail how Moses's interpretation was shaped by his bias, as Paul's was by his. What exactly makes Paul wrong and Moses right? As far as I can tell, the criteria seem to be "I think Paul's a dick and his argument is repugnant, but Moses is uplifting." This... seems like a pretty poor way to get an accurate picture of any sort.

Offline KythiaTopic starter

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2013, 07:51:50 AM »
I'm gonna stick some horizontal lines in here.  Just to keep things straight in my head, please don't think I'm trying to enforce a partition in the discussion on you.



My turn for a double-post; I figure me addressing your arguments is probably best done in-thread.

This is one of those things I just don't get. You explained in detail how Moses's interpretation was shaped by his bias, as Paul's was by his. What exactly makes Paul wrong and Moses right? As far as I can tell, the criteria seem to be "I think Paul's a dick and his argument is repugnant, but Moses is uplifting." This... seems like a pretty poor way to get an accurate picture of any sort.

Well, this is a failure of example, I think.  I quoted the passage from Romans and the passage from Genesis.  To reuse the example I used with MasterMischief in the companion, I gave access to two books recounting the conversation.  There are many more.  To give a few (this makes no attempt to be an exhaustive list, its simply what comes to me off the top of my head.  All quotes are KJV and spoilered as a slight distraction):

Spoiler: Click to Show/Hide
Deut 6:3
Quote
Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the Lord God of your fathers has promised you—‘a land flowing with milk and honey

(Again, traditionally written by Moses.  Probably written during the Babylonian Captivity but likely based on teachings a century or two older)

Matthew 19:12
Quote
For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.

(Pulled together by person or, less likely, persons unknown around 85 AD, based on Mark, a source known as "Q" and another known as "M" - obviously we don't have Q or M extant.  Written for a Jewish audience)

1 Corinthians 7 32:35
Quote
32 But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord.  33 But he who is married cares about the things of the world—how he may please his wife.  34 There is[a] a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world—how she may please her husband.  35 And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.

(Paul.  Unarguably Paul)


So, yes.  Two passages may be a poor way to get an accurate picture and my apologies for giving that impression - I was using those two to illustrate rather than make a point.  There is a steady strain throughout both the Bible and later tradition that while God wants humanity to grow strong and prosper, having children is not a necessity and there are some that "From their mother's womb" wouldn't partake in that.  Jewish writers, which is obviously practically all of them, tend to speak against "sexual immorality" in various terms but its only Paul, really, who links that to homosexuality.  The centurion's servant in Matthew 8/ Luke 7 is almost certainly his lover and St Clement of Alexandria talks about how some men are "naturally averse to women", mentioning only that they shouldn't marry without further condemnation - as I say, both scripture and church tradition. 

Further, interestingly, the Bible itself - not to mention long standing Church tradition - warns against interpreting Paul's work too closely:

2 Peter 3 15:16
Quote
and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you,  16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.

(Traditionally written by St Peter though almost certanly written a century or so after his death and based on Jude.  Peter and Paul fucking despised each other so a few of the Petrine epistles are relatively anti-Paul.  Not that Peter wrote them himself, just that it may well have been a follower of him in the Jerusalem branch of the early Church which, presumably, inherited Peter's dislike for Paul)



Quote from: Ephiral
I think I'm seeing the differences in our approach now - or at least starting to. For one, I've said before that evolution is the shittiest possible successful engineer, and I stand by that statement. We can do better than not failing completely. For another... I've had a hard time putting my finger on my objection to your "I should be happy" concept, but I think what it boils down to is that this system leaves no room for giving any weight or value to anybody else or what they might do or feel. This seems... problematic, to put it mildly.

I'm not certain I follow you.  I'm pretty close to my family.  When they're unhappy, I am.  So I put a huge amount of weight on what they do/feel and don't think that conflicts with my core values. 

I suspect I'm misunderstanding your point slightly?



Quote from: Ephiral

As to the larger question of "Is this a good idea?" and whether that's worth asking: I still hold that it is. I acknowledge that it is impossible to see all possible  repercussions of an idea and its implementation at the outset - but that hardly means it's impossible to see any of them. This question has utility - it makes us examine those repercussions, and see if they're actually getting us toward our goals. It is, however, an ongoing one - a key factor of my approach is that you must regularly examine and update on the evidence. Judging it as a good or bad idea when only one person holds it is valid - as long as you don't stop there. "Is this actually working?" is a question that, in my experience, is asked all too rarely when it comes to moral and ethical issues.

But it seems then you're appointing yourself as some arbiter of ethics.  Let me try to impose some discipline on my thoughts here so I don't have to post again to clarify and, hopefully, so you can point to paragraph X as the one where we disagree.

1) You believe that it is possible to come up with a moral system based on rational observation of the facts.  (I disagree with the viability of the one you have come up with, as discussed above, but that doesn't change the fact you believe its possible)

2)You accept that its likely impossible to see all variations on that moral system once it gets into the wild.

3)You believe though it is possible to see some of them.

4)You consider a moral system to be a "good idea" when it works on a personal level and you can't foresee any problems on a broader scale - bearing in mind 2 and 3.

5) You accept that "field testing" is important to catch the problems predicted by a combination of 2 and 3.

6)You don't consider yourself a special exception to the mass of humanity.

7)Meaning your thoughts on the moral system have no intrinsic weight above and beyond the time you've put in to thinking about them; you're a specialist, perhaps, but not a, well, divine authority.

8)Meaning that there is no reason you should be the one responsible for the "examine and update" stage as its perfectly feasible for others to put similar time and thought in and reach a different conclusion.

9)Meaning that as soon as it goes wild, you lack any, errrr, any leadership over what happens to it and the unpredictable ways in which it will develop.

10) As we have no idea of the relative proportions of 2 and 3, there are an unknown number of ways it can develop.

11)By the law of large numbers, really, others will have put a lot of thought into one of the ways it can develop that hasn't even occurred to you.  Meaning they now hold the specialist role.

12)Meaning you have no idea or control over how it develops beyond doing your best to shape it at the beginning.

13)Meaning judging it as a good or bad idea before it has had a chance to be subjected to those vicissitudes is premature.

I'm using "you think", etc above there as a shorthand for "It seems to me you think", etc -  hope you don't think I'm trying to put words in your mouth.



Quote from: MasterMischief
One, I believe you are picking out the morals that match the ones you have already developed within yourself from your environment.  They only seem divinely inspired because they match the way you think the world should be.

Quote from: MasterMischief
Kythia, if I may continue to argue my understanding of your position.  You believe you were unhappy because you were selfish before finding Christianity.  What if you were unhappy simply because you lacked long term vision?  You could have been selfish and realized your happiness depends on others and therefore you should not, for lack of a better phrase, not be a jerk to everyone.

Tied these together as they seem related.

As I have said, my core position on this particular aspect is:

God loves me and wants me to be happy
If you want someone to be happy, you give them the best advice you can
Given omniscience, "the best advice He can" is pretty fucking good advice.

There is nothing special about God's advice, as revealed through personal revelation, Church tradition and scripture, that distinguishes it from my mam's advice other than that it is likely to be better and can't possibly be worse.

If I am happy, it follows (for me at least, I make this next bit as creed rather than as solidly argued statement) that I am doing what God would advise.  Even if I lived in a primitive tribe in the rainforest and had never heard of Christianity, that holds true.  God's advice is the best possible for being happy, hence if you are happy (and, I suppose, couldn't be happier) then you are, even if unknowingly, following his advice.

It seems you're putting my personal cart before my personal horse.  I'm only happy when following God's advice because its good advice, not because the act of following it makes me intrinsically happy.



Quote from: MasterMischief
Two, if the divine word can be so horribly butchered by a single, authoritative individual, I would be very hesitant to put my faith into any of the rest of it.  How can I know something else is not equally butchered?

I think this is, in part, based on a bit of a misconception.  Paul is no more authoritative than any of the thousands of other divinely inspired writers that came before and after him.  Sure, his voice may be louder as being included in scripture (wrongly) makes it sound more important.  Hence we have, as I quoted above, a specific passage saying "Look, guys.  Just, you know, be a bit wary when you're reading Paul's shit"

Sure, a single individual can butcher it.  A single individual will almost certainly butcher it.  Thats why we dont rely on a single individual. 



*looks around*

I think I've addressed everything?  Shout if you made a point and I've ignored it and please accept my pre-emptive apology, lot to cover there.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #10 on: July 11, 2013, 12:23:00 PM »
Well, this is a failure of example, I think.  I quoted the passage from Romans and the passage from Genesis.  To reuse the example I used with MasterMischief in the companion, I gave access to two books recounting the conversation.  There are many more.  To give a few (this makes no attempt to be an exhaustive list, its simply what comes to me off the top of my head.  All quotes are KJV and spoilered as a slight distraction):
All right, I'll accept that.

I'm not certain I follow you.  I'm pretty close to my family.  When they're unhappy, I am.  So I put a huge amount of weight on what they do/feel and don't think that conflicts with my core values. 

I suspect I'm misunderstanding your point slightly?
It might not conflict with your core values, but neither is it particularly supported by them. It's supported by your completely arbitrary weighting of these people's value. There's absolutely nothing in there that prevents you from doing any horrible thing you want to anybody you do't particularly care about - and pretty much nobody cares about the overwhelming majority of the world, except in extreme abstract. So this doesn't seem a terribly workable system, and certainly not one that a lot of people should adopt by any stretch.

9)Meaning that as soon as it goes wild, you lack any, errrr, any leadership over what happens to it and the unpredictable ways in which it will develop.
I don't particularly care to have a leadership role, but this is very untrue in my experience. Are you familiar with the term "do-ocracy"? It's awkward, I'll admit, but it's apt for the particular type of meritocracy that tends to form in communities centered around this sort of thinking. As such, the originator of a worthwhile idea tends to get significant credit and leadership value.

11)By the law of large numbers, really, others will have put a lot of thought into one of the ways it can develop that hasn't even occurred to you.  Meaning they now hold the specialist role.

12)Meaning you have no idea or control over how it develops beyond doing your best to shape it at the beginning.
You seem to assume here that all of these people are working in isolation - that there is no such thing as collaboration, or even social pressure to be exerted. This strikes me as a poor assumption, given that I came to this way of thinking via a collaborative community.

13)Meaning judging it as a good or bad idea before it has had a chance to be subjected to those vicissitudes is premature.
I reject this assertion due to the questionable premises supporting it. Further, judging it as good now does not preclude judging some variant of it as bad. For a concrete, if imperfect, example: Darwinian evolution is a sound theory. Eugenics is a horrible idea that leashes it to incredibly racist ideals.

Sure, a single individual can butcher it.  A single individual will almost certainly butcher it.  Thats why we dont rely on a single individual.
Large masses can also butcher it. This is why ongoing error correction (the "examine and update" bit I mentioned earlier) is crucial to my methodology.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #11 on: July 11, 2013, 12:23:59 PM »
Addendum to my last bit: Also extremely crucial (else the "examine" stage goes wonky) are explicitly stated goals in the clearest available language. This strikes me as a particular failing of holy texts as a category.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #12 on: July 11, 2013, 01:02:29 PM »
I will not cite material like the two of you but as an aside with religion and science. I am a practicing biologist and if you are a biologist and do not believe in evolution you are well not much of a biologist.  :-) I am also a practicing Catholic see an issue there? Wrong actually, while there may have been back during the Inquisition there is not really now. I graduated from Catholic high school more because of a better private education than religion. BUT I was first taught evolution there by a nun.

To keep this from getting too long: I do not blindly follow everything the church preaches and I do not blindly follow everything someone calling themselves a scientist well preaches. God gave me a brain and I chose to use it. Generally though we reach points that science cannot explain and I attribute that to god. A strict it is all just like in the bible stance is silly and for the ignorant. Science is a great tool for me for how the world and universe around me works, but religion is a great moral compass.

I could go into specific places I do not follow the "good Catholic" party line. But suffice to say I go about 50/50 in agreement with the church. But I do not see religion and science as one or the other and there is now also a scientific division in the Vatican. So I am pretty sure the church does not either. Extremists and fanatics of any flavor are a bad thing no matter if they are Christian, Muslim, Pagan, or Atheist. Also many overly religious sorts use that as an excuse to be pretentious and snotty which is a direct contradiction to most religious teachings.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #13 on: July 11, 2013, 01:30:10 PM »
Doh! I hit the wrong spot with that and now it will not let me delete it!

Offline KythiaTopic starter

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #14 on: July 11, 2013, 02:02:44 PM »
It might not conflict with your core values, but neither is it particularly supported by them. It's supported by your completely arbitrary weighting of these people's value. There's absolutely nothing in there that prevents you from doing any horrible thing you want to anybody you do't particularly care about - and pretty much nobody cares about the overwhelming majority of the world, except in extreme abstract. So this doesn't seem a terribly workable system, and certainly not one that a lot of people should adopt by any stretch.

Again, I think we're talking two different languages here.  "Workable" and "one that people should adopt" are simply not factors for me.  My moral code isn't, I dunno, isn't written on blue paper, either, but I don't consider that an issue.  As I've said, adopt it, adopt a different one, I'm free and easy. 

I'll return to this point and expand in a moment.

Quote
I don't particularly care to have a leadership role, but this is very untrue in my experience. Are you familiar with the term "do-ocracy"? It's awkward, I'll admit, but it's apt for the particular type of meritocracy that tends to form in communities centered around this sort of thinking. As such, the originator of a worthwhile idea tends to get significant credit and leadership value.
You seem to assume here that all of these people are working in isolation - that there is no such thing as collaboration, or even social pressure to be exerted. This strikes me as a poor assumption, given that I came to this way of thinking via a collaborative community.
I reject this assertion due to the questionable premises supporting it. Further, judging it as good now does not preclude judging some variant of it as bad. For a concrete, if imperfect, example: Darwinian evolution is a sound theory. Eugenics is a horrible idea that leashes it to incredibly racist ideals.

Lumping all of them together in one quote because I'm superhumanly lazy and can't be bothered to split  ;D

I hadn't come across "do-ocracy" but now I have, so thanks.  I get the concept and yeah, that seems to make sense.

It seems very much like your objections to my line of reasoning apply to any moral code.  That your collobarative community could be replaced with e.g. a Christian Church and your (potential) do-acratic leadership applies equally to any founder?  (Though, of course, some potential ideas may be harder to make stick, but that's a distraction.)  I ask this not as criticism, just because I think its useful to define a split here and I want to make sure I'm drawing a line in the right place.

1) We have the base moral code.  My "Kythia should be happy", your expansion on the Golden Rule.

2) We then have that moral code as it exists in the wild, once more than one or a few people hold it and, specifically, people that don't personally know the founder. 

Further, you believe as you have stated repeatedly that a moral code must/should be designed for this stage 2.  That its important that its workable, that people should adopt it, your language varies - obviously - but the key point remains the same.

Do-ocracies are an interesting point but I don't believe as strong a one as you seem to think.  The Soviet Communists identified as Marxist.  The Holy Inquisition (leaving aside the various protestant varieties as unhelpfully confusing) identified Christ as their leader.  Eugenicists (spelling?) trace a spiritual lineage to Darwin and may even refer to themselves as Darwinists.  The Nazi party claimed Nietzsche as a founder.  Etc etc etc.  I would say the lesson of history is that the do-ocratic leadership you seem to be relying on has time and time again been relegated to a figure and a token name check while policies and beliefs that were not intended by the founder - skipping whether they would have been desired or not - are pursued in their name.  I struggle to think of a counter example where the leader/founder is not still alive and active in the movement.

Why is your method different?  What has changed that means every single time this has been attempted it has failed, but yours will work?  Is this a function of the rationality you are putting in to it?  I realise those quick fire questions may have come across as aggresive and I apologise if so, they were meant genuinely.

So how am I getting round that?  I'm skipping it.  You mentioned in our PM exchange that you don't consider "its too hard" to be a viable defence for not pursuing.  I do.  Some things are just too hard to be feasible and I believe that maintaining a purity of vision within a thought system once others become involved is one of those.  Functionally impossible.  You are relying on every future thinker within your system sharing your line of thought.  It just takes one Luther, one filioque, to disrupt that and, crucially, that has happened every single time before.

I think it's too hard.  Everyone has thought their system would stay unchanged, everyone has been wrong.  If something is too hard to be feasible then it should be abandoned, further thought on that specific route is wasted and a simpler method should be found.  My simpler method, while perhaps not the most altrusitic, is to abrogate all responsibility.  Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law, to butcher Crowley's intentions.  I have no control over how other people take and interpret what I think/believe and judging the success or failure of my beliefs by something they can have only peripheral influence on is unhelpful.  If I were to say "Ephiral, I have an awesome idea for a novel.  I'm going to pass it on to someone - no idea who - to write it for me" you wouldn't tell me it was a good novel.   It may be a good plot, but the finished product will inevitably differ and you'd need to reserve judgement.

I believe the lesson of history is that that analogy holds. 

Quote
Large masses can also butcher it. This is why ongoing error correction (the "examine and update" bit I mentioned earlier) is crucial to my methodology.

Here I doubt we'll agree.  My rather pat response would be that the faith has that (that=examine and update) in the form of the Holy Spirit - it's the reason the Gospel of Mark is scripture and the Gospel of Mary Magdelene isn't.  My less pat response would be a lot more words but would boil down to essentially the same argument so I'll save you the effort of reading it.

Of course, you don't think/believe/appropriate noun that thats the case.  I do, and I suspect that any further conversation on this will eventually become "Holy Spirit exists" "No it doesn't" "Does" "Doesn't" and honestly while it wouldn't take much time - I can just save "Does" to the clipboard and CTRL+V it whenever needed it still seems a waste of time.  So I'll just say that I agree that ongoing evaluation is useful and, with your permission, leave it there?

Quote
Addendum to my last bit: Also extremely crucial (else the "examine" stage goes wonky) are explicitly stated goals in the clearest available language. This strikes me as a particular failing of holy texts as a category.

Again, we're speaking different languages here.  It's a failing of holy texts if judged by a belief system that rejects the core principle of the holy text - that the deity in question exists.  Accept that core principle and it ceases to be a failing.  As touched upon above, I have little interest in a discussion of the existence or lack thereof of any or all deities.  You know my thoughts, I know yours, we won't agree.

As a marginally related aside, I would like to thank you for never bringing that specific question up.  I'm not sure if thats been a conscious decision or not, but it has - from my point of view - made this while dialogue more pleasant.  It gets argumentative quick if we cannot both accept a different levels of belief in the divine and, to keep hammering this point, its not a conversation that overly interests me.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #15 on: July 11, 2013, 09:50:02 PM »
Again, I think we're talking two different languages here.  "Workable" and "one that people should adopt" are simply not factors for me.  My moral code isn't, I dunno, isn't written on blue paper, either, but I don't consider that an issue.  As I've said, adopt it, adopt a different one, I'm free and easy.
I must admit confusion. Why claim to have morals at all if you don't care whether or not they're even slightly functional?

I hadn't come across "do-ocracy" but now I have, so thanks.  I get the concept and yeah, that seems to make sense.

It seems very much like your objections to my line of reasoning apply to any moral code.  That your collobarative community could be replaced with e.g. a Christian Church and your (potential) do-acratic leadership applies equally to any founder?  (Though, of course, some potential ideas may be harder to make stick, but that's a distraction.)  I ask this not as criticism, just because I think its useful to define a split here and I want to make sure I'm drawing a line in the right place.
Sure. The exact form it takes isn't important - what is is whether the end result works in most cases, and adapts to those it does not.

Do-ocracies are an interesting point but I don't believe as strong a one as you seem to think.  The Soviet Communists identified as Marxist.  The Holy Inquisition (leaving aside the various protestant varieties as unhelpfully confusing) identified Christ as their leader.  Eugenicists (spelling?) trace a spiritual lineage to Darwin and may even refer to themselves as Darwinists.  The Nazi party claimed Nietzsche as a founder.  Etc etc etc.  I would say the lesson of history is that the do-ocratic leadership you seem to be relying on has time and time again been relegated to a figure and a token name check while policies and beliefs that were not intended by the founder - skipping whether they would have been desired or not - are pursued in their name.  I struggle to think of a counter example where the leader/founder is not still alive and active in the movement.
Your previous examples are completely different structures - not even meritocratic at all. The entire point of the structure I propose is that it tends to promote the people who actually get shit done. (For the record: While the originators of ideas tend to get more credit as leaders, it is considered important in some circles - including the ones I follow - that a leader's ideas be viewed with extra skepticism, lest we descend into hero worship and akrasia.)

As for a counterexample with a dead leader: I've been putting one forth. Jeremy Bentham is over a century dead now, and utilitarianism has changed and adapted in several ways - in some cases correcting for dangerous oversights in Bentham's original idea. Nonetheless, I can't think of a single variant that he wouldn't immediately recognize as a descendant of his own work - or one that he would view negastively. (He might see some of them as less useful or poorer at accomplishing the intended goals, but I doubt he would view any as harmful.)

Why is your method different?  What has changed that means every single time this has been attempted it has failed, but yours will work?  Is this a function of the rationality you are putting in to it?  I realise those quick fire questions may have come across as aggresive and I apologise if so, they were meant genuinely.
I am not saying my idea will work - I can't know that for certain, obviously. I say that it is the only one I've seen that is actively error-correcting - that the methodology involved works against severe deviations and useless cultish behaviour alike, because its core is "How does this function in the real world? Is this desirable according to the stated maxims? How can we correct it?". It might not be perfect - it might not work, a few centuries down the road! - but it certainly seems to have far more longevity, and puts more effort into getting things right, than any other examples I can see.

So how am I getting round that?  I'm skipping it.  You mentioned in our PM exchange that you don't consider "its too hard" to be a viable defence for not pursuing.  I do.  Some things are just too hard to be feasible and I believe that maintaining a purity of vision within a thought system once others become involved is one of those.  Functionally impossible.  You are relying on every future thinker within your system sharing your line of thought.  It just takes one Luther, one filioque, to disrupt that and, crucially, that has happened every single time before.
I don't consider "it's too hard" a valid defense mainly because if we accept it, nothing important gets done. I see the work of coming up with a viable system as kinda important (it ties into some much larger problems that are outside the scope of this thread).

I think it's too hard.  Everyone has thought their system would stay unchanged, everyone has been wrong.  If something is too hard to be feasible then it should be abandoned, further thought on that specific route is wasted and a simpler method should be found.  My simpler method, while perhaps not the most altrusitic, is to abrogate all responsibility.  Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law, to butcher Crowley's intentions.  I have no control over how other people take and interpret what I think/believe and judging the success or failure of my beliefs by something they can have only peripheral influence on is unhelpful.  If I were to say "Ephiral, I have an awesome idea for a novel.  I'm going to pass it on to someone - no idea who - to write it for me" you wouldn't tell me it was a good novel.   It may be a good plot, but the finished product will inevitably differ and you'd need to reserve judgement.

I believe the lesson of history is that that analogy holds.

So when do we judge it, then? Do we have to wait until it dies out, because a living meme is a mutating one? Or do we need to wait for some threshold to pass? And, crucially, what do we do about the damage done in the interim?

Here I doubt we'll agree.  My rather pat response would be that the faith has that (that=examine and update) in the form of the Holy Spirit - it's the reason the Gospel of Mark is scripture and the Gospel of Mary Magdelene isn't.  My less pat response would be a lot more words but would boil down to essentially the same argument so I'll save you the effort of reading it.
I... don't get how that works. The Holy Spirit is not a source of consistent or reliable feedback, as far as I can see. I'll concede its existence for the sake of argument - how do you know for a fact you're communicating with it, that the message you're receiving is accurate, and that its judgement criteria make sense for its intended goals?

Of course, you don't think/believe/appropriate noun that thats the case.  I do, and I suspect that any further conversation on this will eventually become "Holy Spirit exists" "No it doesn't" "Does" "Doesn't" and honestly while it wouldn't take much time - I can just save "Does" to the clipboard and CTRL+V it whenever needed it still seems a waste of time.  So I'll just say that I agree that ongoing evaluation is useful and, with your permission, leave it there?
I'd rather not get into that particular circular argument, but the above questions are something I honestly need clarification on - this feels like it's cutting close to the core of what I sought when I approached you.

Again, we're speaking different languages here.  It's a failing of holy texts if judged by a belief system that rejects the core principle of the holy text - that the deity in question exists.  Accept that core principle and it ceases to be a failing.  As touched upon above, I have little interest in a discussion of the existence or lack thereof of any or all deities.  You know my thoughts, I know yours, we won't agree.

Whether or not any deity you care to name exists is beside the point. If it did, I would have the same questions about its moral framework - is it good? Is it effective? (I am using "good" as a shortcut to avoid a huge text wall, but I think you get the core point.) If the answer to either of these is "No", then I don't really give a crap if God personally handed it down to me, I have no reason to follow it. Obedience to authority for authority's sake is never a good thing, regardless of where that authority derives from.

As a marginally related aside, I would like to thank you for never bringing that specific question up.  I'm not sure if thats been a conscious decision or not, but it has - from my point of view - made this while dialogue more pleasant.  It gets argumentative quick if we cannot both accept a different levels of belief in the divine and, to keep hammering this point, its not a conversation that overly interests me.
I make a point to avoid that when I'm actively trying to understand religious viewpoints. We're not going to agree, it's going to be a shouting match, and it teaches neither of us anything of value. For the purposes of discussions like this, I'm fully willing to concede the point - I want to see what that world looks like from the inside.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #16 on: July 12, 2013, 10:57:02 AM »
I must admit confusion. Why claim to have morals at all if you don't care whether or not they're even slightly functional?

Heh.  As must I.  I don't care whether my kitchen table sinks or floats.  Sure, its an attribute a kitchen table could and in fact does have, but for me its not the core role of a kitchen table and is a totally useless attribute.

I think we might be running up against a chasm of "we don't agree" here.  But let me trace through my argument even if more in the interests of clearing up confusion than convincing you.

Quote
morals  plural of mor·al (Noun)

Noun

1.A lesson, esp. one concerning what is right or prudent, that can be derived from a story, a piece of information, or an experience.
2.A person's standards of behavior or beliefs concerning what is and is not acceptable for them to do.


I think we can agree we're talking about definition 2, here.  One seems to be "the moral of the story is <whatever>" Taking that definition, functional is clearly not an issue. 

You seem to be adding to that definition, though, words to the effect of "and that you believe others should also adopt."  That's fine.  I'm not gonna criticise you for not using dictionary definitions, we both knew exactly what you meant.  The reason I throw the fine folks at Mirriam Webster into the mix though is to try to show that your addendum doesn't form a sine qua non of a moral system.

So I think that in part the reason for your confusion is that you haven't fully internalised that your addendum is an addendum and you're viewing it as an essential part.

Had I set out to create something in the Ephiral mould, I may have come up with something else.  I didn't.

So why not?  Why haven't I said "You know, Ephiral, I'd actually never considered a world where everyone adopted that standard.  Hmmm.  Lemme go away and think about that."  It's not just pride.  I'd like to think its not at all pride, but I'm not certain so will veer away from that higher level.

My issue is that I don't think its possible.  Again, I think we fell into a little semantic trap with my quoting your "too hard."  To me, the "too" there is an absolute.  Flapping your wings hard enough to fly is "too hard".  "Too hard to be done", is what I read from that.  "It's hard" isn't an excuse, "it's too hard" isn't just an excuse but also an absolute.  So when, in a few paragraphs, I use "too hard" bear in mind that I'm using it in my sense of "impossible" not what I now realise is yours of "very hard".
 
My belief is that the vicissitudes of the world on a system make predicting the outcome of the world's influence on an idea too hard.  You mention John Bentham and that's a brilliant example (more on that anon) and I actually logged on today to correct myself with the example of Calvinism which it occurred to me is also relatively unchanged, unchanged enough to be recognisable.  So yes, you're quite right that my blanket statement of (paraphrased) "all ideologies change from the ideas of their maker" was incorrect.  As I say, I'll return to this in a bit as there's some interesting ideas to be drawn from it.   
Mild Distraction
Your point about meritocracies is off base a little, by the way.  While the word for it may be new, the idea certainly isn't.  Hell, look at Paul.  He devoted his life to preaching and instruction, he was a guy who got shit done.  And now Pauline Christianity is overwhelmingly the dominant brand.  Throughout history, leaders of movements have been (not exclusively, granted) people who got shit done.  Modern times have formalised the idea, not invented it.  But that's by the by.

So given that future generations change every idea - whether they change it enough to be a different thing or simply refine isn't important, merely that it is changed and developed - we have two routes.  I use "we" deliberately, there are more than two but "we", Ephiral and Kythia, have two different routes.

You attempt, so far as is possible, to future proof your ideas.  That's fine, I think we both understand what that implies. 

I, and hopefully here is where the last part of your confusion is addressed, say that future proofing is too hard and the thought put in to that could more profitably be placed elsewhere.  Specifically in altering current conditions enough that future generations have ideas I would like.  Take the example of slavery.  I think most people would see it as abhorent and thats a function of the world we have grown up in.  Noone thinking about their beliefs today accepts it because its unacceptable and no moral code developed in the west nowadays would include it as an option.  Changing the world today means that whatever people come up with in the future it will be influenced by the changes we have made today.  Let the future deal with itself, but let it deal with itself within a framework made by the present.

Not that I'm accusing you of doing nothing, of sitting in an ivory tower and ignoring present problems.  That's certainly not the way you come across.  All I'm saying is that I believe morals should work for the person, the time and the place, and that generalising beyond the specific is unhelpful because the factors that will affect it are unknowable to us.

As I say, I think we may not agree here but hopefully that does at least clear your confusion.  In brief:

1) We are using different definitions of morals - mine happens to agree with Miriam Webster but thats not to say its more or less correct than yours and its certainly not why I adopted it.
2) You confusion stems in part from, I suspect, not having realised that your definition wasn't the only possible one
3) I don't adopt yours as I believe doing it fully is impossible.

Anyway.



Quote from: Kythia
I struggle to think of a counter example where the leader/founder is not still alive and active in the movement.

Quote from: Ephiral
Jeremy Bentham is over a century dead now

As I say, I logged on here today to mention that it had occured to me that Calvinsim wa a counter example - noticed your post and figured I may as well respond.  I'm actually more embarassed about not having thought of utilitarianism, given who I'm speaking to.  In my partial defence, I think the fact that its not called "Benthamism" may have meant Bentham wasn't at the forefront of my mind but that may well be descending to self-justification.  Certainly not my smartest moment, I think we can agree on that much.

So I guess that makes the question of whether there are attributes of a system that make it resistent to change or whether its a fluke of probability - if enough people toss a coin a hundred times, some of them will get a hundred heads, if enough people come up with ideas systems, some of them will be unchanged.

I can't answer that, but I tend towards the latter.  That may well be idealogical and I'd be wary of attaching too much weight to that.  One interesting point that does come out though relates to your:

Quote from: Ephiral
Addendum to my last bit: Also extremely crucial (else the "examine" stage goes wonky) are explicitly stated goals in the clearest available language.

If the thought of Calvin's language didn't leave you crying and gently rocking then I can assume you haven't read them.  Don't.  Noone in the world ever has enjoyed reading Calvin's writings and Wikipedia's summary is perfectly fine.  Suffice to say his language is dense, confusing, full of detours and tautology and generally just horrific.  So I'm not sure that that part is crucial.  I actually think volume of work (unique work) might be more important than clarity qua clarity.  The sheer number of variations addressed and situations explained.  Bentham also left a lot of writing.  But that's just a gut feeling.

He (Calvin) did, however, insist on people not revering him but rather working with and on his ideas, which links to your:

Quote from: Ephiral
(For the record: While the originators of ideas tend to get more credit as leaders, it is considered important in some circles - including the ones I follow - that a leader's ideas be viewed with extra skepticism, lest we descend into hero worship and akrasia.)

I suppose the logical thing to do is to examine various idealogies and see if common strands could be extracted that does serve to future proof them.  If that is something you plan to do, to devote any time to, then I would be extremely interested in being a part of that project now the idea has occurred to me.  Whether as the two of us or as part of a wider group.  If it is an idea you run with and you feel I can contribute anything at all then please take my willingness to be a part as read, if you don't feel I can contribute then please take my willingness in reading your conclusions as read.



Life on the inside and the holy spirit.  Mmmkay.

Let me preface this with a few caveats which I shall spoiler as they're a bit of a side issue: 

Kythia rambling on
1) It's almost impossible for the layman to say anything about the nature of the trinity that hasn't been decried as heresy.  As I sit and mentally compose this exposition I am aware I'm veering into the Sabellian heresy (and related modalist heresies), the Pneumatomachian heresy and Marcionism (although I personally have a lot of time for Marcionism.)  There are probably others.  If I thought there was much chance of converting you then I would likely be a bit more careful with some of my language, but for our purposes I don't think its overly important.

2) I'm not supporting anything with quotations.  This is simply because they space they will take up will make an already long post into an absolute monster.  If you want me to expand on anything then shout, but for the moment I won't bother.

3) I find when a lot of people, atheists, decry Christianity what they are actually complaining about is a particular brand of predominantly new world evangelical protestantism.  I'm not sola scriptura, I think I've made that clear.  I'm from the all consuming via media of the Catholic and Reformed Church of England.  While, as I mentioned in the Religion. Ethics. Life thread that started this there are positions on which I disagree, I'm not about to get excommunicated nor am I about to schism.

Stephen Langton (?1150 - 1228), while he was Archibishop of Canterbury, divided the Bible into chapters and verses, the system we use today. I think this was, on balance, a mistake.  If I say that, in "The God Delusion", Richard Dawkins wrote:

Quote
It is time to face up to the important role that God plays in consoling us

Then, assuming you didn't think I was lying (I'm not) you'd assume that I'd ripped that quote out of context.  And you'd be quite right, I have.  I think it's easier to spot that its ripped out of context because I can't precisely identify the sentence better than "start of the second paragraph on page 394 in the 2007 paperback printing" which makes it clear its only one line within an entire book.  However, any sentence in the Bible can be precisely identified.  <Book> <Chapter>:<Verse>.  I think that has had the side effect of making the Bible look like a collection of statements rather than a cohesive whole.  I've touched on it above, more than touched in fact, but I just felt it worth making explicit that while there may be a specific passage in the Bible that says one thing what is important is the message as a whole from both Scripture and, as I shall discuss once this seemingly never ending aside ends, Church Tradition.

As an aside, to answer a question I am frequently asked, no I don't see any issue in being a member of the church when I don't wholeheartedly support all of its positions.  Any more than I see a problem with voting for a candidate when I think some of their policies are incorrect, some should have greater focus, some less.  Or giving to a charity that I feel should focus more on one problem than another.  I see no issue with belongning to an organisation whose agenda I don't 100% support (obviously I see an issue with one whose agenda I 0% support, but you get my point).  I know you haven't mentioned it, but its something I find myself explaining a lot so thought it was worth putting here.

So.  Roughly two millenia ago, Jesus lived and died.  If he wrote anything down - he almost certainly was literate - we don't have it.  Following his death there was a trend to write histories of his life.  What we now call the Gospels.  Further on, there was a trend to write expositions of his teachings, these go by various names.  There was also the tradition of Apocalypses - Revelation is the most famous - but they're a side issue.  All of this, without exception, was written by humans.

By about the end of the fourth century there was a de facto acceptance that 27 of these writings were Scripture; the most important of the vast array of writings that emerged.  It's instructive to note, though, that there was no de jure acceptance of the canon until the Council of Trent - 1545 to 1563 - and solely to answer Luther.  Without him, its likely there still wouldn't be an official list.  (I can't count the number of people I've directed to Misconceptions about the First Council of Nicea)

These were - here and throughout I'm taking the existence of God as a given, you've mentioned you're willing to concede for the purposes of this conversation - divinely inspired.  Jesus was physically, as a human, on the earth for about 38 years (and here I veer into Arianism, I really am racking up the heresy today) so clearly not every human would be able to hear him speak.  For future generations, or even present ones not living in Judea, it was important that his words gain a broader and more permanent means of spreading.  God knew that, he's pretty fucking smart, and so inspired writers to spread and work on the teachings.

Why work on?  Well, as I say I'm not sola scriptura myself and, while I know the arguments, because I don't believe them I can't put them across fully.  But some would, and do, argue that if God is so fucking smart why couldn't he overcome the biases of the authors and put it in a way that would be clear to all men throughout all time.  Firstly, I believe that argument fails even within its own terms.  There are numerous Old Testament passages of God telling people to do shit and them not understanding, so following that argument through leads us nowhere but "Jews are so fucking stupid that even an ominscient being couldn't get through to them, not like us" which is disturbing and, more importantly, impossible to reconcile with them being His favourite/favoured people.  Secondly, sure God was capable of giving Paul instructions about how we're to deal with nucleur winter, what precisely to do about the Fourth Earth - Alpha Centuri War and how to deal with Hitler.  But in order for His words to carry the emotional punch - Yey!  Full Circle! - that is needed for people to follow them, they needed to be understandable.  So those bits were left out, He'll tell humanity when they could understand what He was on about rather than confusing a load of first century levantines with instructions about what He thought about cloning.  Not like He'll die before He gets a chance.

So the important point to note is that Christian thought didn't stop with the de facto acceptance of Scripture.  Then there were the Church Fathers - Tertullian, Origen, Augustine, Clement who I mentioned above.  Then the ecumenical councils - the Church of England accepts, in order, Nicaea 1, Constantinople 1, Ephesus 1,  Chalcedon, Constantinople 2, Constantinople 3, (Quinisext - arguably) Nicaea 2 - covering 450 years.  Then the medieval doctors of the Church, Aquinus, Beckett and the like.  Then the 39 articles.  Then the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral.  Christian theology certainly didn't end with Scripture.

But equally, not all of Christian thought is accepted.  You'll notice (or possibly you won't) I skipped Ephesus 2 in the list of accepted councils for example.  So who decides what gets accepted and what not?  You could argue this is to do with persuasive speakers or politics.  I would argue that that is a symptom rather than a cause.  That politics worked in that way, or that Athanasius was a more powerful writer than Arius, because of God's influence.  That the reason we can be sure of the thought that has developed to us in the present day is because God has been watching the process the whole time (ugh, that makes me feel dirty but it'll do for the purposes of this conversation) and encouraging the correct ideas while discouraging the either incorrect or so warped by human intervention as to be unhelpful.

And, finally, the part of the Godhead that does that is the Holy Spirit.  The person who keeps that process on track.

So yes, the Holy Spirit is a source of consistent and reliable feedback.  Its a self correcting system, the ideas that are in accordance to the Divine Plan float to the top, the others sink.  Perhaps you could wish it to be clearer but, meh, religions aren't there to please atheists and you kinda don't have a dog in that race, to be honest.  As to how I know its judgement criteria makes sense, God exists out of time.  He's not bound by the same problem we are, that we have to judge an action based on its predicted usefulness, He can flat out see the results of any action.  So its criteria... well, it doesn't really have criteria in the sense you mean it.  It's not limited by having to work out whether action A will support its goals so judgement criteria simply aren't relevant. 

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #17 on: July 12, 2013, 01:20:31 PM »
I'm cutting out some of your text to try and keep this from being too monstrously huge. Anything I've removed, I have no particular objections to; I generally agree on these points, so don't see them as necessary to address. If you feel I've distorted your words in so doing, call me on it; this is not my intent.

You seem to be adding to that definition, though, words to the effect of "and that you believe others should also adopt."  That's fine.  I'm not gonna criticise you for not using dictionary definitions, we both knew exactly what you meant.  The reason I throw the fine folks at Mirriam Webster into the mix though is to try to show that your addendum doesn't form a sine qua non of a moral system.
I don't think universality is a necessary criterion of a moral system. I do, however, think it's one of the best and most fundamental error checks possible. If the system breaks down by becoming the norm, there is likely a significant fault that needs addressed.

I do think "functional" is kinda important, though - if you don't have an internally consistent and at least mostly functional system, then you're working from sheer arbitrary whim - why not just admit it and stop bothering with all this silly talk of morals and ethics?

My issue is that I don't think its possible.  Again, I think we fell into a little semantic trap with my quoting your "too hard."  To me, the "too" there is an absolute.  Flapping your wings hard enough to fly is "too hard".  "Too hard to be done", is what I read from that.  "It's hard" isn't an excuse, "it's too hard" isn't just an excuse but also an absolute.  So when, in a few paragraphs, I use "too hard" bear in mind that I'm using it in my sense of "impossible" not what I now realise is yours of "very hard".
Yeah, this was a point of rupture. "Impossible" is an absolute barrier; the moment you run up against it (and have verified that the task is in fact impossible, and not simply very very hard), then you should drop the task and focus your efforts somewhere useful.
 
Mild Distraction
Your point about meritocracies is off base a little, by the way.  While the word for it may be new, the idea certainly isn't.  Hell, look at Paul.  He devoted his life to preaching and instruction, he was a guy who got shit done.  And now Pauline Christianity is overwhelmingly the dominant brand.  Throughout history, leaders of movements have been (not exclusively, granted) people who got shit done.  Modern times have formalised the idea, not invented it.  But that's by the by.
Mild response
Yes, but were the organizations they founded structured in such a way as to let other get-shit-done types rise to the top, or were there other criteria such as adherence to dogma? I don't think modern times have an exclusive hold on meritocracy by any stretch, but this is a poor example.

I, and hopefully here is where the last part of your confusion is addressed, say that future proofing is too hard and the thought put in to that could more profitably be placed elsewhere.  Specifically in altering current conditions enough that future generations have ideas I would like.  Take the example of slavery.  I think most people would see it as abhorent and thats a function of the world we have grown up in.  Noone thinking about their beliefs today accepts it because its unacceptable and no moral code developed in the west nowadays would include it as an option.  Changing the world today means that whatever people come up with in the future it will be influenced by the changes we have made today.  Let the future deal with itself, but let it deal with itself within a framework made by the present.
This makes a lot of sense, and I do believe that addressing the world as it stands is an important component too - I'm a huge social justice nut largely because of the moral system I've outlined here. However, I think there are a lot of assumptions in there that most people aren't even aware they're making, and it's important to unpack them. One of the harder ones - and I don't have a solid answer, not yet! - is what exactly we, as a whole, would "like". What does winning the game look like for humanity?

Not that I'm accusing you of doing nothing, of sitting in an ivory tower and ignoring present problems.  That's certainly not the way you come across.  All I'm saying is that I believe morals should work for the person, the time and the place, and that generalising beyond the specific is unhelpful because the factors that will affect it are unknowable to us.
I don't read you that way. The difference, I think, is less in future-proofing - given a solid core, future generations will adapt the system to deal with future problems - and more in that I see a strong need for a concrete and measurable benchmark of what "work" actually means.

So I guess that makes the question of whether there are attributes of a system that make it resistent to change or whether its a fluke of probability - if enough people toss a coin a hundred times, some of them will get a hundred heads, if enough people come up with ideas systems, some of them will be unchanged.
I don't think change is the enemy, so much as diversion. Bentham never thought of negative utilitarianism - minimizing pain - but I would hold that it's an important component. It's basically a matter of staying on-target.

As to aspects that make a system resistant to diversion? Well, first and foremost is being conscious of, and actively watching out for, the sort of mental patterns that tend to lead to diversion. This much I've seen in action enough to place strong odds on it working far better than random chance.

If the thought of Calvin's language didn't leave you crying and gently rocking then I can assume you haven't read them.  Don't.  Noone in the world ever has enjoyed reading Calvin's writings and Wikipedia's summary is perfectly fine.  Suffice to say his language is dense, confusing, full of detours and tautology and generally just horrific.  So I'm not sure that that part is crucial.  I actually think volume of work (unique work) might be more important than clarity qua clarity.  The sheer number of variations addressed and situations explained.  Bentham also left a lot of writing.  But that's just a gut feeling.

He (Calvin) did, however, insist on people not revering him but rather working with and on his ideas, which links to your:

I suppose the logical thing to do is to examine various idealogies and see if common strands could be extracted that does serve to future proof them.  If that is something you plan to do, to devote any time to, then I would be extremely interested in being a part of that project now the idea has occurred to me.  Whether as the two of us or as part of a wider group.  If it is an idea you run with and you feel I can contribute anything at all then please take my willingness to be a part as read, if you don't feel I can contribute then please take my willingness in reading your conclusions as read.
I think volume of writing is a factor, but honestly I'd place more value on clarity. This is speaking from the gut rather than any example I can point to, so weight it appropriately, but it is more useful to me as a student to have three solid books that explain a subject in an accessible manner than thirty that bury the topic in dense and obfuscated writing. Make the system easier to follow, and it gains more and better followers.

As far as examining systems and finding the common threads: This strikes me as a laudably worthwhile goal, but one I'm not sure I have time to do in the depth it deserves right now. I could certainly work out an idea of where to begin and what to do, though, and I absolutely think you have something to contribute. Toss me a PM if you've got any seed ideas; I've got a couple, but they need a lot of polishing before they're ready for action.

Life on the inside and the holy spirit.  Mmmkay.

Minor side point.
3) I find when a lot of people, atheists, decry Christianity what they are actually complaining about is a particular brand of predominantly new world evangelical protestantism.  I'm not sola scriptura, I think I've made that clear.  I'm from the all consuming via media of the Catholic and Reformed Church of England.  While, as I mentioned in the Religion. Ethics. Life thread that started this there are positions on which I disagree, I'm not about to get excommunicated nor am I about to schism.
This is why I don't "decry" Christianity as a whole. I'll decry certain virulent strains of evangelicism, and I question whether the net balance of religion's action is positive, and I don't understand the assertion that something with no evidence is absolutely true, but there's just too much diversity within Christianity, let alone within religion - some of which I strongly admire.

Stephen Langton (?1150 - 1228), while he was Archibishop of Canterbury, divided the Bible into chapters and verses, the system we use today. I think this was, on balance, a mistake.  If I say that, in "The God Delusion", Richard Dawkins wrote:

Then, assuming you didn't think I was lying (I'm not) you'd assume that I'd ripped that quote out of context.  And you'd be quite right, I have.  I think it's easier to spot that its ripped out of context because I can't precisely identify the sentence better than "start of the second paragraph on page 394 in the 2007 paperback printing" which makes it clear its only one line within an entire book.  However, any sentence in the Bible can be precisely identified.  <Book> <Chapter>:<Verse>.  I think that has had the side effect of making the Bible look like a collection of statements rather than a cohesive whole.  I've touched on it above, more than touched in fact, but I just felt it worth making explicit that while there may be a specific passage in the Bible that says one thing what is important is the message as a whole from both Scripture and, as I shall discuss once this seemingly never ending aside ends, Church Tradition.
This is an angle I should have thought of and did not. Thank you for the insight here.

Okay, a warning here: Some of this might come across poorly. I've tried to keep as close as I can to the core of my issues, but I understand that those might still come across offensively. This is not my intent; please be generous in your reading.

Why work on?  Well, as I say I'm not sola scriptura myself and, while I know the arguments, because I don't believe them I can't put them across fully.  But some would, and do, argue that if God is so fucking smart why couldn't he overcome the biases of the authors and put it in a way that would be clear to all men throughout all time.  Firstly, I believe that argument fails even within its own terms.  There are numerous Old Testament passages of God telling people to do shit and them not understanding, so following that argument through leads us nowhere but "Jews are so fucking stupid that even an ominscient being couldn't get through to them, not like us" which is disturbing and, more importantly, impossible to reconcile with them being His favourite/favoured people.  Secondly, sure God was capable of giving Paul instructions about how we're to deal with nucleur winter, what precisely to do about the Fourth Earth - Alpha Centuri War and how to deal with Hitler.  But in order for His words to carry the emotional punch - Yey!  Full Circle! - that is needed for people to follow them, they needed to be understandable.  So those bits were left out, He'll tell humanity when they could understand what He was on about rather than confusing a load of first century levantines with instructions about what He thought about cloning.  Not like He'll die before He gets a chance.
See, here's where things get wonky to me - though I fully admit I'm coming from a rather unusual perspective here. A being with nigh-infinite time and the ability to casually instantiate deterministic universes (yes, it took work, but "one week of serious personal exertion" is pretty casual when weighed against "literally all the time available") and interact with those universes later on, even without omniscience, has no excuse whatsoever for getting things any less than perfect in the final product. God's instructions were less than perfect (differing good-faith interpretations exist). Conclusion: We are not the final product, but one of the testbeds. This is... a pretty depressing worldview, and doesn't appear to line up with anything actually believed by any significant portion of Christianity.

But equally, not all of Christian thought is accepted.  You'll notice (or possibly you won't) I skipped Ephesus 2 in the list of accepted councils for example.  So who decides what gets accepted and what not?  You could argue this is to do with persuasive speakers or politics.  I would argue that that is a symptom rather than a cause.  That politics worked in that way, or that Athanasius was a more powerful writer than Arius, because of God's influence.  That the reason we can be sure of the thought that has developed to us in the present day is because God has been watching the process the whole time (ugh, that makes me feel dirty but it'll do for the purposes of this conversation) and encouraging the correct ideas while discouraging the either incorrect or so warped by human intervention as to be unhelpful.

And, finally, the part of the Godhead that does that is the Holy Spirit.  The person who keeps that process on track.

So yes, the Holy Spirit is a source of consistent and reliable feedback.  Its a self correcting system, the ideas that are in accordance to the Divine Plan float to the top, the others sink.  Perhaps you could wish it to be clearer but, meh, religions aren't there to please atheists and you kinda don't have a dog in that race, to be honest.  As to how I know its judgement criteria makes sense, God exists out of time.  He's not bound by the same problem we are, that we have to judge an action based on its predicted usefulness, He can flat out see the results of any action.  So its criteria... well, it doesn't really have criteria in the sense you mean it.  It's not limited by having to work out whether action A will support its goals so judgement criteria simply aren't relevant.
Critically important question time: What does a world where the Holy Spirit is not doing this look like? How does it differ from this one? If presented with two worlds which are otherwise equally plausible, one in which God exists and one in which He does not, how can you tell which one you're in?

As with your rapidfire questions before, this is not meant as aggression; I'm trying to be as clear as I can here, understanding that an inferential gap exists. This question is one of the most basic and fundamental ones to ask of any phenomenon that isn't directly observable, to me.
[/quote]

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #18 on: July 12, 2013, 03:17:56 PM »
Quote from: Kythia
Certainly not my smartest moment, I think we can agree on that much.

Quote from: Ephiral
Anything I've removed, I have no particular objections to; I generally agree on these points, so don't see them as necessary to address.

*sulks*



Quote from: Ephiral
I do think "functional" is kinda important, though - if you don't have an internally consistent and at least mostly functional system, then you're working from sheer arbitrary whim - why not just admit it and stop bothering with all this silly talk of morals and ethics?

Could you go into a little more depth on what "functional" means here.  I have a suspicion we're arguing semantics again, but Im not sure.



Tying some of your other points together raises another question.  You and I seem to agree on most specifics of behaviour.  Your morals developed through rigourous application of rationality, mine not.  Yet the specific expression agrees.  Why is rationality important then when - and we've agreed in previous discussions that it doesn't matter what you think, just what you do - the outcome could well be the same?  Why is it important to eliminate biases when every previous social justice movement has managed perfectly well with them intact?

What I mean there is:

Quote from: Ephiral
and it's important to unpack them

Why?

Quote from: Ephiral
I see a strong need for a concrete and measurable benchmark of what "work" actually means

Why?

What is the, ha, the "tangible, this-makes-a-difference-in-how-we-interact-with-the-world" benefit of an attempt to weed out cognitive biases?  I'm sorry if it looks like I was trying to throw your words back in your face there, that wasn't the intent.  I just found it amusing.

It's not that I particularly think you're mistaken.  Simply that I've never heard a good defence of that position and think you might be the one.  Every one I've heard seems to be a variant of "I don't think you should believe things that aren't true" which is dispatched with a shrug and a "I do." making this entirely a matter of personal opinion.  Which is fine for (hypothetical) me, I'm not trying to build a world view on objective truths, but you are and it has always struck me as a pretty major problem.



Quote from: Ephiral
See, here's where things get wonky to me - though I fully admit I'm coming from a rather unusual perspective here. A being with nigh-infinite time and the ability to casually instantiate deterministic universes (yes, it took work, but "one week of serious personal exertion" is pretty casual when weighed against "literally all the time available") and interact with those universes later on, even without omniscience, has no excuse whatsoever for getting things any less than perfect in the final product. God's instructions were less than perfect (differing good-faith interpretations exist). Conclusion: We are not the final product, but one of the testbeds. This is... a pretty depressing worldview, and doesn't appear to line up with anything actually believed by any significant portion of Christianity.

Thats actually pretty close to the various Gnostic heresies.  God is perfect, world isn't, therefore world wasn't created by God, QED.  They posit, instead of a testbed, a "Demiurge", a subordinate being to God - vastly more powerful than humanity but fallible.  I'm bundling a whole load of divergent thoughts into a couple of sentences and doing a disservice to literally every single one of them, but I felt it was just a passing observation and not worth fully unpicking.

Anyway.  In answer to your question, and obviously this is my/C of E's interpretation.  It's an interesting topic and there's a wide variety of thought on it.

Humans aren't capable of withstanding direct human brain to divine communication of the type needed to put across all possible answers clearly.  Dialing down the godness to a level low enough for humans to deal with it means dialling down the clarity of the message to a level where human interpretation can modify it.

Which just pushes the question back a stage.  Why didn't God make humans better so they could deal with that sort of contact?  Well, clearly he could.  And maybe there's a plant in Andromeda somewhere where the inhabitants are like that.  And another one in *racks brain to think of another galaxy* the Large Magellanic Cloud where the inhabitants can survive even less contact and so the Word has been subject to even more interpretation.  The analogy is with the weak anthropic principle, really, on that front.

There are also problems with your usage of "perfect" - "no excuse whatsoever for getting things any less than perfect in the final product".  First it assumes that you know what God was aiming for and this wasn't it.  If it was a clear and unambigious commnuication of his wishes then sure, imperfect.  If it was something else - free will for example - then maybe that clear communication wasn't important.  Maybe there's something, even, that conflicts between clear communication of the divine will and humanity progressing to the point where it can produce Kythia (Kythia in the specific, not "a modern human".   Point is, the goal of humanity is me.  I checked with God and he confirmed it)

Finally, your usage of "perfect" fails the test on the same principles as the argument of yours I shall quote next.  Is this world not perfect?  What would a perfect one look like?  How would we know the difference?  Obviously making the claim that the world is perfect is a bigger one that that its not, but the principle holds.

Quote from: Ephiral
Critically important question time: What does a world where the Holy Spirit is not doing this look like? How does it differ from this one? If presented with two worlds which are otherwise equally plausible, one in which God exists and one in which He does not, how can you tell which one you're in?

As with your rapidfire questions before, this is not meant as aggression; I'm trying to be as clear as I can here, understanding that an inferential gap exists. This question is one of the most basic and fundamental ones to ask of any phenomenon that isn't directly observable, to me.

This is, obviously, the argument I referred to in my last paragraph above.

We have two parallel earths.  On one of them God exists and functions in precisely the way I stated.  On the other, He doesn't at all and the entirety of religion is a human construct.  I'm ignoring Norse pantheon-World, Allah-world, etc, as the principle is the same.  Which one of those two do we live on.

Well, clearly its impossible to be sure.  It is also impossible to be sure we don't live a third parallel world where science functions only because a cat in Chigwell, Essex, UK deems it so, I'm simply pointing out that that way solipsism lies if you take it too far.

My main counter to the argument is to point out that its essentially a restatement of a "God doesn't exist" type argument.  There's no solid testable argument I can make in favour of world one, none you can make in favour of world two.  And while stating that "we don't agree and neither will convince the other" is in no way an answer to that question in the strictest sense, it is the last answer most get from me through sheer overwhelming lack of interest in the discussion.

But in this case, I shall answer if we can agree that this is solely my opinions on "what does a world without God look like" and I have zero interest in pursuing that as part of a debate and - given that I can predict your answer to the same one would be "this one" - little interest in your response.  I apologise if that sounded surly, I'm hoping that the fact that I've answered at all can be seen as a sign of good faith.

I don't think there would be any religion at all, I believe non-Christian faiths are a groping, imperfect as they are, towards the Christian faith (I am aware of how offensive that is to those followers of other faiths.  As I have mentioned elsewhere, though, a core component of following one faith is the conviction that others are flat out wrong).  The world would be different but I wouldn't like to speculate on how.  Without the Catholic church's domination over Europe...well.  Thats a question for the alternate history writers.  My guess would be that the centre of learning would be further east, perhaps in the holy land - no pun intended.  Humanity wouldn't be as advanced as it is as the developments in rhetoric, debate and all those other fields made by the Church wouldn't exist with knock on effects for any discipline that relies on sound arguments.  Art and music would also have taken a fairly substantial hit.  That's a very euro-centric view but quite honestly I don't know enough about Hinduism to say anything sensible about how India would have developed.

Actually, a conversation about "what would an Earth without religion look like" (as opposed to one without God) could be moderately interesting, but I suspect I would still stay out as it seems like it would descend into a flame war within seconds.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #19 on: July 12, 2013, 03:35:41 PM »
Actually, back to my double posting ways, I've just thought of a tangible, testable hypothesis.  I believe any alien race of sufficient sentience will have a)Religion and more specifically b) a variant, easily recognisable, of Christianity.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #20 on: July 12, 2013, 09:51:05 PM »
*sulks*
*snickers*

Could you go into a little more depth on what "functional" means here.  I have a suspicion we're arguing semantics again, but Im not sure.
Hm. Well, offhand, the key attributes I'd be looking for would be that it must be practicable day-to-day, non-arbitrary, and actually accomplish the goals you set out in creating it.



Tying some of your other points together raises another question.  You and I seem to agree on most specifics of behaviour.  Your morals developed through rigourous application of rationality, mine not.  Yet the specific expression agrees.  Why is rationality important then when - and we've agreed in previous discussions that it doesn't matter what you think, just what you do - the outcome could well be the same?  Why is it important to eliminate biases when every previous social justice movement has managed perfectly well with them intact?
The outcome being the same at this specific moment does not mean it will be the same for all time, which brings us back to error-prone vs error-resistant.

Why?
Because unspecified assumptions are the source of huge amounts of akrasia and confusion. How many times in this very thread have we hit a point of rupture because we both assumed that the other person knew what we were talking about?

Why?
Because without defining "work", you cannot tell if your system actually does work.

What is the, ha, the "tangible, this-makes-a-difference-in-how-we-interact-with-the-world" benefit of an attempt to weed out cognitive biases?  I'm sorry if it looks like I was trying to throw your words back in your face there, that wasn't the intent.  I just found it amusing.
Oh, no, that's fine. Getting to the most correct answer with the least possible time and effort spent getting there (in all things, not just morality) is the ultimate goal. While practicing rationalists are a long way from that goal, I'm seeing what appears to be marked improvement over the general population.

It's not that I particularly think you're mistaken.  Simply that I've never heard a good defence of that position and think you might be the one.  Every one I've heard seems to be a variant of "I don't think you should believe things that aren't true" which is dispatched with a shrug and a "I do." making this entirely a matter of personal opinion.  Which is fine for (hypothetical) me, I'm not trying to build a world view on objective truths, but you are and it has always struck me as a pretty major problem.
I don't think you should believe things that aren't true, but it's only an instrumental step - it's a bad idea because it tends strongly to akrasia.



Humans aren't capable of withstanding direct human brain to divine communication of the type needed to put across all possible answers clearly.  Dialing down the godness to a level low enough for humans to deal with it means dialling down the clarity of the message to a level where human interpretation can modify it.

Which just pushes the question back a stage.  Why didn't God make humans better so they could deal with that sort of contact?  Well, clearly he could.  And maybe there's a plant in Andromeda somewhere where the inhabitants are like that.  And another one in *racks brain to think of another galaxy* the Large Magellanic Cloud where the inhabitants can survive even less contact and so the Word has been subject to even more interpretation.  The analogy is with the weak anthropic principle, really, on that front.
But, if God is that much more intelligent than us, certainly there is a way to communicate things with less room for widespread adoption of interpretations that are completely counter to the core themes? Not saying direct-to-brain is necessary, just... something without infinite wiggle room?

There are also problems with your usage of "perfect" - "no excuse whatsoever for getting things any less than perfect in the final product".  First it assumes that you know what God was aiming for and this wasn't it.  If it was a clear and unambigious commnuication of his wishes then sure, imperfect.  If it was something else - free will for example - then maybe that clear communication wasn't important.  Maybe there's something, even, that conflicts between clear communication of the divine will and humanity progressing to the point where it can produce Kythia (Kythia in the specific, not "a modern human".   Point is, the goal of humanity is me.  I checked with God and he confirmed it)

Finally, your usage of "perfect" fails the test on the same principles as the argument of yours I shall quote next.  Is this world not perfect?  What would a perfect one look like?  How would we know the difference?  Obviously making the claim that the world is perfect is a bigger one that that its not, but the principle holds.
I'm not speaking of the world as a whole here - unless God directly controls every single variable, perfection is not to be expected in everything. I'm speaking specifically of God's message to man - which is clearly imperfect by dint of the existence of multiple, mutually exclusive, interpretations of major tenets of faith.

This is, obviously, the argument I referred to in my last paragraph above.

We have two parallel earths.  On one of them God exists and functions in precisely the way I stated.  On the other, He doesn't at all and the entirety of religion is a human construct.  I'm ignoring Norse pantheon-World, Allah-world, etc, as the principle is the same.  Which one of those two do we live on.

Well, clearly its impossible to be sure.  It is also impossible to be sure we don't live a third parallel world where science functions only because a cat in Chigwell, Essex, UK deems it so, I'm simply pointing out that that way solipsism lies if you take it too far.

My main counter to the argument is to point out that its essentially a restatement of a "God doesn't exist" type argument.  There's no solid testable argument I can make in favour of world one, none you can make in favour of world two.  And while stating that "we don't agree and neither will convince the other" is in no way an answer to that question in the strictest sense, it is the last answer most get from me through sheer overwhelming lack of interest in the discussion.
This isn't intended as a "God doesn't exist" argument - and for the record you will never see that absolute a statement on the subject from me. It's intended to point out that, if you literally cannot tell the influence of the Holy Spirit apart - if you can't pick the signal from the noise - then it's not exactly good feedback.

I don't think there would be any religion at all, I believe non-Christian faiths are a groping, imperfect as they are, towards the Christian faith (I am aware of how offensive that is to those followers of other faiths.  As I have mentioned elsewhere, though, a core component of following one faith is the conviction that others are flat out wrong).  The world would be different but I wouldn't like to speculate on how.  Without the Catholic church's domination over Europe...well.  Thats a question for the alternate history writers.  My guess would be that the centre of learning would be further east, perhaps in the holy land - no pun intended.  Humanity wouldn't be as advanced as it is as the developments in rhetoric, debate and all those other fields made by the Church wouldn't exist with knock on effects for any discipline that relies on sound arguments.  Art and music would also have taken a fairly substantial hit.  That's a very euro-centric view but quite honestly I don't know enough about Hinduism to say anything sensible about ho]w India would have developed.
This is probably one of those things we will wind up just disagreeing on. I think being pattern-recognition engines makes us liable to see gods and invisible actors whether or not they're actually there - pareidolia is a powerful, powerful thing.

Actually, a conversation about "what would an Earth without religion look like" (as opposed to one without God) could be moderately interesting, but I suspect I would still stay out as it seems like it would descend into a flame war within seconds.
Agreed. It might be interesting to watch - from a distance, with flame-retardant clothes on.

And thanks for not ribbing me about the out-of-place tag. :P

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #21 on: July 12, 2013, 11:10:06 PM »
Quote from: Ephiral
Hm. Well, offhand, the key attributes I'd be looking for would be that it must be practicable day-to-day, non-arbitrary, and actually accomplish the goals you set out in creating it.

Seems like there's a massive assumption lurking in that last clause.  I doubt most people, the overwhelming majority, actually "created" a moral code in the sense you mean it, let alone had goals in mind in doing so.  I would suggest you and I are the exceptions in being able to answer that question and having put some level of conscious thought into the matter, most just "know" what they do and don't approve of, what they will and won't do.  By your:

Quote from: Ephiral
I do think "functional" is kinda important, though - if you don't have an internally consistent and at least mostly functional system, then you're working from sheer arbitrary whim - why not just admit it and stop bothering with all this silly talk of morals and ethics?

and

Quote from: Ephiral
Why claim to have morals at all if you don't care whether or not they're even slightly functional?

it seems like you're saying any person who hasn't set explicit goals for their personal beliefs doesn't really have morals and ethics (and has what?  Instinctive behaviour?).  In essence you seem to be arguing that only people who share your worldview are capable of having morals, straying into a "Christians lack any moral centre" there, which has the benefit of being novel, I suppose, and turnabout is fair play.

Further, there's a problem with your "non-arbitrary".  From:
Quote from: Ephiral
It might not conflict with your core values, but neither is it particularly supported by them. It's supported by your completely arbitrary weighting of these people's value. There's absolutely nothing in there that prevents you from doing any horrible thing you want to anybody you do't particularly care about - and pretty much nobody cares about the overwhelming majority of the world, except in extreme abstract. So this doesn't seem a terribly workable system, and certainly not one that a lot of people should adopt by any stretch.

it seems you would count as arbitrary any system that privileges people I personally know.  Or, presumably, penalises same.  Which seems fine at first glance, but at second any moral code that treats everyone the same is, by necessity, one that the holder wouldn't mind being universal.   Essentially, it seems that your "non arbitrary" requirement is just a requirement for universality in another guise?

I recognise that your answer was "offhand" and may be badly or incompletely phrased, but as is it seems your definition of "functional" is a little worrisome.




Quote from: Ephiral
Oh, no, that's fine. Getting to the most correct answer with the least possible time and effort spent getting there (in all things, not just morality) is the ultimate goal.

This, and your other arguments in that section, feels circular to me.  Utilitarianism is the best and quickest way of getting to the most correct answer where the correctness of the answer is measured by the metric of utilitarianism.  I could replace utilitarianism with christianity there with no change to the meaning.

What I'm trying to get an answer to is, hmmmm, is - man I'm struggling to phrase this.

OK.  You find a magic lamp, and the genie offers you one highly specific wish.  You can become a complete ideological convert to one school of thought - if that's a religion then *poof* you're a believer.  Lets leave aside the proof of the supernatural implicit in the very question, you get the point I'm trying to make. 

I'm assuming you'd pick the one you have, given free reign.  If that assumption is right then what is it about your worldview that makes you feel its the "best".  Why, in terms seperate to utilitarianism, is utilitarianism beneficial.  You've mentioned, both in this conversation and in others, that you consider an idea arrived at through rational thought superior to one that wasn't, why is the "most correct" answer determined that way.  Is that simply an article of faith or is there a concrete benefit to it that you see?  You mention that it avoids akrasia but that just pushes the question back a bit.  Given that millenia of evolution has found akrasia either beneficial or at a minimum not negative enough for it to be eliminated, why is a school of thought that seeks to minimise it better than one that doesn't? Generosity could be viewed as akrasic, or equally it could be viewed as essential for maintaining social groups, why are you saying akrasia is bad?

I really am struggling to articulate my question here, but I hope you can dig through the layers and divine my meaning.



Quote from: Ephiral
But, if God is that much more intelligent than us, certainly there is a way to communicate things with less room for widespread adoption of interpretations that are completely counter to the core themes? Not saying direct-to-brain is necessary, just... something without infinite wiggle room?

I honestly don't understand where the "certainly" there came from?  Why is that certain?  I'm far more intelligent than the spider I see stood on my wall but that doesn't mean there is "certainly" a way of me communicating this conversation to it.

Quote from: Ephiral
I'm not speaking of the world as a whole here - unless God directly controls every single variable, perfection is not to be expected in everything. I'm speaking specifically of God's message to man - which is clearly imperfect by dint of the existence of multiple, mutually exclusive, interpretations of major tenets of faith.

I think my argument still holds.  Implicit in that question is a presumption that you know what a perfect communication of the message looks like, and the various other interpretations are not desired.  Patly - and I must stress not an answer I actually believe - I could just say that the other interpretations are there as a test.  God spend a drunk afternoon burying dinosaur bones and thinking up Sikhism to see if anyone would fall for it. 

Less pat, though, is that I think you're judging God by your criteria not his.  Maybe tomorrow something will happen that will make humanity thank its collective lucky stars that all these interpretations exist.  There is a plan.  Further, a number of them relate to the above point, about the impossibility of directly understanding the divine will.  Finally, as I mention, I believe a number of faiths, particularly ones that predate Christianity, are an almost instinctive movement towards God.

Quote from: Ephiral
This isn't intended as a "God doesn't exist" argument - and for the record you will never see that absolute a statement on the subject from me. It's intended to point out that, if you literally cannot tell the influence of the Holy Spirit apart - if you can't pick the signal from the noise - then it's not exactly good feedback.

I see your point, and I apologise for the presumption.  My thinking is, though, that a world sans God would be different to this one in ways it is possible to construct through thought (lacking religion, as I say, along with other indicators), and so observation tells us we're in the God one.  (In all honesty, that isn't my thinking, its my, I dunno, second order thinking.  My actual thinking is far more dogmatic than that - God created the world so the existence of the world is proof of God.  It's circular, and I accept that, which is why I pretended to have the ever-so-slightly more reasonable position earlier in this paragraph.  And then ruined it all by this parenthetical comment, maybe religion does lead to akrasia)

Quote from: Ephiral
This is probably one of those things we will wind up just disagreeing on. I think being pattern-recognition engines makes us liable to see gods and invisible actors whether or not they're actually there - pareidolia is a powerful, powerful thing.

Ah but paeidolia only exists because we know on some level that there is a force greater than...nah, I'm dicking with you.  It is actually what I think but yeah, we're not going to agree on it.

Quote
And thanks for not ribbing me about the out-of-place tag. :P

Or the out-of-place closing bracket you inserted in the last line of the penultimate quote block in your post above.  I'm a veritable paragon of not ribbing.  But I never proofread and you've never called me on spelling errors that are no doubt there, so you too exist as a true paragon of not ribbing.  Yey us!

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #22 on: July 13, 2013, 12:12:57 AM »
Seems like there's a massive assumption lurking in that last clause.  I doubt most people, the overwhelming majority, actually "created" a moral code in the sense you mean it, let alone had goals in mind in doing so.  I would suggest you and I are the exceptions in being able to answer that question and having put some level of conscious thought into the matter, most just "know" what they do and don't approve of, what they will and won't do.  By your:
I suppose "choose to follow" would work just as well. As for people just "knowing" rather than applying any thought to it at all? I'll bite the bullet on this one: Yeah, that's not a moral system at all as far as I can see. That's just doing what you like.

it seems like you're saying any person who hasn't set explicit goals for their personal beliefs doesn't really have morals and ethics (and has what?  Instinctive behaviour?).  In essence you seem to be arguing that only people who share your worldview are capable of having morals, straying into a "Christians lack any moral centre" there, which has the benefit of being novel, I suppose, and turnabout is fair play.
Anybody who doesn't put some conscious thought into morals and ethics... yeah, instinctive behaviour sounds about right. I draw the line before "Christians lack any moral center", though, in that Christians are like any other category: Some think about this, some don't. Some have very admirable and worthy codes that stem directly from their belief and understandings of Scripture.

Further, there's a problem with your "non-arbitrary".  From:
it seems you would count as arbitrary any system that privileges people I personally know.  Or, presumably, penalises same.  Which seems fine at first glance, but at second any moral code that treats everyone the same is, by necessity, one that the holder wouldn't mind being universal.   Essentially, it seems that your "non arbitrary" requirement is just a requirement for universality in another guise?
Not exactly, though they're closely related. I wouldn't count as arbitrary any system that treats people you personally know differently, as long as you can provide solid justification for why they should be treated differently. It's possible to have a functional system which privileges certain people and holds down certain others (not one I'd want to follow, mind you.) The trick is in asking why it carves humanity along those lines. Is there a quality we desire in the upper class? Something we're trying to eliminate in the underclass? Does the system, or society as a whole, function more smoothly if we make these changes? Your justification seems to boil down to "Because I like these people and not those ones", which... well, yeah, is arbitrary.



This, and your other arguments in that section, feels circular to me.  Utilitarianism is the best and quickest way of getting to the most correct answer where the correctness of the answer is measured by the metric of utilitarianism.  I could replace utilitarianism with christianity there with no change to the meaning.
Again, here I think I've been unclear - we're conflating utilitarianism (moral/ethical system) with rationalism (method of thinking and reasoning that, I believe, strongly supports utilitarian functions.) Rationalism generally defaults to "does this match reality as observed?" as its measure of correctness, which brings me to utilitarianism via the "is there any evidence-based reason to create an over- and an underclass?" problem. Utilitarianism is what seems to me to be the best system of ethics because I have a difficult time finding faults that are not known and actively being worked on; this is not true of other systems. It is possible that this is due to flaws in my fault-finding process, but I'm working with the best tools I have to the best of my ability.

I'm assuming you'd pick the one you have, given free reign.  If that assumption is right then what is it about your worldview that makes you feel its the "best".  Why, in terms seperate to utilitarianism, is utilitarianism beneficial.  You've mentioned, both in this conversation and in others, that you consider an idea arrived at through rational thought superior to one that wasn't, why is the "most correct" answer determined that way.  Is that simply an article of faith or is there a concrete benefit to it that you see?  You mention that it avoids akrasia but that just pushes the question back a bit.  Given that millenia of evolution has found akrasia either beneficial or at a minimum not negative enough for it to be eliminated, why is a school of thought that seeks to minimise it better than one that doesn't? Generosity could be viewed as akrasic, or equally it could be viewed as essential for maintaining social groups, why are you saying akrasia is bad?
Here we're getting into Difficult Problems territory - we're still grasping at concepts like Coherent Extrapolated Value at this point - but a utilitarian function under a rationalist methodology is the only one I see even trying to define "what humanity wants" in concrete and comprehensible terms, let alone work toward it. Why do I think that's important? Because I'm human, basically. What's best for humanity is highly likely to be what's best for me.

As for the akrasia question: I again assert that evolution is a terrible, terrible engineer. It doesn't ruthlessly eliminate anything that is of negative value period, only that which is of negative survival value across a species. Akrasia doesn't get you killed terribly often - but it's a hell of a lot of wasted time and energy. Personally, I don't think we should set the benchmark at an engineer whose goal was "get creatures to reproduce", and whose products invented condoms.



I honestly don't understand where the "certainly" there came from?  Why is that certain?  I'm far more intelligent than the spider I see stood on my wall but that doesn't mean there is "certainly" a way of me communicating this conversation to it.
That's a limitation of the spider, not of you. Yes, humanity is more limited than God, but it's capable of long-term reasoning and understanding, in at least simple terms, what to do vs what not to do. At the very least, I would hope that God is a better engineer than evolution, given the ability to consciously and actively meddle in human affairs. Your outline of the Holy Spirit seems to say that this is not so.

I think my argument still holds.  Implicit in that question is a presumption that you know what a perfect communication of the message looks like, and the various other interpretations are not desired.  Patly - and I must stress not an answer I actually believe - I could just say that the other interpretations are there as a test.  God spend a drunk afternoon burying dinosaur bones and thinking up Sikhism to see if anyone would fall for it.
I can tell you very little about the content of a perfect message, but I can tell you some of what it looks like. For one thing, minimum message length - all other factors being equal, the shorter message tends to be more correct. So it is exceedingly unlikely that a message which contains irreconcilable self-contradictions - wasted bits - is a good message. So either we're misinterpreting it - a failure of communication - or it is badly structured - a failure of the message.

Less pat, though, is that I think you're judging God by your criteria not his.  Maybe tomorrow something will happen that will make humanity thank its collective lucky stars that all these interpretations exist.  There is a plan.  Further, a number of them relate to the above point, about the impossibility of directly understanding the divine will.  Finally, as I mention, I believe a number of faiths, particularly ones that predate Christianity, are an almost instinctive movement towards God.
I reject nothing entirely, but place an extremely low probability on this one particular message being an exception to everything we know about the way information works in the entire rest of the universe. Why would this world be designed to teach us information theory just to go "Oop, that's wrong. Please ignore the fact that it works."?

Your last sentence I find kind of interesting. You seem to posit an instinctual need for spiritual fulfilment - why, then, would people fail to invent gods in a world without them?

I see your point, and I apologise for the presumption.  My thinking is, though, that a world sans God would be different to this one in ways it is possible to construct through thought (lacking religion, as I say, along with other indicators), and so observation tells us we're in the God one.  (In all honesty, that isn't my thinking, its my, I dunno, second order thinking.  My actual thinking is far more dogmatic than that - God created the world so the existence of the world is proof of God.  It's circular, and I accept that, which is why I pretended to have the ever-so-slightly more reasonable position earlier in this paragraph.  And then ruined it all by this parenthetical comment, maybe religion does lead to akrasia)
I wouldn't say it directly leads to akrasia, but I think it encourages it in specific fields. I think we're going to have to disagree on the "all religions are inspired by God" thing, though, because barring an answer to my last question that completely revolutionizes the conversation, we're about to sink into the "Show me the evidence!" "Faith!" circle.

Ah but paeidolia only exists because we know on some level that there is a force greater than...nah, I'm dicking with you.  It is actually what I think but yeah, we're not going to agree on it.
Whereas I would say pareidolia is simply a side effect of a very useful survival behaviour - the ability to distinguish patterns is the ability to tell when something's amiss, which tends to get you eaten by tigers a lot less. I don't see how your reasoning holds as even equally likely to this, in light of us actually knowing that evolution happens. But then, I'm the kind of annoying jerkhole who always looks for the evidence at the root of anything.

Or the out-of-place closing bracket you inserted in the last line of the penultimate quote block in your post above.  I'm a veritable paragon of not ribbing.  But I never proofread and you've never called me on spelling errors that are no doubt there, so you too exist as a true paragon of not ribbing.  Yey us!
I must say, this is the most pleasant conversation I've ever had on this particular minefield. Thank you.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #23 on: July 13, 2013, 10:25:18 AM »
Interesting.

What about people on the far left of the IQ bell curve, people incapable by virtue of learning disabilities or similar, of putting thought into their actions?

I guess the core of my question is,

1)do you consider people who, by your definition, are acting instinctually rather than having a moral code capable of moral behaviour?

and

2)do you rate higher in your personal hierarchy people who have a moral code (again, using your definition and opposing it to instinctive behaviour)?



Quote from: Ephiral
Again, here I think I've been unclear - we're conflating utilitarianism (moral/ethical system) with rationalism (method of thinking and reasoning that, I believe, strongly supports utilitarian functions.)

I think thats more my fault than yours, sorry.  I've been using one as a shorthand for the other and you're right, yes, that's not correct.

Quote from: Ephiral
Here we're getting into Difficult Problems territory - we're still grasping at concepts like Coherent Extrapolated Value at this point - but a utilitarian function under a rationalist methodology is the only one I see even trying to define "what humanity wants" in concrete and comprehensible terms, let alone work toward it. Why do I think that's important? Because I'm human, basically. What's best for humanity is highly likely to be what's best for me.

I hadn't come across Coherent Extrapolated Value before so what I know is from a brief read of the article on lesswrong.com.  I see it as the difference between low levels of the Dominate discipline from V:tM and the ninth level "Best Intentions" power from VPG.

And here I think we've reached the nub of our disagreement, which we've been dancing around for a while.  I don't believe its possible - too hard - for the system of humanity to achieve the grand project of universal rationalism. 

Leaving aside whether its worthy or not, it seems like the drunk trying to pull himself up by his bootstraps.  The rationalist community will never be able to overcome, by the very nature of the beast, a (hypothetical) bias that "all things can be analysed through rational thought" or "emotional, non-conscious methods are never superior to rational, conscious one".  If there's just one of those lurking within the human psyche then the project will fail as the community will expend its effort continuing to use the same tools as a matter of, well, faith.  (Assuming, of course, that those biases are incorrect - with a bit more thought I'm certain a hypothetical bias that worked against rationalism and didn't require the existence of the divine could be constructed)

Two, I don't believe universal rationalism is a reachable goal.  It's obviously a never ending process as new people are born (though I'll admit there comes a tipping point in society where it becomes the default rather than the exception) and it just takes one charismatic psychopath to build a cult of personality around him.  In essence, I think the problems rationalism seeks to overcome are too embedded within humans to ever be overturned and the inevitable Black Swan will doom the project. 

Happily I'm in the position of believing there is something external to the system of humanity that doesn't suffer these problems and has our best interests at heart to "reach in" and adjust the system from the outside rather than relying on purely internal work.



Quote from: Ephiral
That's a limitation of the spider, not of you

Absolutely.  And the inability of God to communicate clearly and unambigiously with us is a limitation of us.  Obviously not of God.

Quote from: Ephiral
At the very least, I would hope that God is a better engineer than evolution, given the ability to consciously and actively meddle in human affairs.

Evolution is the mechanism through which God created man.  It would be like me designing a entirely automated factory that produced *looks round for inspiration* Mars Bars.  It would be questionable whether I or the factory created an individual Mars Bar, I suppose, but my definition is that I did.  But the core point is that if I decide to later put more caramel in the Mars Bar then I'm limited to the tools and machines I have already set up.  Sure I could burn the factory down and build a new one, but I don't think either of us want that. 

Now, God's in a priveleged position of course.  He knows in advance the times when he'll want to add more caramel and designed the factory in the first place based on a perfect understanding of future Mars Bar developments.  And that sentence made me feel dirty.

Quote from: Ephiral
I can tell you very little about the content of a perfect message, but I can tell you some of what it looks like. For one thing, minimum message length - all other factors being equal, the shorter message tends to be more correct. So it is exceedingly unlikely that a message which contains irreconcilable self-contradictions - wasted bits - is a good message. So either we're misinterpreting it - a failure of communication - or it is badly structured - a failure of the message.

As I say, we're misinterpreting and filtering through our own location and time dependant biases.  And all other things aren't equal, because there is noise in the transmission.  So the same method is repeated over and over again with redundancy and repeats, knowing that Paul will fail to get the first half and Moses the second.

Quote from: Ephiral
Why would this world be designed to teach us information theory just to go "Oop, that's wrong. Please ignore the fact that it works."?

That has always seemed to me to be the key point of rupture.  Information theory works within the universe.  God exists outside the universe.  In-universe tools are necessarily inadequate for analysing out-of-universe phenomena.  This applies throughout.  Why can't we detect God's body heat, all the other scientific arguments for the non-existence of God (I'm carefully distinguishing Strong from Weak atheism there) fail because they're trying to detect the rainfall in Canada with a gauge in the UK.  Or even a barometer in the UK.

And, just to add, this isn't a failing of science today.  There's noone slaving in a lab on a working god-ometer.  In fact, its not even a failing.  Science/rationalism/a hpst of related words are the best tools for analysing the universe.  The best tool for analysing the divine is Church Tradition.

Quote from: Ephiral
Your last sentence I find kind of interesting. You seem to posit an instinctual need for spiritual fulfilment - why, then, would people fail to invent gods in a world without them?
Quote from: Ephiral
Whereas I would say pareidolia is simply a side effect of a very useful survival behaviour - the ability to distinguish patterns is the ability to tell when something's amiss, which tends to get you eaten by tigers a lot less. I don't see how your reasoning holds as even equally likely to this, in light of us actually knowing that evolution happens. But then, I'm the kind of annoying jerkhole who always looks for the evidence at the root of anything.

Your problem here is that we only have a sample size of one.  There is an instinctual need, I would argue, for spirtual fulfilment because we live in a world where God exists.  Did we not, and the reason I posit a world without religion, that need in our soul/psyche wouldn't exist.

Your pareidolia example suffers the same problem.  Because we have only ever seen the positve effects - Tiger recognition - hand in hand with the (as you see it) negative - God recognition, we assume they are inextricably linked.  I don't believe they are.  God recognition wouldn't exist in a God free world, simply tiger recogntion.  I think/believe that you are conflating two seperate things purely because our limited sample size has them appearing side by side. 


Quote from: Ephiral
I must say, this is the most pleasant conversation I've ever had on this particular minefield. Thank you.

No need to thank me.  Pleasant conversations are more pleasant than unpleasant ones (shock!) so being nice was entirely self-serving.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #24 on: July 13, 2013, 10:35:30 AM »
Actually, there's another prediction now I think of it. An earth culture that could recognise tigers but not gods would force a pretty dramatic rethink. Clearly the lack of same proves nothing either way.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #25 on: July 13, 2013, 12:19:41 PM »
1)do you consider people who, by your definition, are acting instinctually rather than having a moral code capable of moral behaviour?
Mu. The two are not necessarily linked; your example clearly demonstrates this.

2)do you rate higher in your personal hierarchy people who have a moral code (again, using your definition and opposing it to instinctive behaviour)?
I view moral codes as a responsibility - those who are capable and do not put the thought into one lose a small amount of regard. Note that "incapable" includes not just a lack of mental capacity, but not having encountered the topic as something worthy of consideration and other factors outside the individual's control.



I hadn't come across Coherent Extrapolated Value before so what I know is from a brief read of the article on lesswrong.com.  I see it as the difference between low levels of the Dominate discipline from V:tM and the ninth level "Best Intentions" power from VPG.
I actually haven't seen the latter that I can remember, so I can't say whether this is a good analogy or not. The idea behind CEV, basically, is that people (individually and in groups) are extremely poor at figuring out what they actually want and what will make them happy - so let's try to figure out a sane definition of values that all of humanity would find pleasing if they were fulfilled, whether or not a given person would cite them as values. I hope this makes sense.

Leaving aside whether its worthy or not, it seems like the drunk trying to pull himself up by his bootstraps.  The rationalist community will never be able to overcome, by the very nature of the beast, a (hypothetical) bias that "all things can be analysed through rational thought" or "emotional, non-conscious methods are never superior to rational, conscious one".  If there's just one of those lurking within the human psyche then the project will fail as the community will expend its effort continuing to use the same tools as a matter of, well, faith.  (Assuming, of course, that those biases are incorrect - with a bit more thought I'm certain a hypothetical bias that worked against rationalism and didn't require the existence of the divine could be constructed)
A brief aside: Emotional is not the opposite of rational. Hollywood rationality sets a poor example. As far as your broader point goes: It's not that non-conscious methods are incapable of being superior. It's that the odds are very poor, and they do not improve. As for it being possible to analyse everything through rational thought: If you can show me a phenomenon that we can verify the existence of which defies rational analysis, then I will discard rational analysis as a tool for working with it. Meta-rationality.

Two, I don't believe universal rationalism is a reachable goal.  It's obviously a never ending process as new people are born (though I'll admit there comes a tipping point in society where it becomes the default rather than the exception) and it just takes one charismatic psychopath to build a cult of personality around him.  In essence, I think the problems rationalism seeks to overcome are too embedded within humans to ever be overturned and the inevitable Black Swan will doom the project.
Given that spreading rationalism is essentially a process of education, I must ask if you think that universal education in, say, high-school level math is also impossible.



Evolution is the mechanism through which God created man.  It would be like me designing a entirely automated factory that produced *looks round for inspiration* Mars Bars.  It would be questionable whether I or the factory created an individual Mars Bar, I suppose, but my definition is that I did.  But the core point is that if I decide to later put more caramel in the Mars Bar then I'm limited to the tools and machines I have already set up.  Sure I could burn the factory down and build a new one, but I don't think either of us want that.

I chose my evolution example for a reason: The process of evolution, to use your metaphor, is basically "throw random amounts of random ingredients into random machines. Is the result a Mars bar? If not, adjust the values and repeat. Is the new result somewhere closer to being a Mars bar? No? Repeat ad Mars barum." It's brute force engineering - the worst possible method that will lead to success. Your interpretation of the Holy Spirit sounds similar: "Take a random idea. Does it align with the divine plan? If not, discard it and pick a new random idea." No control whatsoever over the input is a pretty poor way to get the output you want.

Now, God's in a priveleged position of course.  He knows in advance the times when he'll want to add more caramel and designed the factory in the first place based on a perfect understanding of future Mars Bar developments.  And that sentence made me feel dirty.
...and yet, despite knowing the perfect recipe, he goes with the "try some random thing, see if it works" method. This... is a pretty damning picture.

As I say, we're misinterpreting and filtering through our own location and time dependant biases.  And all other things aren't equal, because there is noise in the transmission.  So the same method is repeated over and over again with redundancy and repeats, knowing that Paul will fail to get the first half and Moses the second.
And  how is noise in the transmission, given someone who designed the entire environment, not a failure?

That has always seemed to me to be the key point of rupture.  Information theory works within the universe.  God exists outside the universe.  In-universe tools are necessarily inadequate for analysing out-of-universe phenomena.  This applies throughout.  Why can't we detect God's body heat, all the other scientific arguments for the non-existence of God (I'm carefully distinguishing Strong from Weak atheism there) fail because they're trying to detect the rainfall in Canada with a gauge in the UK.  Or even a barometer in the UK.
But we're not trying to apply information theory to God, we're trying to apply it to the in-universe message. Your argument seems to be saying "This observable phenomenon is in violation of every established pattern that fits every other observable phenomenon of its type, for no reason and with no effect that I can point to."

And, just to add, this isn't a failing of science today.  There's noone slaving in a lab on a working god-ometer.  In fact, its not even a failing.  Science/rationalism/a hpst of related words are the best tools for analysing the universe.  The best tool for analysing the divine is Church Tradition.
I... would rather stay away from this particular line of conversation, because frankly it's about to get into a place we've both been studiously avoiding.

Your problem here is that we only have a sample size of one.  There is an instinctual need, I would argue, for spirtual fulfilment because we live in a world where God exists.  Did we not, and the reason I posit a world without religion, that need in our soul/psyche wouldn't exist.
So you're essentially saying that the two identical worlds are not possible. I obviously disagree, but I can and must accept this as a valid position given your priors - I reject P-zombies just as hard for pretty much the same reasons.

Your pareidolia example suffers the same problem.  Because we have only ever seen the positve effects - Tiger recognition - hand in hand with the (as you see it) negative - God recognition, we assume they are inextricably linked.  I don't believe they are.  God recognition wouldn't exist in a God free world, simply tiger recogntion.  I think/believe that you are conflating two seperate things purely because our limited sample size has them appearing side by side.
Thing is, though, this position is ignoring the fact that we have things other than tiger recognition and God recognition to go on. We have clear-cut examples of false positives - conspiracy theorists, faces in wallpaper patterns, backmasking. Why do these things exist? It seems that the only purpose they serve is to make God-recognition questionable.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #26 on: July 13, 2013, 02:22:20 PM »
Quote from: Ephiral
Mu. The two are not necessarily linked; your example clearly demonstrates this.

No, they're not, but that wasn't the intent of my question, apologies for phrasing it badly.  The point I was trying to draw out is that if people are capable of acting in a way you would consider as moral without having put thought into it - lets for the sake of argument define the "moral choice" in a given situation as "the choice Ephiral would make".

If they are, then it seems you're defining a process for arriving at a goal rather than a goal itself and then, based on:

Quote from: Ephiral
I view moral codes as a responsibility - those who are capable and do not put the thought into one lose a small amount of regard.

thinking less of people who don't follow that process which is simply criticsing people for not following your thought patterns.  If that's what you're doing then fine, I guess.  But I personally don't think it matters what your thought process is in achieving an end, simply the achieved end.  I don't give a fuck whether you completed the jigsaw by carefully doing all the corners and edges then filling in the sky or by repeatedly throwing the pieces in the air until they land correctly, what matters is the jigsaw is completed.

What about if, in my frantic desire to impress you, I take to wearing a W.W.E.D. bracelet and base all of my decisions on what you would do (sending countless PMs to check when needed).  My system is arbitrary but produces identical effects to yours.  You would still count it as inferior?

It just seems like you're priviliging a rationalist approach there to the extent of ignoring outcomes.



Quote from: Ephiral
I hope this makes sense.

It does, thank you.

Quote from: Ephiral
As far as your broader point goes: It's not that non-conscious methods are incapable of being superior. It's that the odds are very poor, and they do not improve. As for it being possible to analyse everything through rational thought: If you can show me a phenomenon that we can verify the existence of which defies rational analysis, then I will discard rational analysis as a tool for working with it. Meta-rationality.

Interesting.  So if I've understood you right you're essentially saying that you're playing the odds in rationalism, judging that it will be the best approach for a given problem and therefore applying it?

Quote from: Ephiral
Given that spreading rationalism is essentially a process of education, I must ask if you think that universal education in, say, high-school level math is also impossible.

I'm actually not certain how old high school students are.  It felt like that was a side issue, but if its relevant and affects my future argument then I apologise for being too lazy to google it.

I don't think your analogy holds.  The simple reason is that me learning integration by parts is simply adding to my store of knowledge.  My learning to eliminate/compensate for all cognitive biases involves a fundamental change to my thinking. 

It isn't the same as a process of education because either you know when the Battle of Hastings was or you don't, and there's no way you can fake it.  However, one can easily pretend to be rationalist while not actually accepting the premise of it - rationalism is a thought process not a fact - and instilling that, or any, thought process in schools is disturbing in the extreme.



Quote from: Ephiral

I chose my evolution example for a reason: The process of evolution, to use your metaphor, is basically "throw random amounts of random ingredients into random machines. Is the result a Mars bar? If not, adjust the values and repeat. Is the new result somewhere closer to being a Mars bar? No? Repeat ad Mars barum." It's brute force engineering - the worst possible method that will lead to success. Your interpretation of the Holy Spirit sounds similar: "Take a random idea. Does it align with the divine plan? If not, discard it and pick a new random idea." No control whatsoever over the input is a pretty poor way to get the output you want.

It actually feels like we're drawing to a close of this section as we seem to be going in circles a little.  It's not simply random ideas, its the same idea repeated to make up for failures in the receivers.  It just looks random to us because we only have the imperfect receivers.

As I've said before, there are consistent streams in Christian thought and those that vary too heavily from it - Paul's condemnation of homosexuality is the example I used above - must be viewed as evidence of imperfect reception.

An aside I thought you might be interested in

Just because it happened to occur to me while typing and I thought you might care, not because I feel it particularly adds anything to the conversation.

The main problem I have in my faith is the issue of agency.  I talk about the consistent message of scripture and church tradition and one of those is that if you have a problem then the best way to remove it is pray and let God sort that shit.  Don't bother trying to solve it, look for ways round it, work on it yourself or make any attempt to improve your own life.  God will sort that shit out if you "ask and it shall be given." 

Aside to the aside - Did you know that "The Lord helps those who help themselves" isn't even scriptural?  75% of American teenagers named it as the central message of the Bible, and a substantial portion believe it is one of the Ten fucking commandments.  It leads to the semi-pelagian heresy, even - the conclusions of it are condemned by every Christian branch I can think of off the top of my head.  There's an argument its the moral of the Parable of the Good Shepherd but if I can say that Paul's condemnation of homosexuality is an off-message blip then I'm forced by the same argument to concede that parable is the same.

And I hate it.  I hate the lack of control, the helplessness, it forces one to embrace, and the message that your life is entirely beyond your control.

I've spent ages looking for a way round it, a way I could have interpreted all of this wrong, and I'm pretty confident is not there.  I hate it and I hate the fact that not following that aspect of teaching in my day to day life makes me feel bad, but I would hate it more if I did.  I have an internal fudge that I use to justofy it but its justification pure and simple.  I hate it.

Quote from: Ephiral
But we're not trying to apply information theory to God, we're trying to apply it to the in-universe message. Your argument seems to be saying "This observable phenomenon is in violation of every established pattern that fits every other observable phenomenon of its type, for no reason and with no effect that I can point to."

I'm not clear on the distinction you're drawing here and lack the information theory terminology to put across a clarification of what I mean.  In layman's terms:

We have a message from God to man.  God exists outside the universe and information theory doesn't apply to Him.  Man exists within and information theory does.  God transmits a message which crosses the out of universe/in universe barrier then the universe/man's brain barrier.  As the universe is fallible and as humans are even more so, both of those barriers create a degradation of the message.

I don't - and here my lack of knowledge on the subject becomes more apparent - think we can apply information theory to the message because a portion of it is in a "region" where information theory doesn't apply.  It'd be like - to my way of thinking - trying to trace the history of the Mona Lisa knowing only about da Vinci's life.  It moves outside the area covered by the tools you are using.

Quote from: Ephiral
Thing is, though, this position is ignoring the fact that we have things other than tiger recognition and God recognition to go on. We have clear-cut examples of false positives - conspiracy theorists, faces in wallpaper patterns, backmasking. Why do these things exist? It seems that the only purpose they serve is to make God-recognition questionable.

I still think you're arguing definitions a little.  Lets make up some words - I'll put them in Latin root to draw a linguistic distinction from pareidolia.

Tigrisvidocy is what you see as the positive side - the ability to see Tigers in the patch of forest.

Deosense is the unconscious craving every human has to God - lets concede that exists for the purpose of this conversation - which manifests in people creating Gods as explanations for thunder, seasons, etc etc.

Facierror is the tendency to see faces in wallpaper and other incorrect applications of tigrisvidocy.  I don't like "facierror" by the way, it's hard to say.  I wish I could be bothered to think up a better word.

The reason I bother making up words is to try to make clear that it's simply a function of the word pareidolia that makes up lump those things together when they could just as easily be defined as three separate concepts - two related, one not - and its simply that they are all seen in the one sentient species we have access to that makes us think they're related.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #27 on: July 13, 2013, 03:14:41 PM »
thinking less of people who don't follow that process which is simply criticsing people for not following your thought patterns.  If that's what you're doing then fine, I guess.  But I personally don't think it matters what your thought process is in achieving an end, simply the achieved end.  I don't give a fuck whether you completed the jigsaw by carefully doing all the corners and edges then filling in the sky or by repeatedly throwing the pieces in the air until they land correctly, what matters is the jigsaw is completed.
Not quite, which is why I said "moral codes" rather than "my moral code". There are systems that seem to arrive at the right result in every example I've seen, despite being completely alien to me in their basis. They get full credit. There are systems I find completely reprehensible, since they come to conclusions I hold to be obviously incorrect and morally untenable. They get the small credit for thinking about it, but miss the larger credit for not being a dick.

Remember, the question was if these questions can be aided by an evidence-based approach. You seem to be asking me to make the case that only an evidence-based approach is usable, which I hold as false - infinite monkeys, Hamlet, etc.

What about if, in my frantic desire to impress you, I take to wearing a W.W.E.D. bracelet and base all of my decisions on what you would do (sending countless PMs to check when needed).  My system is arbitrary but produces identical effects to yours.  You would still count it as inferior?
Mmm... not morally inferior, no, but it loses points for failing to engage your brain and for annoying the crap out of me. Basically, there are two key criteria as I see it: "engage your brain" and "get the right answer". The first is important because systems that depend on a few key people tend to fall into the cognitive biases of those people, and collapse or derail badly when those people are gone. Distributed thinking adds robustness against both issues. The second is important because... well, that's kinda the whole point. I think rationalist methods get to the right answer most reliably, which is why I think they're best.

Now, if I were an oracle of perfect morality, and thus you came to me as the best tool available after examining the situation, that would be different. Related: I one-box on Newcomb's. This is not a popular answer in the rationalist groups I follow, but I hold that it is the correct one.



Interesting.  So if I've understood you right you're essentially saying that you're playing the odds in rationalism, judging that it will be the best approach for a given problem and therefore applying it?
Pretty much. One of the most fundamental tools in my rationalist's kit is Bayes' theorem - in short, I'm essentially playing the odds on everything, all the time, because frankly that's what a lot of human decision making boils down to whether we acknowledge it or not. Acknowledging it and being conscious of the odds just makes us more likely to make the right call.

I don't think your analogy holds.  The simple reason is that me learning integration by parts is simply adding to my store of knowledge.  My learning to eliminate/compensate for all cognitive biases involves a fundamental change to my thinking.
Integration by parts is not natural to your brain - it doesn't do much to help you dodge predators and find prey on an African savannah. So I'd argue that it's just as radically different a way of thinking as running Bayesian updates.

It isn't the same as a process of education because either you know when the Battle of Hastings was or you don't, and there's no way you can fake it.  However, one can easily pretend to be rationalist while not actually accepting the premise of it - rationalism is a thought process not a fact - and instilling that, or any, thought process in schools is disturbing in the extreme.
A deep understanding of any subject is an alteration to thought processes. I'm guessing you don't hold that schools should do nothing but rote memorization. As far as testing goes, it's actually... pretty much the same as certain strains of educational testing. Present problems that can be solved by integrating and using the information and methods you've been taught. A low hit rate is indicative of poor comprehension or utilization.

85% of medical doctors get a basic question on whether or not a patient is likely to have cancer after screening wrong by an order of magnitude. I find this far more disturbing than teaching them how to do it right.



It actually feels like we're drawing to a close of this section as we seem to be going in circles a little.  It's not simply random ideas, its the same idea repeated to make up for failures in the receivers.  It just looks random to us because we only have the imperfect receivers.
What is the origin point of the ideas? I understood that it was the fallible, limited human brain.

As I've said before, there are consistent streams in Christian thought and those that vary too heavily from it - Paul's condemnation of homosexuality is the example I used above - must be viewed as evidence of imperfect reception.
I have heard a maxim from students of communication: "Poor receipt is not the fault of the listener." If your audience fails to understand you, you haven't done your job in communicating effectively. Please note that I'm not saying that the perfect message does not exist - just that this universe doesn't have it.

An aside I thought you might be interested in
Just because it happened to occur to me while typing and I thought you might care, not because I feel it particularly adds anything to the conversation.

The main problem I have in my faith is the issue of agency.  I talk about the consistent message of scripture and church tradition and one of those is that if you have a problem then the best way to remove it is pray and let God sort that shit.  Don't bother trying to solve it, look for ways round it, work on it yourself or make any attempt to improve your own life.  God will sort that shit out if you "ask and it shall be given." 

Aside to the aside - Did you know that "The Lord helps those who help themselves" isn't even scriptural?  75% of American teenagers named it as the central message of the Bible, and a substantial portion believe it is one of the Ten fucking commandments.  It leads to the semi-pelagian heresy, even - the conclusions of it are condemned by every Christian branch I can think of off the top of my head.  There's an argument its the moral of the Parable of the Good Shepherd but if I can say that Paul's condemnation of homosexuality is an off-message blip then I'm forced by the same argument to concede that parable is the same.

And I hate it.  I hate the lack of control, the helplessness, it forces one to embrace, and the message that your life is entirely beyond your control.

I've spent ages looking for a way round it, a way I could have interpreted all of this wrong, and I'm pretty confident is not there.  I hate it and I hate the fact that not following that aspect of teaching in my day to day life makes me feel bad, but I would hate it more if I did.  I have an internal fudge that I use to justofy it but its justification pure and simple.  I hate it.
This really is an aside, so it goes in here.
Yeah, that's one of the fundamental bits that I don't get and I don't think I ever will. As I see it, if there is a problem that is reasonably within your power to fix, and you are aware of it, then you have an obligation to at least contribute to the solution. I'm also kinda confused by what appears to me to be an inconsistent tone - the Bible talks a lot about helping the poor; how come they don't get prayed away too?

We have a message from God to man.  God exists outside the universe and information theory doesn't apply to Him.  Man exists within and information theory does.  God transmits a message which crosses the out of universe/in universe barrier then the universe/man's brain barrier.  As the universe is fallible and as humans are even more so, both of those barriers create a degradation of the message.
The distinction is that the message does enter the universe, and thus plays by the universe's rules. The moment it crosses that threshold, information theory applies. And overwhelmingly, every single time we've put forth a theory that says "Everything works in X fashion except this case", we have been wrong.

I don't - and here my lack of knowledge on the subject becomes more apparent - think we can apply information theory to the message because a portion of it is in a "region" where information theory doesn't apply.  It'd be like - to my way of thinking - trying to trace the history of the Mona Lisa knowing only about da Vinci's life.  It moves outside the area covered by the tools you are using.
No portion of the message stays outside, though. The only way for it to do that is to not transmit it - and therefore make it not part of the message. I think your analogy suits better if we invert it - given just the Mona Lisa, all we can tell about da Vinci is that he painted at least one painting at time T using methods X, Y, and Z. But we can analyse the hell out of the painting and confirm that it was, in fact, made using pigments and tools available and commonly used at that time.

I still think you're arguing definitions a little.  Lets make up some words - I'll put them in Latin root to draw a linguistic distinction from pareidolia.

Tigrisvidocy is what you see as the positive side - the ability to see Tigers in the patch of forest.

Deosense is the unconscious craving every human has to God - lets concede that exists for the purpose of this conversation - which manifests in people creating Gods as explanations for thunder, seasons, etc etc.

Facierror is the tendency to see faces in wallpaper and other incorrect applications of tigrisvidocy.  I don't like "facierror" by the way, it's hard to say.  I wish I could be bothered to think up a better word.

The reason I bother making up words is to try to make clear that it's simply a function of the word pareidolia that makes up lump those things together when they could just as easily be defined as three separate concepts - two related, one not - and its simply that they are all seen in the one sentient species we have access to that makes us think they're related.
Pareidolia is facierror. Period. The other two - conceding God for the sake of argument - are the pattern recognition engine firing as it ought; pareidolia is what happens when this tool is applied to meaningless input. So... why would something that makes us prone to seeing invisible agency everywhere, not just where God is actually doing shit, be a requirement of being in God-world but not of being in !God-world? As I said, all it seems to accomplish is undermining the credibility of those who believe in Him.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #28 on: July 13, 2013, 04:28:36 PM »
Quote from: Ephiral
Remember, the question was if these questions can be aided by an evidence-based approach. You seem to be asking me to make the case that only an evidence-based approach is usable, which I hold as false - infinite monkeys, Hamlet, etc.

Not quite.  In fact I had taken your position to be that only an evidence based approach is usable - apologies - and was trying to draw out that that wasn't the case.

We seem to be on the same page.

Quote from: Ephiral
Mmm... not morally inferior, no, but it loses points for failing to engage your brain and for annoying the crap out of me. Basically, there are two key criteria as I see it: "engage your brain" and "get the right answer". The first is important because systems that depend on a few key people tend to fall into the cognitive biases of those people, and collapse or derail badly when those people are gone. Distributed thinking adds robustness against both issues. The second is important because... well, that's kinda the whole point. I think rationalist methods get to the right answer most reliably, which is why I think they're best.

Sadly for me it gains points both for me not having to think and for annoying everyone around me.  So look forwards to an overflowing PM box :P

We do seem to be on the same page here.

Quote from: Ephiral
Now, if I were an oracle of perfect morality, and thus you came to me as the best tool available after examining the situation, that would be different. Related: I one-box on Newcomb's. This is not a popular answer in the rationalist groups I follow, but I hold that it is the correct one.

The oracle of perfect morality is what I hold God to be.  I too one box, but thats perhaps considerably less surprising. 



Quote from: Ephiral
Integration by parts is not natural to your brain - it doesn't do much to help you dodge predators and find prey on an African savannah. So I'd argue that it's just as radically different a way of thinking as running Bayesian updates.[/url]

I don't think it is a new way of thinking, merely a new thought.

Quote from: Ephiral
A deep understanding of any subject is an alteration to thought processes. I'm guessing you don't hold that schools should do nothing but rote memorization. As far as testing goes, it's actually... pretty much the same as certain strains of educational testing. Present problems that can be solved by integrating and using the information and methods you've been taught. A low hit rate is indicative of poor comprehension or utilization.

OK, yes, I'll concede that.  I still think instilling thought patterns in schools is dangerous though, bearing in mind my distinction above.


Quote from: Ephiral
What is the origin point of the ideas? I understood that it was the fallible, limited human brain.

No, the origin of the idea is God's will.  The fallible limited human brain is the receiver of the idea (and may well then be a secondary transmitter as it writes shit down, but still not the origin of the idea)

[qoute="Ephiral"]I have heard a maxim from students of communication: "Poor receipt is not the fault of the listener." If your audience fails to understand you, you haven't done your job in communicating effectively. Please note that I'm not saying that the perfect message does not exist - just that this universe doesn't have it.

With the best will in the world, Ephiral, that statement's almost meaningless.  That may well be a maxim but, well, so what?  It's not a rule/law/etc.  Essentially you seem to be defining a failure of communication as the fault of the transmitter then saying "look, there's been a failure therefore its the transmitter's fault".  You could just as easily define it as a fault of the receiver.

In answer to your question
Helping the poor is morally desirable.  That is to say, the beneficiary of helping the poor is the helper for performing morally desirable actions, not the poor for being, you know, helped.

Yeah, I know. Clearly the poor only exist so the not poor can feel better about themselves. I can explain it, I can't justify it.  Its not the position I hold and its actually increasingly rare, but there's been nothing "official" to override it - where official = church pronouncement (whether you believe them to be divinely inspired or not isn't relevant in thsi case).



Quote from: Ephiral
The distinction is that the message does enter the universe, and thus plays by the universe's rules. The moment it crosses that threshold, information theory applies. And overwhelmingly, every single time we've put forth a theory that says "Everything works in X fashion except this case", we have been wrong.[/url]

Funnily enough, this is precisely my point as well.  Yes, we have been wrong.  And in a vast number of cases we have been wrong because our understanding of X fashion has been incomplete.  Everything obeys Newton's Laws of Motion except the case where they are travelling close to the speed of light is the first example that springs to mind but even in the process of writing that I thought of numerous more, I will spare you them.  The Laws of Motion aren't wrong, per se, they are simply incomplete.

Information theory isn't wrong, per se, it is simply not complete enough to include human-divine communication.  More *cough*Church Tradition *cough* is needed.

Quote from: Ephiral
Pareidolia is facierror. Period. The other two - conceding God for the sake of argument - are the pattern recognition engine firing as it ought; pareidolia is what happens when this tool is applied to meaningless input. So... why would something that makes us prone to seeing invisible agency everywhere, not just where God is actually doing shit, be a requirement of being in God-world but not of being in !God-world? As I said, all it seems to accomplish is undermining the credibility of those who believe in Him.

Sorry, that wasn't quite what I was trying to say.  What I'm trying to say is that your argument rests on those three phenomena being related, being three facets of the same mental mechanism.  I contend there are actually two there - the flipsides of Tigrisvidocy/Facierror  and then, separate, deosense.  So why does deosense say that thunder spirits are angry hence rain?  An incomplete nature of the understanding of God.  Both science and religion end the belief in the thunder spirits - be that by missionaries pointing out its wrong or hypothetical science missionaries doing same.

Man, I wish I could reliably spell separate.  I always wanna replace the first "a" with an "e".  Same with calendar.  I don't think I've ever spelt that right first time.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #29 on: July 13, 2013, 05:36:18 PM »
Sadly for me it gains points both for me not having to think and for annoying everyone around me.  So look forwards to an overflowing PM box :P
Funny, you told me that once before...

The oracle of perfect morality is what I hold God to be.  I too one box, but thats perhaps considerably less surprising.
The difference being that, given the system you've described, you can't get an answer from God except over many many iterations over a long period of time. Pretty useless in figuring out what you need to do now, or tomorrow, or next week.



I don't think it is a new way of thinking, merely a new thought.
I am not sure where you place the distinction - it seems like the problem is "Now apply this in your life," but I presume you also don't think school lessons should be put on a shelf and never touched when you graduate.

OK, yes, I'll concede that.  I still think instilling thought patterns in schools is dangerous though, bearing in mind my distinction above.
That seems to strike methods of problem-solving off of "acceptable school subjects" as a category. This is... problematic.


No, the origin of the idea is God's will.  The fallible limited human brain is the receiver of the idea (and may well then be a secondary transmitter as it writes shit down, but still not the origin of the idea)
forgive me, but I'm trying to build this transmission protocol in my head. It sounds like Alice sends a message to Bob. Bob retransmits that message back to Alice, who will either accept or reject it. The rejection process takes anywhere from five minutes to several generations. If it is rejected, Bob must now try again to reconstruct it from the same data. This is... a piss-poor method, to be honest. And now I think we're getting to the core of my problem: Okay, so we can't receive the message without corruption. Fine. We have protocols that can verify accurate receipt nigh-instantly on the receiver's end, and in the event of error, can pinpoint that error to within a very small margin. Why is God so much worse at this than a bunch of monkeys in shoes who have been thinking about this for 70 years?

With the best will in the world, Ephiral, that statement's almost meaningless.  That may well be a maxim but, well, so what?  It's not a rule/law/etc.  Essentially you seem to be defining a failure of communication as the fault of the transmitter then saying "look, there's been a failure therefore its the transmitter's fault".  You could just as easily define it as a fault of the receiver.
It's the fault of the transmitter because the transmitter is the one with the power to change what is happening. The receiver is essentially passive, doing little more than verifying accurate receipt (and not even doing that, in the construction you seem to be proposing). If one party is doing everything, then yes, it's on that one party to get it right.

In answer to your question
Helping the poor is morally desirable.  That is to say, the beneficiary of helping the poor is the helper for performing morally desirable actions, not the poor for being, you know, helped.

Yeah, I know. Clearly the poor only exist so the not poor can feel better about themselves. I can explain it, I can't justify it.  Its not the position I hold and its actually increasingly rare, but there's been nothing "official" to override it - where official = church pronouncement (whether you believe them to be divinely inspired or not isn't relevant in thsi case).
That just raises further questions!
But... why is it morally desirable? If the answer to your problems is to pray them away, then aren't you usurping God's role by solving others' problems?



Sorry, that wasn't quite what I was trying to say.  What I'm trying to say is that your argument rests on those three phenomena being related, being three facets of the same mental mechanism.  I contend there are actually two there - the flipsides of Tigrisvidocy/Facierror  and then, separate, deosense.  So why does deosense say that thunder spirits are angry hence rain?  An incomplete nature of the understanding of God.  Both science and religion end the belief in the thunder spirits - be that by missionaries pointing out its wrong or hypothetical science missionaries doing same.
So pareidolia exists in both worlds. In that case, the only way that !God-world would fail to have religion is if God is a concept that cannot possibly come from the human imagination. That... strikes me as an extremely bold claim to make.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #30 on: July 13, 2013, 07:40:30 PM »
Quote from: Ephiral
Funny, you told me that once before...

I won that didn't I?  Remind me to check.

Quote from: Ephiral
The difference being that, given the system you've described, you can't get an answer from God except over many many iterations over a long period of time. Pretty useless in figuring out what you need to do now, or tomorrow, or next week.

No.  Teaching is sufficient for the current time.  Everything we need to know at the current time has been given to us already, answers aren't needed on that sort of timescale because they're already present.  The answers we're receiving now relate to cloning, to genetic engineering, etc - to the problems we will soon face.  Or, you know, that's the Christian view - that everything needed now is already present.

Quote from: Ephiral
That seems to strike methods of problem-solving off of "acceptable school subjects" as a category. This is... problematic.

I think you're being a bit disingenuous here.  Wikipedia lists a set of core precepts rationalists must adopt, even lesswrong talks in terms of "becoming a rationalist".  It's a thought system, the teaching of which in schools (or promotion of which rather, I have no objection to students learning about thought systems) I see as wrong, not simply a method of problem solving.

Quote from: Ephiral
forgive me, but I'm trying to build this transmission protocol in my head. It sounds like Alice sends a message to Bob. Bob retransmits that message back to Alice, who will either accept or reject it. The rejection process takes anywhere from five minutes to several generations. If it is rejected, Bob must now try again to reconstruct it from the same data. This is... a piss-poor method, to be honest. And now I think we're getting to the core of my problem:[/url]

Mmmkay.  As I say, I lack the terminology so forgive me if I construct this wrong.

Alice has a message she wishes to transmit.  She transmits it to everybody.  Some don't listen, some listen and forget - to move from transmission protocols to scripture for a moment, see the parable of the sower.  But those people aren't relevant to this dicsussion.  And besides, Alice already knows who they'll be, she just sends the message to show willing, so that none of them can later turn round and say "well, you never even tried to tell me".  But yeah, leaving them aside.

So, in effect, Alice sends a message to a group of people.  Bob, Charlie, David, Ephiral, etc.  Alice knows that all of their receivers are faulty and, even more annoyingly, faulty in slightly different ways.  Bob's cuts out for ten seconds every minute, Charlie's gtes progressively worse after two minutes, etc. As such, Alice crafts her message - which is the same in every case - to overcome this.  One bit is at the beginning so Charlie will pick it up, the next part is in a period when she knows Bob's will be on, the third at a high enough frequency that David's low-frequency-deaf receiver will get it.  Etc.

Bob, Charlie et al then write down the bits of their message, as best they understood it.  Comparison of all received messages yields the full text.  Some will have bits that are warped from the original text (as opposed to simply not received) and those bits can be identified because of their lack of cohesiveness with the remainder.

Verifying receipt isn't an issue for two reasons.  One, Alice can physcially "see" the receipt of the message and two Alice is a, errrrr, a time traveller.  She's already seen that the message is received, there's nothing random here.

Does that work?  I dunno, apologies if I've mangled jargon.

Quote from: Ephiral
Okay, so we can't receive the message without corruption. Fine. We have protocols that can verify accurate receipt nigh-instantly on the receiver's end, and in the event of error, can pinpoint that error to within a very small margin. Why is God so much worse at this than a bunch of monkeys in shoes who have been thinking about this for 70 years?

Because this simply isn't a concern.  This is precisely why heretics are told to repent.  A good faith misintepretation carries no moral penalty.  Five, ten, fifty, a trillion years from now everything I thing may well have been decried as heretical.  No blame attaches to me, though, as at this time I had no way of knowing they would be.  Confirmation, transit time, propagation time, etc are simply not important.  Sinking and floating kitchen tables.  Alice is certain we have all the information we need at this time and isn't dick enough to penalise us for not knowing stuff we haven't been told.  Putting in those protocols is more effort than not doing and as there is no need for them it's easier not to bother.

Quote from: Ephiral
It's the fault of the transmitter because the transmitter is the one with the power to change what is happening. The receiver is essentially passive, doing little more than verifying accurate receipt (and not even doing that, in the construction you seem to be proposing). If one party is doing everything, then yes, it's on that one party to get it right.

But communication is a two way street.  If we're chatting, face to face, and while you're trying to tell me something I have my fingers in my ears and am shouting "la la la, I can't hear you" then its clearly not your fault as transmitter that I'm not receiving your message.  Active listening is a thing.

Right?
As I've said, this isn't a belief I actually hold so if this explanation is a little weak then I apologise. 

People feel good after giving.  I cited a study about this very early in the conversation and there are multiple others.  People get a kick out of giving to charity that isn't repeated when paying taxes.  God wants us to be happy and knows we get that kick.  Hence the commandment to give to the poor.

It's not usurping because the poor receiving something is purely incidental.  It's like if, as a result of this conversation, some not-one-of-us-two party learns something about, well, anything.  It's a benefit to them, certainly, but not the purpose.  (Or maybe it is, actually.  I certainly want people to understand C of E teachings better and you want people to view and scrutinise your beliefs... maybe thats a shitty example now I come to think of it.  If only there was some key on the keyboard that would make it be, I dunno, "deleted".  They could put it right next to "insert" where that pointless one labelled "del" currently sits.  Seriously, what the fuck is that?  And I why would I need a key that gives my back extra space?  I'm in an odd mood.  Half insane from the heat, I suspect.)
Quote from: Ephiral
So pareidolia exists in both worlds. In that case, the only way that !God-world would fail to have religion is if God is a concept that cannot possibly come from the human imagination. That... strikes me as an extremely bold claim to make.

Regardless of its boldness, it is precisely my claim.  !God world would have no religion because religion is an unconscious drive towards God.  Lacking His presence means, well, His presence is lacking.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #31 on: July 13, 2013, 07:41:10 PM »
Man, screwed up quotes AGAIN.  Sorry about that.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #32 on: July 13, 2013, 10:16:25 PM »
I won that didn't I?  Remind me to check.
Last message in that chain that I have from you was replied to quite some time ago.

No.  Teaching is sufficient for the current time.  Everything we need to know at the current time has been given to us already, answers aren't needed on that sort of timescale because they're already present.  The answers we're receiving now relate to cloning, to genetic engineering, etc - to the problems we will soon face.  Or, you know, that's the Christian view - that everything needed now is already present.
I... think I can understand that, though from my POV it's rather overoptimistic.

I think you're being a bit disingenuous here.  Wikipedia lists a set of core precepts rationalists must adopt, even lesswrong talks in terms of "becoming a rationalist".  It's a thought system, the teaching of which in schools (or promotion of which rather, I have no objection to students learning about thought systems) I see as wrong, not simply a method of problem solving.
As I see it, the "becoming" is largely a matter of "applying this methodology on an ongoing basis in your life". It changes the way you look at the world, sure. So does "becoming a scientist", but we have no problem teaching science. The same could be said of "becoming a lawyer", for that matter.

Bob, Charlie et al then write down the bits of their message, as best they understood it.  Comparison of all received messages yields the full text.  Some will have bits that are warped from the original text (as opposed to simply not received) and those bits can be identified because of their lack of cohesiveness with the remainder.
Assuming that every one of them is in communication and cooperation with every other one, and even then it will take a lot of work - certainly more than basic error correction.

Because this simply isn't a concern.  This is precisely why heretics are told to repent.  A good faith misintepretation carries no moral penalty.  Five, ten, fifty, a trillion years from now everything I thing may well have been decried as heretical.  No blame attaches to me, though, as at this time I had no way of knowing they would be.  Confirmation, transit time, propagation time, etc are simply not important.  Sinking and floating kitchen tables.  Alice is certain we have all the information we need at this time and isn't dick enough to penalise us for not knowing stuff we haven't been told.  Putting in those protocols is more effort than not doing and as there is no need for them it's easier not to bother.
So... exactly how is this communication at all? If it doesn't matter who hears what when... why say anything? And no - putting in those protocols is more work in implementation, but less in use. Implementation needs to be done exactly once. Use is an ongoing case. So it's a worthwhile trade if "more effort" is actually a concern.

But communication is a two way street.  If we're chatting, face to face, and while you're trying to tell me something I have my fingers in my ears and am shouting "la la la, I can't hear you" then its clearly not your fault as transmitter that I'm not receiving your message.  Active listening is a thing.
I... don't think I'm understanding this correctly. Are you saying that the numerous examples we have of religious groups going wrong were all malicious? They weren't listening in good faith?

Right?
As I've said, this isn't a belief I actually hold so if this explanation is a little weak then I apologise. 

People feel good after giving.  I cited a study about this very early in the conversation and there are multiple others.  People get a kick out of giving to charity that isn't repeated when paying taxes.  God wants us to be happy and knows we get that kick.  Hence the commandment to give to the poor.

It's not usurping because the poor receiving something is purely incidental.  It's like if, as a result of this conversation, some not-one-of-us-two party learns something about, well, anything.  It's a benefit to them, certainly, but not the purpose.
Right.
I suspect that you're not arguing this as well as the rest of your case, perhaps because you don't believe it, because... this seems kinda incoherent and rather offensive. "Pray away problems unless they're someone else's, then meddle away for your own benefit, because poor people have no agency - not even the agency you have to pray your problems away." This is... not a compelling argument for the soundness of religious moral reasoning to me.

And yeah, I'm familiar with the feel-good of giving to charity - and the rather interesting corollary that people view this as a moral license to be a bit more dickish elsewhere in life.

Regardless of its boldness, it is precisely my claim.  !God world would have no religion because religion is an unconscious drive towards God.  Lacking His presence means, well, His presence is lacking.
And here's where it falls apart to me, because extraordinary claims, extraordinary evidence, etc.
[/quote]

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #33 on: July 13, 2013, 11:13:45 PM »
Quote from: Ephiral
As I see it, the "becoming" is largely a matter of "applying this methodology on an ongoing basis in your life". It changes the way you look at the world, sure. So does "becoming a scientist", but we have no problem teaching science. The same could be said of "becoming a lawyer", for that matter.

Mmm, we have no issue teaching science, or law, or RE, or PE - being a professional athlete changes your worldview (I should imagine).  What we - or possibly I - have an issue with is teaching people to become scientists, lawyers, priests or athletes.  Because it closes doors, it limits.  Teach them about it, sure.  About what it means, about the works of Bentham, Hart, Aquinus and Cisse.  But once you're training them to become a specific thing (at an early age, I mean.  Clearly I don't object to plumber's training) you're automatically dissuading every other thing.

Quote from: Ephiral
Assuming that every one of them is in communication and cooperation with every other one, and even then it will take a lot of work - certainly more than basic error correction.
 

Out of interest, then, how would you approach the set up I gave?  From a pure information theory persepctive, what would be the ideal solution.  Keeping it non-medium specific.

Quote from: Ephiral
So... exactly how is this communication at all? If it doesn't matter who hears what when... why say anything?

Sorry, I don't get your question here?

Quote from: Ephiral
And no - putting in those protocols is more work in implementation, but less in use. Implementation needs to be done exactly once. Use is an ongoing case. So it's a worthwhile trade if "more effort" is actually a concern.

I think "more effort" is a concern - and here I vary from the official C of E position.  You mention above that God created the world in a week, but He actually didn't.  The Bible says 6 days before "resting" on Sunday.  Sure, it's an etiology and not meant to be read literally but there is a common theme that while God can perform any task, he can't necessarily perform it with no effort.  So, following on, effort seems to be a variable in his thinking.

I realise that's a side issue to your point.

To address your main point, this assumes that god-man communication can be precisely described by existing information theory when it can't.  As the creator of the network, God would be the one who set up such protocols and clearly He felt (because anthropomorphism is fun for all the family) that they weren't needed.

Quote from: Ephiral
I... don't think I'm understanding this correctly. Are you saying that the numerous examples we have of religious groups going wrong were all malicious? They weren't listening in good faith?

No no no, sorry.  While I'm sure there are examples of bad faith listening, all I was trying to do is say that your blanket statement that if communication fails its the fault of the transmitter is clearly not the case.

Quote from: Ephiral
Right
I suspect that you're not arguing this as well as the rest of your case, perhaps because you don't believe it, because... this seems kinda incoherent and rather offensive. "Pray away problems unless they're someone else's, then meddle away for your own benefit, because poor people have no agency - not even the agency you have to pray your problems away." This is... not a compelling argument for the soundness of religious moral reasoning to me.

And yeah, I'm familiar with the feel-good of giving to charity - and the rather interesting corollary that people view this as a moral license to be a bit more dickish elsewhere in life.
Yeah, you're right
Yeah, I have no doubt you're correct here.  I'm trying to remember and reconstruct arguments I heard and dismissed a few years ago and clearly making a hash of it.

Should probably have thrown my arms up and admitted I couldn't answer that a bit ago but I shall do so now.  My attempt was at least genuine, if that counts for anything.

Quote from: Ephiral
And here's where it falls apart to me, because extraordinary claims, extraordinary evidence, etc.

This from a rationalist?  It's a pithy maxim, sure, but really doesn't seem to apply in this case.  First - who defines "extraordinary" in the first usage.  You're lacking an agreed upon definition straight off the bat.  I'm not claiming something contrary to observed facts, I'm claiming an alternate explanation of observed facts.  Which I don't think qualifies as "universally agreeable as extraordinary".  Really, it's more a hypothesis than a claim and I've stated falsifiable criteria for it above Second - what evidence would you accept here?  You seem to be dismissing a claim that is unprovable because there's no evidence - which, sure, I get - but then making the exact same form of claim (that God is conceivable to humans in a world where he doesn't exist) which is likewise utterly unprovable and lacking evidence.  Relating to point one, I can point to that as an extraordinary claim and dismiss it using exactly the same reasoning.  Finally, and this is a general objection, it flies in the face of the entire scientific method.  Claims aren't proven true, they're proven false. 

I've really never liked that argument.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #34 on: July 13, 2013, 11:15:11 PM »
Man.  got quotes right, screwed up spoiler.  Really need to preview before posting.

There's relevant information in the spoiler box.  How I wish I could edit.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #35 on: July 14, 2013, 12:15:02 AM »
Mmm, we have no issue teaching science, or law, or RE, or PE - being a professional athlete changes your worldview (I should imagine).  What we - or possibly I - have an issue with is teaching people to become scientists, lawyers, priests or athletes.  Because it closes doors, it limits.  Teach them about it, sure.  About what it means, about the works of Bentham, Hart, Aquinus and Cisse.  But once you're training them to become a specific thing (at an early age, I mean.  Clearly I don't object to plumber's training) you're automatically dissuading every other thing.
True. I was thinking specifically of methodology when I said this - Bayes, the heart of a lot of said methodology, is something that appears (to me) to be accessible at the high school level without getting into any of the proposals covered in that wikipedia article or most of the CPBD interview.

I admittedly have less problem with the idea of kids learning rationalism at a young age because I think it's right, but I'll admit it can look creepy from the outside. Religious schools sure as shit look creepy to me. (Why are those not an issue, by the by?) I'd be glad to take both off the table.
 
Out of interest, then, how would you approach the set up I gave?  From a pure information theory persepctive, what would be the ideal solution.  Keeping it non-medium specific.
The first and most obvious change: If we're assuming that no one person will get the complete, uncorrupted message, but any two people's versions will be corrupted differently, and the solution to that is redundancy? Then make that redundancy efficient. None of this "just keep trying" crap. Without getting too technical, we have ways of building messages so that of Bob, Charlie, and David all have differently-corrupted versions, any two of them can rebuild the complete message intact. You think that dividing the Bible into chapter and verse was a bad idea? I see it as allowing for natural block divisions, to help precisely pinpoint corruption. Getting too technical: I can show you a pseudorandom generator that is usable by hand, and could be used to accomplish things that look an awful lot like modern verification techniques. And again, this is what our fallible monkey brains came up with given 65 years of thought on the subject. God's got to be at least this good, and those same monkey brains have worked a lot more than 65 years at verifying the accuracy of the received message, with extremely mixed results.

Sorry, I don't get your question here?
You've said that timing, accuracy, and specific audience are not issues. If it doesn't matter who heard it, when they heard it, or what "it" they heard, what distinguishes your message from random noise? Why bother transmitting at all?

I think "more effort" is a concern - and here I vary from the official C of E position.  You mention above that God created the world in a week, but He actually didn't.  The Bible says 6 days before "resting" on Sunday.  Sure, it's an etiology and not meant to be read literally but there is a common theme that while God can perform any task, he can't necessarily perform it with no effort.  So, following on, effort seems to be a variable in his thinking.
So... the path of least effort is "hard implementation, easy communication".

To address your main point, this assumes that god-man communication can be precisely described by existing information theory when it can't.  As the creator of the network, God would be the one who set up such protocols and clearly He felt (because anthropomorphism is fun for all the family) that they weren't needed.
I'm seeing a lot of what looks like "Separate magisteria!" here. This is... an interesting reversal from a lot of the verifiable physical claims made in the Bible. Why is a firewall suddenly appropriate when we start asking pointed questions, when it wasn't in the source material?

(Also, I submit that "God implemented this imperfectly" is a valid hypothesis with at least equal and apparently greater  explanatory power. I understand that it's generally not on the table for the religious. This is curious and foreign to me - I generally take "This must not be questioned!" as a red flag that there is a known fault in reasoning hiding behind the curtain.)

No no no, sorry.  While I'm sure there are examples of bad faith listening, all I was trying to do is say that your blanket statement that if communication fails its the fault of the transmitter is clearly not the case.
All right, I'll amend: If both parties are honestly attempting to communicate, then it's on the transmitter to make sure the message is received and understood.

Breaking this next bit into chunks as it contains several arguments:

This from a rationalist?  It's a pithy maxim, sure, but really doesn't seem to apply in this case.  First - who defines "extraordinary" in the first usage.  You're lacking an agreed upon definition straight off the bat.  I'm not claiming something contrary to observed facts, I'm claiming an alternate explanation of observed facts.  Which I don't think qualifies as "universally agreeable as extraordinary". Really, it's more a hypothesis than a claim and I've stated falsifiable criteria for it above

You're claiming something unsupported by observed facts, which requires an extra element that vastly increases the message length, and which offers (as far as I can see) no additional explanatory power above and beyond hypotheses that do not require this extra element.

Second - what evidence would you accept here?  You seem to be dismissing a claim that is unprovable because there's no evidence - which, sure, I get - but then making the exact same form of claim (that God is conceivable to humans in a world where he doesn't exist) which is likewise utterly unprovable and lacking evidence.   Relating to point one, I can point to that as an extraordinary claim and dismiss it using exactly the same reasoning.

Actually, all I'm asserting is that the idea of God is not in a special class separate from every other idea that has ever passed through a human brain, and that the human brain can encompass counterfactuals. This fits all observed phenomena of which I am aware, is practically falsifiable (does the brain work significantly differently when we think "God", in a way we cannot reproduce with other subjects or other means?), and fulfils minimum message length in a way your offering does not. As for what evidence I would accept: The brain-function test, above, would be a huge pile of evidence, Bayesian and scientific alike.

Really, it's more a hypothesis than a claim and I've stated falsifiable criteria for it above Finally, and this is a general objection, it flies in the face of the entire scientific method.  Claims aren't proven true, they're proven false.[/quote]When I use this argument, I am speaking of Bayesian evidence, and in particular a stage that comes before science. This is way before trying to disprove something; it's more "which ideas are worth the effort to try and disprove?"

A more in-depth look at this concept; a bit of a digression.
Basically, for any phenomenon you care to name, there is a nigh-infinite number of possible hypotheses that would explain it. God, Thor, Indra, and Maxwell's equations are all hypotheses that do a good job of explaining, within their frameworks, why electricity occasionally leaps from the sky and murders something, for example. In the absence of any other evidence, then, we must assign a uniform probability of epsilon to every one of these hypotheses - and, since we have a finite amount of attention and effort, devoting more than epsilon thought to any one of them is unjustifiably privileging it over the others. In fact, the mere act of conceiving of these hypotheses privileges some unfairly, because we're never going to come up with all of them. So we have to look for Bayesian evidence - other observable data that we can plug into Bayes and break that uniform distribution with. Maxwell's, for example, has the neat property of tying into physics as we can observe it in ways outside the realm of lightning, and ergo is worth testing. This evidence does not say that Maxwell's is correct, or even that it has failed to be falsified - just that it is worth trying to falsify. Bayesian standards of evidence are far more permissive than those of the lab or courtroom - basically, anything we can point to and say "This hypothesis makes more sense in this context" or "This hypothesis would make X make more sense" is going to raise an idea above background noise, to some degree. The more complex a claim, or the more divergent from previous observations, the more such evidence will be required to raise it to the same height.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #36 on: July 14, 2013, 12:15:56 AM »
That's all right, I screwed up my final quote block too. Handle with care when replying.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #37 on: July 14, 2013, 07:41:58 AM »
Quote from: Ephiral
I admittedly have less problem with the idea of kids learning rationalism at a young age because I think it's right, but I'll admit it can look creepy from the outside. Religious schools sure as shit look creepy to me. (Why are those not an issue, by the by?) I'd be glad to take both off the table.

Yeah, it never looks as creepy when its your own side.  I absolutely do have an issue with religious schools, it's just we were discussing rationalism in schools.  "Religious School" actually means something a little different over here to the US at least - no idea about the Canadian educational system - and I have much less of an issue with our variant, but yeah.  They're wrong and shouldn't be allowed for exactly my reasons above.

Quote from: Ephiral
None of this "just keep trying" crap.

Here is where we differ.  Constant communication from man to god - prayer - is important as is from god to man - ongoing revelation.  Because the sole goal isn't to have infodumped everything on man in the first century AD, there's a benefit to an ongoing presence of God in our lives (you know, to me obviously).  So this may well have been a mistake in my example.  Better to say the message grows and expands over time - nothing that is said is unsaid but Alice wants to know that Bob, Charlie, etc, continue to listen to her so adds more and more into the message over time (as I say, she knows its been received and she isn't swamping earlier bits).

Quote from: Ephiral
You've said that timing, accuracy, and specific audience are not issues. If it doesn't matter who heard it, when they heard it, or what "it" they heard, what distinguishes your message from random noise? Why bother transmitting at all?

Lets say SETI changes focus and starts being more active.  It beams pulses of radio waves - lets say in prime numbers - to likely looking exoplanets.  It doesn't matter when they aliens hear it, which aliens hear it or whether they get the whole message or just 2-17. 

Quote from: Ephiral
I'm seeing a lot of what looks like "Separate magisteria!" here. This is... an interesting reversal from a lot of the verifiable physical claims made in the Bible. Why is a firewall suddenly appropriate when we start asking pointed questions, when it wasn't in the source material?

I think the bulk of that argument was aimed at someone who's not me.  I'm not a Biblical literalist.  Some of the verifiable physical claims that are made in the Bible were intended as etiology and not meant to be read literally - modern day literalists are reading it objectively incorrectly there.  The ones that weren't, and I freely admit there are some that weren't, may well have represented cutting edge science in Bronze Age Israel but now look kinda naive. 

Seperate magisteria isn't quite my position - as I say, my position is that science is by its very in-universe nature not an appropriate tool for ananlysing out of universe things - but I will admit the two are related.  I see no issue.

For the record my position is that the Bible is infallible in matters related to salvation, not that it is inerrant.  Returning to Paul and homosexuality, I think there are quite a lot of sections that are in error.

Quote from: Ephiral
All right, I'll amend: If both parties are honestly attempting to communicate, then it's on the transmitter to make sure the message is received and understood.

This has the strong potential to come across as an attack on you, and I want to preface by saying its not intended as such and I'll do all I can do make it clear.

A common complaint against religious people relates to goalpost moving.  Here, what has quite clearly happened is that as the conversation has shifted you've been forced to amend a previous statement.  Which would be viewed as reasonable.  But so often when a religious person does the same then they are meet with cries of "You're moving the goalposts" rather than an understanding that previous statements may well have been incomplete or incorrect.  Fundamental attribution error.

As I say, its not something I'm accusing you, Ephiral, of.  Simply an extremely annoying tendency I've seen from atheists that this reminded me of.

*climbs down from soapbox, cries when notices that two successive sentences have not only been ended with a preposition but ended with the same preposition*

But OK.  You and I have a codebook.  If I PM you with "pictureframe" it means I've posted in this dialogue and its your turn to respond.  If I PM you with "beer bottle" it means I've seen a shiny butterfly I want to chase so my reply might take a while.  Leaving aside the terrifying insight into my desk implicit there, if you lose that code book and I PM you with "ashtray" then we have a) a good faith attempt to communicate from both sides but that b) has failed due to the fault of the receiver.

Quote from: Ephiral
You're claiming something unsupported by observed facts, which requires an extra element that vastly increases the message length, and which offers (as far as I can see) no additional explanatory power above and beyond hypotheses that do not require this extra element.

I would disagree, I don't think it is unsupported by observed facts any more than your proposal.  You are saying all three of my terms are elements of a whole, I am saying there are two mechanisms.  I don't see how my explanation is more or less supported by yours.  The message length and explanatory power I'll agree to, but I'm not certain that makes the claim extraordinary.

Quote from: Ephiral
Actually, all I'm asserting is that the idea of God is not in a special class separate from every other idea that has ever passed through a human brain, and that the human brain can encompass counterfactuals.

But you've failed to prove that humans can imagine real things before being exposed to them.  Medieval Europe told no tales of the aardvark nor did the Iroquois Confederacy gather round campfires to hear legends of the horse.  So firstly, the statement that my idea is that God is in a seperate class doesn't hold up.

Secondly even if those could be shown (which to the best of my knowledge they can't), as I've said before - in a vast number of cases when something appears to be in a special class its because we haven't fully understood the classes, which is precisely what I'm proposing here.

Quote from: Ephiral
As for what evidence I would accept: The brain-function test, above, would be a huge pile of evidence, Bayesian and scientific alike.

There is actually some evidence that thinking about God produces unusual brain activity.  I'll happily admit that study is not the greatest, though, simply the greatest I know of.

Quote from: Ephiral
When I use this argument, I am speaking of Bayesian evidence, and in particular a stage that comes before science. This is way before trying to disprove something; it's more "which ideas are worth the effort to try and disprove?"

OK, I can accept this.  I do feel it's a little, well, unfair though.  Religion is criticised for not making solid disprovable claims, and then when it does they are dismissed as not worthy of disproving for not reaching a higher level of probability.  I get the purpose of science isn't to be fair, but that does seem a particularly low blow.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #38 on: July 14, 2013, 01:46:26 PM »
Yeah, it never looks as creepy when its your own side.  I absolutely do have an issue with religious schools, it's just we were discussing rationalism in schools.  "Religious School" actually means something a little different over here to the US at least - no idea about the Canadian educational system - and I have much less of an issue with our variant, but yeah.  They're wrong and shouldn't be allowed for exactly my reasons above.
All right, then. I have no issues here.

Here is where we differ.  Constant communication from man to god - prayer - is important as is from god to man - ongoing revelation.  Because the sole goal isn't to have infodumped everything on man in the first century AD, there's a benefit to an ongoing presence of God in our lives (you know, to me obviously).  So this may well have been a mistake in my example.  Better to say the message grows and expands over time - nothing that is said is unsaid but Alice wants to know that Bob, Charlie, etc, continue to listen to her so adds more and more into the message over time (as I say, she knows its been received and she isn't swamping earlier bits).
All right, so God is continuing to transmit - and knows that, as of right now, we have the capacity to understand messages with complex features like blockwise integrity and hashing. So why are these features not being used to drastically increase the signal:noise ratio, and thus massively increase the bandwidth at which God can transmit while reducing the number of times the same message needs to be transmitted? The method you propose is far, far more work-intensive on both sides of the equation, slower, and far less likely to get good results.

Lets say SETI changes focus and starts being more active.  It beams pulses of radio waves - lets say in prime numbers - to likely looking exoplanets.  It doesn't matter when they aliens hear it, which aliens hear it or whether they get the whole message or just 2-17.
It matters when and how clear, at the very least. If they hear it before they've figured out how to pinpoint the source, they're screwed. If there is so much noise that they cannot distinguish it from randomness, they're screwed.

Also, the numbers being transmitted aren't really the message. The message is "We are here! Talk to us!". It's a handshake, not a message per se.

I think the bulk of that argument was aimed at someone who's not me.  I'm not a Biblical literalist.  Some of the verifiable physical claims that are made in the Bible were intended as etiology and not meant to be read literally - modern day literalists are reading it objectively incorrectly there.  The ones that weren't, and I freely admit there are some that weren't, may well have represented cutting edge science in Bronze Age Israel but now look kinda naive.

Seperate magisteria isn't quite my position - as I say, my position is that science is by its very in-universe nature not an appropriate tool for ananlysing out of universe things - but I will admit the two are related.  I see no issue.
But you also seem to view science as a poor tool for judging anything that has ever had contact with an out-of-universe phenomenon, even if it is entirely in-universe now. This is where I have issue. Something that is entirely contained within this universe - a received message, for instance - can be studied using the tools we use to study things-of-this-universe. Even if it didn't obey the laws of the universe, that would be something that would be highly informative, which science could tell us.

For the record my position is that the Bible is infallible in matters related to salvation, not that it is inerrant.  Returning to Paul and homosexuality, I think there are quite a lot of sections that are in error.
I may have misunderstood Paul, then; I thought that "you shall not be saved if you commit these acts" was implicit in his message.

This has the strong potential to come across as an attack on you, and I want to preface by saying its not intended as such and I'll do all I can do make it clear.

A common complaint against religious people relates to goalpost moving.  Here, what has quite clearly happened is that as the conversation has shifted you've been forced to amend a previous statement.  Which would be viewed as reasonable.  But so often when a religious person does the same then they are meet with cries of "You're moving the goalposts" rather than an understanding that previous statements may well have been incomplete or incorrect.  Fundamental attribution error.

As I say, its not something I'm accusing you, Ephiral, of.  Simply an extremely annoying tendency I've seen from atheists that this reminded me of.

*climbs down from soapbox, cries when notices that two successive sentences have not only been ended with a preposition but ended with the same preposition*
I understand your frustration, so let me open by making the distinction explicit: I was wrong in my first formulation. You satisfied its criteria; hit scored. My second attempt at formulation is trying to correct my original error.

To me, at least, the key element in goalpost shifting is the refusal to acknowledge the above. You didn't really meet the goal because of previously unspecified criterion X. That, frankly, is rankest bullshit. You are absolutely not guilty of it, but I do see it from religious debaters very frequently. Cries of "goalpost shifting!" are often (by no means always) warranted.

But OK.  You and I have a codebook.  If I PM you with "pictureframe" it means I've posted in this dialogue and its your turn to respond.  If I PM you with "beer bottle" it means I've seen a shiny butterfly I want to chase so my reply might take a while.  Leaving aside the terrifying insight into my desk implicit there, if you lose that code book and I PM you with "ashtray" then we have a) a good faith attempt to communicate from both sides but that b) has failed due to the fault of the receiver.
This may seem a little meta, but I'd argue that it is the fault of the transmitter in choosing an extremely fragile protocol.

[/i]I would disagree, I don't think it is unsupported by observed facts any more than your proposal.  You are saying all three of my terms are elements of a whole, I am saying there are two mechanisms.  I don't see how my explanation is more or less supported by yours.  The message length and explanatory power I'll agree to, but I'm not certain that makes the claim extraordinary.
What justification is there for carving pattern recognition into two separate categories? I'm not seeing one that can be derived from the observable data.

But you've failed to prove that humans can imagine real things before being exposed to them.  Medieval Europe told no tales of the aardvark nor did the Iroquois Confederacy gather round campfires to hear legends of the horse.  So firstly, the statement that my idea is that God is in a seperate class doesn't hold up.
First: In !God-world, God is not real, so imagining him does not require the ability to imagine real things before encountering them. Second: Science rests on this capacity - it's a significant portion of the predictive power of hypotheses. We've discovered everything from subatomic particles to animals to planets by imagining real things that would explain a known phenomenon, then going looking for them.

Secondly even if those could be shown (which to the best of my knowledge they can't), as I've said before - in a vast number of cases when something appears to be in a special class its because we haven't fully understood the classes, which is precisely what I'm proposing here.
Necessary to your proposal is a justification for those class barriers; I don't see one that holds up at this point.

There is actually some evidence that thinking about God produces unusual brain activity.  I'll happily admit that study is not the greatest, though, simply the greatest I know of.
This fails basic rigor: What happens when atheists meditate? What about when astronauts have that life-changing look back at Earth? When non-religious people who are overawed by the majesty of the cosmos think about that? It is shown that this is different but not unique, which was a key point of the criteria I outlined.

This is me not taking cheap shots at the Daily Mail. Aren't I mature?

OK, I can accept this.  I do feel it's a little, well, unfair though.  Religion is criticised for not making solid disprovable claims, and then when it does they are dismissed as not worthy of disproving for not reaching a higher level of probability.  I get the purpose of science isn't to be fair, but that does seem a particularly low blow.
I don't see how it's unfair; I use the exact same reasoning to dismiss pseudoscientific claims. If you can't tell me why your idea is more likely to be true than literally every other idea possible, then I don't see why I should ascribe any more truth value to it than every other idea possible.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #39 on: July 14, 2013, 04:21:47 PM »
Quote from: Ephiral
All right, so God is continuing to transmit - and knows that, as of right now, we have the capacity to understand messages with complex features like blockwise integrity and hashing. So why are these features not being used to drastically increase the signal:noise ratio, and thus massively increase the bandwidth at which God can transmit while reducing the number of times the same message needs to be transmitted? The method you propose is far, far more work-intensive on both sides of the equation, slower, and far less likely to get good results.
 

I'm sorry, there's a little too much jargon there for me to answer.  I googled some key terms but then got caught in a wikipedia rabbit hole as I then was forced to look up terms in the explanation of the orginal terms and then terms in those second explanations and...

Is there any way that can be rephrased?

Quote from: Ephiral
It matters when and how clear, at the very least. If they hear it before they've figured out how to pinpoint the source, they're screwed. If there is so much noise that they cannot distinguish it from randomness, they're screwed.

Also, the numbers being transmitted aren't really the message. The message is "We are here! Talk to us!". It's a handshake, not a message per se.

Screwed is perhaps a little strong, and I would say even in the "before they can pinpoint the source" there is still a lot to be gained from the fact that such a message exists.  It kinda feels like we're dancing around an underlying issue here but I can't really place it.

Quote from: Ephiral
But you also seem to view science as a poor tool for judging anything that has ever had contact with an out-of-universe phenomenon, even if it is entirely in-universe now. This is where I have issue. Something that is entirely contained within this universe - a received message, for instance - can be studied using the tools we use to study things-of-this-universe. Even if it didn't obey the laws of the universe, that would be something that would be highly informative, which science could tell us.

Yes, I do (view science as a poor tool for etc etc etc).  The way the message propogates in universe - reading the writings of the original receivers for example - is entirely susceptible to information theory.  However, my point is that the traversal of the barrier fundamentally alters it enough that anything that has crossed that barrier retains - is contaminated by, you could say - out of worldness.

And yes.  It would be highly informative.  Which yes, science could tell us.  Two problems there, though.  One, we can't directly interact with the message and two, presumably, the claim that it is altered is so extraordinary that you feel it not worth investigating with science.

Quote from: Ephiral
I may have misunderstood Paul, then; I thought that "you shall not be saved if you commit these acts" was implicit in his message.

The Bible is infallible, the Bible as a whole.  Individual aspects are fallible but as discussed above, the message as a whole is what matters. 

Also, I'm not clear that Paul's comments regarding homosexuality actually relate to salvation.  I'll need to think about that, but my gut is that they don't.  If you're interested, nudge me in a couple of days when I've had a chance to do some reading.  My gut is that that would conflict with the universal applicability of salvation - which is obviously a key Pauline doctine - but, as I say, I'm not willing to make that as a hard and fast statement until I've considered it a bit further.

Thanks for that thought.  Have a train ride tomorrow and that'll give me something to do.

Quote from: Ephiral
I understand your frustration, so let me open by making the distinction explicit: I was wrong in my first formulation. You satisfied its criteria; hit scored. My second attempt at formulation is trying to correct my original error.

To me, at least, the key element in goalpost shifting is the refusal to acknowledge the above. You didn't really meet the goal because of previously unspecified criterion X. That, frankly, is rankest bullshit. You are absolutely not guilty of it, but I do see it from religious debaters very frequently. Cries of "goalpost shifting!" are often (by no means always) warranted.

Yeah, I certainly wasn't accusing you of it.  Your initial statement was inaccurate, you revised it when that was pointed out.  The moral of the story is "students of communication shouldn't be trusted with thinking up maxims" :P

I suspect there's an element of confirmation bias here, I overremember the times its inappropriately levied, you the times it isn't.

Quote from: Ephiral
This may seem a little meta, but I'd argue that it is the fault of the transmitter in choosing an extremely fragile protocol.

And if you thought up the protocol based on objects on your desk (half-finished poem about Kythia, dogeared copy of Spinoza's Ethics, machine for sucking all the joy and wonder out of the world and reducing it to cold numbers)?  Would I still be in fault for agreeing to your fragile protocol?

Nah, I'm messing around now and we're getting increasingly off topic.  Frankly, 99% of the reason for the above paragraph was a set up for my crack about the contents of your desk.

Quote from: Ephiral
What justification is there for carving pattern recognition into two separate categories? I'm not seeing one that can be derived from the observable data.

Once again, my issue here is that I believe you're being constrained by existing definitions.  You're talking about carving pattern recognition into two but that only exists as a factor because it is currently defined as one.  Remove that definition, or accept it could be wrong, and your objection fades.

Quote from: Ephiral
First: In !God-world, God is not real, so imagining him does not require the ability to imagine real things before encountering them. .

Errrm, it seems a little like you've lost track of the conversation.  For reference the below spoiler brings it up to date in one place.  If I'm mistaken then I apologise and could you restate your point as I don't see what you're getting at here.

Spoiler: Click to Show/Hide
Quote from: E
Pareidolia is facierror. Period. The other two - conceding God for the sake of argument - are the pattern recognition engine firing as it ought; pareidolia is what happens when this tool is applied to meaningless input. So... why would something that makes us prone to seeing invisible agency everywhere, not just where God is actually doing shit, be a requirement of being in God-world but not of being in !God-world? As I said, all it seems to accomplish is undermining the credibility of those who believe in Him.

Quote from: K
Sorry, that wasn't quite what I was trying to say.  What I'm trying to say is that your argument rests on those three phenomena being related, being three facets of the same mental mechanism.  I contend there are actually two there - the flipsides of Tigrisvidocy/Facierror  and then, separate, deosense.  So why does deosense say that thunder spirits are angry hence rain?  An incomplete nature of the understanding of God.  Both science and religion end the belief in the thunder spirits - be that by missionaries pointing out its wrong or hypothetical science missionaries doing same.

Quote from: E
So pareidolia exists in both worlds. In that case, the only way that !God-world would fail to have religion is if God is a concept that cannot possibly come from the human imagination. That... strikes me as an extremely bold claim to make.

Quote from: K
Regardless of its boldness, it is precisely my claim.  !God world would have no religion because religion is an unconscious drive towards God.  Lacking His presence means, well, His presence is lacking.

<irrelvance snipped>

Quote from: E
Actually, all I'm asserting is that the idea of God is not in a special class separate from every other idea that has ever passed through a human brain, and that the human brain can encompass counterfactuals. This fits all observed phenomena of which I am aware, is practically falsifiable (does the brain work significantly differently when we think "God", in a way we cannot reproduce with other subjects or other means?), and fulfils minimum message length in a way your offering does not. As for what evidence I would accept: The brain-function test, above, would be a huge pile of evidence, Bayesian and scientific alike.

Quote from: K
But you've failed to prove that humans can imagine real things before being exposed to them.  Medieval Europe told no tales of the aardvark nor did the Iroquois Confederacy gather round campfires to hear legends of the horse.  So firstly, the statement that my idea is that God is in a seperate class doesn't hold up.

Then your quote above (and later).

In essence it seems to me we've said:

It is my belief that !God world would have no religion as God is necessary to religion.  You said that that would only work if God was a concept that was unreachable by the human imagination,  I said yes and we talked for a bit about why you rejected that - extraordinary claims - and specifically that you felt that put God into a different class to everything else.  I said you'd fail to establish that it was a different class, you made your comment:

Quote from: Ephiral
First: In !God-world, God is not real, so imagining him does not require the ability to imagine real things before encountering them.

We were talking about the ability of humans to imagine God and my claim that he was unaproachable to the human imagination.  I don't really see the relevance of this point?  It seems like I've already addressed it by specifically stating that I don't believe he is imaginable without being real?

Sorry, if I'm wrong here.  But as I say, if I am can you restate this as I don't see what you're getting at.

Quote from: Ephiral
Necessary to your proposal is a justification for those class barriers; I don't see one that holds up at this point.

No, thats the inverse of my point.  You claimed that that would require God to be in a seperate class, I claimed we hadn't defined the class barriers correctly.  A justification for the class barrier is necessary to your proposal, I think they should be changed.

Quote from: Ephiral
This fails basic rigor: What happens when atheists meditate? What about when astronauts have that life-changing look back at Earth? When non-religious people who are overawed by the majesty of the cosmos think about that? It is shown that this is different but not unique, which was a key point of the criteria I outlined.

This is me not taking cheap shots at the Daily Mail. Aren't I mature?

Oh, I know, I know.  As I say, not the greatest, just the greatest I know of.  To be honest its been sat in a folder on my desktop where I keep shit I really must get around to looking in to at some point for quite some time.  While that research may exist - though frankly I doubt it - I'm certainly not aware of it and a brief googling didnt pull it up.  I just raised it as it seemed relevant as a starting point.

Quote from: Ephiral
I don't see how it's unfair; I use the exact same reasoning to dismiss pseudoscientific claims. If you can't tell me why your idea is more likely to be true than literally every other idea possible, then I don't see why I should ascribe any more truth value to it than every other idea possible.

Because a third of the world's population is Christian.  While numbers don't define truth, I would suggest that any standard of "important enough to check" that rules the opinions of a third of the world out may well be flawed.  That's why I feel it's worth checking.

The reason I feel its unfair is because a standard dialogue - not you at all here - goes:

Quote from: Hypothetical Christian
Christianity is true
Quote from: Hypothetical Atheist
The problem is that religion doesn't make falsifiable claims

It seems like you're adding on to that "And even if it did we wouldn't bother checking them because we don't think they're likely".  Which is just making the charge about falsifiable claims utterly unanswerable.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #40 on: July 14, 2013, 05:20:12 PM »
I'm sorry, there's a little too much jargon there for me to answer.  I googled some key terms but then got caught in a wikipedia rabbit hole as I then was forced to look up terms in the explanation of the orginal terms and then terms in those second explanations and...

Is there any way that can be rephrased?
Without getting into specifics: We can equip the receiver with the means to determine if an error has occurred, and where the fault is to a fairly high degree of precision. This helps limit the amount of noise that can possibly muddy our signal. The amount of noise determines how fast you can communicate and how much effort this requires. God is not using these methods to communicate more easily or clearly. This seems like a Big Problem, if you think that God loves you and wants you to grok his message.

Screwed is perhaps a little strong, and I would say even in the "before they can pinpoint the source" there is still a lot to be gained from the fact that such a message exists.  It kinda feels like we're dancing around an underlying issue here but I can't really place it.
Yes, there is information to be gleaned from the existence of this message. This information has nothing to do with the content of the message. I don't think that's the case here - I presume you're not arguing that the actual message of Scripture is irrelevant?

Yes, I do (view science as a poor tool for etc etc etc).  The way the message propogates in universe - reading the writings of the original receivers for example - is entirely susceptible to information theory.  However, my point is that the traversal of the barrier fundamentally alters it enough that anything that has crossed that barrier retains - is contaminated by, you could say - out of worldness.
I... don't see the justification for this. If it retains out-of-worldness, it should behave in ways that information theory tells us is impossible. I don't see any such behaviour without sinking into circular logic.

And yes.  It would be highly informative.  Which yes, science could tell us.  Two problems there, though.  One, we can't directly interact with the message and two, presumably, the claim that it is altered is so extraordinary that you feel it not worth investigating with science.
Partial plaintexts are still extremely informative, even in extremely small scraps. Unless you're willing to argue that not one word of the message has been deciphered thus far, lacking the original message is not an impediment to at least some forms of analysis.

This might sound like I'm shifting things again, but there's a counterbalancing factor that can make an extraordinary claim worth testing: If the test requires trivial effort as compared to the potential payoff. I don't particularly care to measure "proof of some form of deity" offhand as a potential payoff, but... suffice to say it's huge. Given a simple test, it's worth doing. This leaves me at "In what way can we confirm that scripture violates information theory?"

I suspect there's an element of confirmation bias here, I overremember the times its inappropriately levied, you the times it isn't.
Confirmation bias is always at play., If anyone could actually update on the evidence, they would have a greater power than every Nobel laureate put together.

And if you thought up the protocol based on objects on your desk (half-finished poem about Kythia, dogeared copy of Spinoza's Ethics, machine for sucking all the joy and wonder out of the world and reducing it to cold numbers)?  Would I still be in fault for agreeing to your fragile protocol?
Yes, because you are the one that chooses the protocol to transmit with. I can suggest a shit protocol, but I can't do a damn thing about it if you say "No, we're not using that." And how did you know about the poem and my doomsday device?

Once again, my issue here is that I believe you're being constrained by existing definitions.  You're talking about carving pattern recognition into two but that only exists as a factor because it is currently defined as one.  Remove that definition, or accept it could be wrong, and your objection fades.
Not really, because that question holds for any categorical boundary. "Why here?" These things have more properties in common than distinct, so why are we dividing them at this point?

Errrm, it seems a little like you've lost track of the conversation.  For reference the below spoiler brings it up to date in one place.  If I'm mistaken then I apologise and could you restate your point as I don't see what you're getting at here.

Spoiler: Click to Show/Hide
We were talking about the ability of humans to imagine God and my claim that he was unaproachable to the human imagination.  I don't really see the relevance of this point?  It seems like I've already addressed it by specifically stating that I don't believe he is imaginable without being real?
Then I ask, why not? We imagine unreal things all the time; what makes this different?

No, thats the inverse of my point.  You claimed that that would require God to be in a seperate class, I claimed we hadn't defined the class barriers correctly.  A justification for the class barrier is necessary to your proposal, I think they should be changed.
Um. One of us is not understanding the other here, and I'm not sure which. My proposition:

1. The human brain is naturally capable of coming up with a wide range of diverse ideas which may or may not have any bearing on reality. This appears self-evident.

2. Religion, and specifically human conceptions of God, are a specific subset of ideas.

3. Therefore, if the human brain is incapable of coming up with these ideas, they must have some trait separates them from the category of ideas as a whole.

4. You assert that the human brain is incapable of coming up with these ideas, so I am looking for the trait that you think separates them.

Oh, I know, I know.  As I say, not the greatest, just the greatest I know of.  To be honest its been sat in a folder on my desktop where I keep shit I really must get around to looking in to at some point for quite some time.  While that research may exist - though frankly I doubt it - I'm certainly not aware of it and a brief googling didnt pull it up.  I just raised it as it seemed relevant as a starting point.
It's a starting point, but not one worth making an assertion on. It's half an experiment.

Because a third of the world's population is Christian.  While numbers don't define truth, I would suggest that any standard of "important enough to check" that rules the opinions of a third of the world out may well be flawed.  That's why I feel it's worth checking.
Popularity of an idea has no bearing on whether it is likely to be true. If it did, then "Those guys from the other tribe are inferior to us in every way!" would be the standard by which all other truths are measured.

The reason I feel its unfair is because a standard dialogue - not you at all here - goes:

It seems like you're adding on to that "And even if it did we wouldn't bother checking them because we don't think they're likely".  Which is just making the charge about falsifiable claims utterly unanswerable.
Yeah, see... to me, that's a poor argument for the atheist. I don't think it's particularly unfair to correct it. Again, I hold other ideas to the same standard - even actual scientific hypotheses have to pass the "Why should we treat this as more likely than 'a wizard did it'?" test. Then we get to the question of "How can we test the truth-value of this statement?". From my perspective, all things asserted as true or potentially true have to pass through both stages.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #41 on: July 14, 2013, 10:19:44 PM »
Quote from: Ephiral
Without getting into specifics: We can equip the receiver with the means to determine if an error has occurred, and where the fault is to a fairly high degree of precision. This helps limit the amount of noise that can possibly muddy our signal. The amount of noise determines how fast you can communicate and how much effort this requires. God is not using these methods to communicate more easily or clearly. This seems like a Big Problem, if you think that God loves you and wants you to grok his message.

Right, I get you.  Sorry for being dense, just try to pretend you're talking to an idiot.

And I think I've put my finger on the underlying issue I mentioned earlier. 

See, analysing this from an information theory perspective is a mistake.  I'm stating how I believe the message is transmitted, you're saying that's incompatible with information theory.  Well, the intent isn't to confirm or disprove information theory.  I get that you're simply using as one of a number of tools, but I feel its an inappropriate one.  Information theory was developed for how humans transmit information.  But thats simply not what we're talking about.  You say you don't see how to reconcile my statements of how the message is received with information theory, and I think we've fallen into a "when all you have is a hammer" problem here.  I realise its a particular interest of yours but its simply not an appropriate tool.  I say that the crossover of the barrier affects the message giving it the same characteristics as God, you say information theory still applies.  You don't however, I presume at least, claim that thermodynamics applies to ensoulment.  But there's exactly the same barrier crossing there.  You don't, I presume, claim that aerodynamics applies to souls ascending to heaven, but there's the same barrier crossing there, albeit in the opposite direction. You don't I presume wonder why ceilings don't block God's observation of our sins. But you seem to be saying that information theory definitely applies despite it being analogous to every other human/divine interaction.
 
It almost seems like you're defining information theory as a goal in itself, when it isn't. 

Sure, we can disagree on whether a message is being transmitted and received.  I say it is, you presumably say it isn't.  That's an important discussion.  But whether God is using a specific method to "communicate more easily and clearly" seems like the scientific equivalent of angels dancing on a pin.  It's a side issue.

Quote from: Ephiral
Yes, there is information to be gleaned from the existence of this message. This information has nothing to do with the content of the message. I don't think that's the case here - I presume you're not arguing that the actual message of Scripture is irrelevant?

No, of course not.  I was simply pointing out that your "why bother communicating at all" had easy to point to counter examples.

Quote from: Ephiral
I... don't see the justification for this. If it retains out-of-worldness, it should behave in ways that information theory tells us is impossible. I don't see any such behaviour without sinking into circular logic.

See, this is kind of what I was talking about.  I've said that the message is received across generations, languages and continents without using any aspects of information theory efficiency.  You say that that makes it impossible to distinguish it from noise.  Well, there's your impossible right there.  The key issue is whether a message is being received or not.  I think your interest in information theory has led us up a bit of a dead end here. 

I state that the message is received in the way I state.  You say that information theory doesn't permit that.  So if I'm right then the proof is inherent from an information theory perspective, if you're right (and there is no information being transmitted) then information theory is irrelevant.  Do you see what I'm getting at here?

Quote from: Ephiral
Partial plaintexts are still extremely informative, even in extremely small scraps. Unless you're willing to argue that not one word of the message has been deciphered thus far, lacking the original message is not an impediment to at least some forms of analysis.

That depends on the specific meaning of some terms here.  I'm claiming that the entire message has been understood.  God doesn't send messages in English (or Aramaic, Latin, Greek, any of the hundreds of languages the Word could be spread from).  So it depends on the specific meaning of plaintext, message and deciphered, I suppose.

Quote from: Ephiral
This might sound like I'm shifting things again, but there's a counterbalancing factor that can make an extraordinary claim worth testing: If the test requires trivial effort as compared to the potential payoff. I don't particularly care to measure "proof of some form of deity" offhand as a potential payoff, but... suffice to say it's huge. Given a simple test, it's worth doing. This leaves me at "In what way can we confirm that scripture violates information theory?"

Here, information theory does seem an appropriate tool, contrary to what I said above.  Sadly, I'll need to leave experimental design to you, lacking any knowledge in the field myself.

Quote from: Ephiral
Not really, because that question holds for any categorical boundary. "Why here?" These things have more properties in common than distinct, so why are we dividing them at this point?

Humans and chimpanzees have more properties in common than distinct, why are we defining them as different?  Marble and granite.  The Earth and Mars.  Men and women.  Tawny owls and Barn owls. 

Simply put, we define things based on their differences to similar things otherwise the only noun we'd really need is "stuff".

Quote from: Ephiral
Then I ask, why not? We imagine unreal things all the time; what makes this different?

Because dragons, unicorns and people who don't like me aren't God.  I recognise you will probably find this circular but it does tie in to my previous point - God (gods) is categorically different to everything else by definition.

Quote from: Ephiral
Um. One of us is not understanding the other here, and I'm not sure which. My proposition:

Right, that does clear it up thanks, and is answered above.

Quote from: Ephiral
Yeah, see... to me, that's a poor argument for the atheist. I don't think it's particularly unfair to correct it. Again, I hold other ideas to the same standard - even actual scientific hypotheses have to pass the "Why should we treat this as more likely than 'a wizard did it'?" test. Then we get to the question of "How can we test the truth-value of this statement?". From my perspective, all things asserted as true or potentially true have to pass through both stages.

Fair enough.  Thats not actually a position I'd come across before so it seems that part of my argument was aimed at someone who's not you.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #42 on: July 14, 2013, 11:07:16 PM »
Right, I get you.  Sorry for being dense, just try to pretend you're talking to an idiot.

And I think I've put my finger on the underlying issue I mentioned earlier. 

See, analysing this from an information theory perspective is a mistake.  I'm stating how I believe the message is transmitted, you're saying that's incompatible with information theory.  Well, the intent isn't to confirm or disprove information theory.  I get that you're simply using as one of a number of tools, but I feel its an inappropriate one.  Information theory was developed for how humans transmit information.  But thats simply not what we're talking about.  You say you don't see how to reconcile my statements of how the message is received with information theory, and I think we've fallen into a "when all you have is a hammer" problem here.  I realise its a particular interest of yours but its simply not an appropriate tool.  I say that the crossover of the barrier affects the message giving it the same characteristics as God, you say information theory still applies.  You don't however, I presume at least, claim that thermodynamics applies to ensoulment.  But there's exactly the same barrier crossing there.  You don't, I presume, claim that aerodynamics applies to souls ascending to heaven, but there's the same barrier crossing there, albeit in the opposite direction. You don't I presume wonder why ceilings don't block God's observation of our sins. But you seem to be saying that information theory definitely applies despite it being analogous to every other human/divine interaction.
 
It almost seems like you're defining information theory as a goal in itself, when it isn't.

Well. Here's how I get there:

God loves humans, and his message is important information for humanity. If it weren't, there would be no point in saying anything.
Ergo God wants humans to get this message, as a significant priority.
God might be capable of doing anything outside the universe, but inside the universe, communication intended for receipt and comprehension by a human being behaves in certain predictable patterns.
We have measures of exactly how some of these predictable patterns work - what a message that will be easily read and comprehended by humans would look like, and how to send one with minimal effort. Messages which do not fit certain of these patterns will not be comprehensible, or will be prone to severe distortion and loss.

Why is it a bad idea to look for these patterns, or a message that clearly was intended for human receipt and is resistant to corruption or loss but does not exhibit them? 

Sure, we can disagree on whether a message is being transmitted and received.  I say it is, you presumably say it isn't.  That's an important discussion.  But whether God is using a specific method to "communicate more easily and clearly" seems like the scientific equivalent of angels dancing on a pin.  It's a side issue.
Well. From my perspective, there is a message in scripture, which obeys info theory as we know it. To me it seems you are saying that there is a side-channel message being transmitted through the way what we call "scripture" changes over time, which parts of Biblical history get emphasized and which forgotten. Through what lessons we take away from it over time. I'm saying "Well, if there is, let's go looking for it" and hearing "No, we can't."

No, of course not.  I was simply pointing out that your "why bother communicating at all" had easy to point to counter examples.
Counter example. If you are able to transmit a message, but not make that message's content distinguishable from noise (nor, presumably, reliably communicate via turning your transmission on and off, because from that, you're back to sending clear messages), then you are limited to a single bit. Barring another, clearer channel where you say what that one bit means, all you can possibly communicate with it is "I exist and can transmit this." If that's the message, then Scripture accomplishes it and there's no need for an ongoing message.

See, this is kind of what I was talking about.  I've said that the message is received across generations, languages and continents without using any aspects of information theory efficiency.  You say that that makes it impossible to distinguish it from noise.  Well, there's your impossible right there.  The key issue is whether a message is being received or not.  I think your interest in information theory has led us up a bit of a dead end here.
I'm saying that even the ways it has been understood over time and generations are semi-predictable - we can track how ideas spread about God vs how ideas spread about, say, agriculture. If there is a communication about God outside of Scripture, regardless of source, we should expect ideas about God to spread with unusual speed and clarity, or in the same form from multiple groups that weren't communicating via the channels we can measure. These are still things we can look for. If they appear, then there's some solid evidence for your case; if not, then your case doesn't appear to hold.

I state that the message is received in the way I state.  You say that information theory doesn't permit that.  So if I'm right then the proof is inherent from an information theory perspective, if you're right (and there is no information being transmitted) then information theory is irrelevant.  Do you see what I'm getting at here?
I'm not saying it doesn't permit that. It does. It's just that that method is extremely poor, and why would a God who a) wants his message received and b) is presumably of above-human intelligence and therefore capable of doing the math trivially, do things this way?

That depends on the specific meaning of some terms here.  I'm claiming that the entire message has been understood.  God doesn't send messages in English (or Aramaic, Latin, Greek, any of the hundreds of languages the Word could be spread from).  So it depends on the specific meaning of plaintext, message and deciphered, I suppose.
The message is the information Alice wants Bob to get. If we're talking pure theory and not specific implementation, then the plaintext is basically a copy of the message Bob will understand. "Deciphering" is the act of translating from what Alice transmitted to what Bob needs to receive.

Here, information theory does seem an appropriate tool, contrary to what I said above.  Sadly, I'll need to leave experimental design to you, lacking any knowledge in the field myself.
I am a layman who is learning foundational math, not a scientist. Experimental design is not my forte, but for an informal idea of what to look for see above.

Humans and chimpanzees have more properties in common than distinct, why are we defining them as different?  Marble and granite.  The Earth and Mars.  Men and women.  Tawny owls and Barn owls. 

Simply put, we define things based on their differences to similar things otherwise the only noun we'd really need is "stuff".

Because dragons, unicorns and people who don't like me aren't God.  I recognise you will probably find this circular but it does tie in to my previous point - God (gods) is categorically different to everything else by definition.
I put these together, because they are basically the same point. You are saying here that ideas-about-God are a separate category from ideas-about-stuff. I'm looking for exactly what makes them so - what traits separate ideas-about-God from ideas-about-stuff? You must think ideas-about-God are different in some way, because they do not exist in a world without God, but... I don't see in what way they are different. This is getting a bit repetitive, so I'll stop now.

Fair enough.  Thats not actually a position I'd come across before so it seems that part of my argument was aimed at someone who's not you.
Bayes takes no prisoners. Ideas I like need a bit more scrutiny than ideas I don't, because confirmation bias.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #43 on: July 15, 2013, 11:31:08 AM »
Quote from: Ephiral
Well. Here's how I get there:

God loves humans, and his message is important information for humanity. If it weren't, there would be no point in saying anything.
Ergo God wants humans to get this message, as a significant priority.
God might be capable of doing anything outside the universe, but inside the universe, communication intended for receipt and comprehension by a human being behaves in certain predictable patterns.
We have measures of exactly how some of these predictable patterns work - what a message that will be easily read and comprehended by humans would look like, and how to send one with minimal effort. Messages which do not fit certain of these patterns will not be comprehensible, or will be prone to severe distortion and loss.

Why is it a bad idea to look for these patterns, or a message that clearly was intended for human receipt and is resistant to corruption or loss but does not exhibit them? 

Because that argument is analogous to:

God loves humans and wants them to have souls.
Ergo, ensoulment is a significent priority
God might be capable of doing anything outside  the universe, but inside the universe inserting something into a body leaves physical traces
We have xray devices and scanners that can show evidence of some forms of insertion of something into a body.  If the skin is not broken in all children then clearly ensoulment occurs through mouth/nostrils/ears/vagina.etc.  Children born without one of those orifices or with them otherwise sealed will be incapable of being Christians.

Why is it a bad idea to check children born with birth defects for religious belief?  Because that is simply not how it works.  I am under the impression you would acccept that?  So why then are you priviling information theory - saying ensoulment can happen through some mechanism invisible to science but human/divine communication - which is exactly the same thing - must occur in a way we can understand.

Quote from: Ephiral
Well. From my perspective, there is a message in scripture, which obeys info theory as we know it. To me it seems you are saying that there is a side-channel message being transmitted through the way what we call "scripture" changes over time, which parts of Biblical history get emphasized and which forgotten. Through what lessons we take away from it over time. I'm saying "Well, if there is, let's go looking for it" and hearing "No, we can't."

Scripture is purely the words of the Bible and from 200AD ish hasn't changed over time (ignoring translations), Church Tradition is what changes over time.  Not trying to be picky, I knew precisely what you meant.  Just thought it worht cleaning up.

I'm not saying no you can't, I'm saying you're trying to force an inappropriate tool to be the one that looks for it. 

Quote from: Ephiral
Counter example. If you are able to transmit a message, but not make that message's content distinguishable from noise (nor, presumably, reliably communicate via turning your transmission on and off, because from that, you're back to sending clear messages), then you are limited to a single bit. Barring another, clearer channel where you say what that one bit means, all you can possibly communicate with it is "I exist and can transmit this." If that's the message, then Scripture accomplishes it and there's no need for an ongoing message.

Not at all.  The first commandment is essentially "I exist and am capable of transmitting this."  Scripture was given to specific individuals in a specific time and place, there is a still a value to that constant transmission of "Still here, guys".  Not that I'm claiming that is all there is, just that even if that was all there is it would still be a very valuable message.

Quote from: Ephiral
I'm saying that even the ways it has been understood over time and generations are semi-predictable - we can track how ideas spread about God vs how ideas spread about, say, agriculture. If there is a communication about God outside of Scripture, regardless of source, we should expect ideas about God to spread with unusual speed and clarity, or in the same form from multiple groups that weren't communicating via the channels we can measure. These are still things we can look for. If they appear, then there's some solid evidence for your case; if not, then your case doesn't appear to hold.

Your problem there, I would suspect, will be that while ideas travel they can also be thought up independantly.  Agriculture existed in both the old world and new and none but the craziest of crazies attribute that to external forces spreading the idea.  And because receipt isn't perfect, as I've said multiple times, it would be difficult to say that cases of independant thought (in religion I mean here) that aren't identical are elements of something different - just as old world agriculture and new world had (presumably, no idea, tbh) differences but are still both recognisable as agriculture.

Quote from: Ephiral
I'm not saying it doesn't permit that. It does. It's just that that method is extremely poor, and why would a God who a) wants his message received and b) is presumably of above-human intelligence and therefore capable of doing the math trivially, do things this way?

I suspect my argument appears as circular to you as yours does to me and we may have to draw a line here.  For reference
God is, as you say, of above-human intelligence
The way He transmits his message looks inefficient by our current understanding
Hence our current understanding is wrong.

Which now I write it out certainly does appear...not circular, I can think of the word at the moment.  Been a long and incredibly hot day, sorry.  But yours appears equally flawed to me:

Our tools analyse all messages
The stated way of God transmitting his message appears bad/inefficient to our tools
Ergo, God - at a minimum - is not all He's cracked up to be on the intelligence front.

Quote from: Ephiral
I put these together, because they are basically the same point. You are saying here that ideas-about-God are a separate category from ideas-about-stuff. I'm looking for exactly what makes them so - what traits separate ideas-about-God from ideas-about-stuff? You must think ideas-about-God are different in some way, because they do not exist in a world without God, but... I don't see in what way they are different. This is getting a bit repetitive, so I'll stop now.

They are restatements of the same point, yes.  And I agree, when a discussion reaches the point where seperate questions can be answered with little more than "ditto" it may well be that there's nothing more productive to say on that point.  There are perhaps other points I could tease out - it seems to me a little that you're conflating "imagining" new things and "predicting" new things in your arguments but I'm honestly of the opinion it would do little good.  You?



In honesty, it seems like we're hitting repetition in a few places.  My baseline position is, obviously, "God Exists", yours is presumably - not trying to put words into your mouth - "I believe in things that exist that are first likely to exist given what we already know (the Bayes step) and then have been tested and not disproven (science).  The "given what we know already" is the recursive product of things that have gone through those stages"

I realise that phrasing of it begs questions about how knowledge started but thats not what Im trying to get.  I accept there were numerous things known before Bayes was born, I just mention so you don't think I'm criticising on that front.

I would like to think my conclusions follow naturally from my baseline and yours seem to from yours.  Yey us!  I didn't particularly enter this with the intention of getting you to change your baseline and I've never got the impression you did either, mutatis mutandis. 

Please don't think I'm trying to lead this anywhere, Im more than willing to continue any of the above points or any other that occur to you.  I just think that here - towards the bottom of page two (possibly start of page three, remains to be seen) is a nice place to stop and take stock.

I got from your initial question:
Quote from: Ephiral
Do you think there are questions with actual, tangible this-makes-a-difference-in-how-we-interact-with-the-world answers that are not aided by an evidence-based approach? This seems to be what you're saying, but there's room for different interpretations. If so... can you give me some examples?

That you felt there weren't.  Obviously I took slight issue with the "aided" there but I think (correct me if Im wrong) that that can be replaced with a "substantially benefitted, to an extent greater than any other method" without too drastic a change in meaning. 

My example was moral questions.  Your personal code may not require them but my submission is that a) the global project of "converting" - for want of a better word - the entire population to that is not viable and will, I think we can agree on this, take some considerable time in any case and further b) I actually don't - personally - approve of a global project to convert people to a different thought system. 

So given that, in the near future at least, there will be a substantial number of people who don't share your distaste of emotional reasoning bereft of an evidence based approach - or at a minimum are willing to accept "This sickens me so it is wrong" as evidence, contrary to you - therefore there will for the foreseeable future be people whose moral code isn't based on evidence, or is based on evidence you wouldn't accept as such.

We agree those people can function identically in moral decisions to you, your sole objection being that they are "not engaging their brain".  I don't believe that's necessary (in the strict sense) for moral behaviour.

So, in summation, I believe the non-evidence based approach can produce identical benefits to the evidence based one in moral questions and, as such, those questions are not "substantially benefitted, to an extent greater than any other method" by an evidence based approach.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #44 on: July 15, 2013, 08:11:08 PM »
Because that argument is analogous to:

God loves humans and wants them to have souls.
Ergo, ensoulment is a significent priority
God might be capable of doing anything outside  the universe, but inside the universe inserting something into a body leaves physical traces
We have xray devices and scanners that can show evidence of some forms of insertion of something into a body.  If the skin is not broken in all children then clearly ensoulment occurs through mouth/nostrils/ears/vagina.etc.  Children born without one of those orifices or with them otherwise sealed will be incapable of being Christians.

Why is it a bad idea to check children born with birth defects for religious belief?  Because that is simply not how it works.  I am under the impression you would acccept that?  So why then are you priviling information theory - saying ensoulment can happen through some mechanism invisible to science but human/divine communication - which is exactly the same thing - must occur in a way we can understand.
Because we don't have a coherent definition for "soul" - it is not understood and clearly demonstrable, to use your example, that a soul is a macroscale physical object foreign to the human body. Therefore, your check is useless. Information, on the other hand, is something we do have definite, observable traits for. Ensoulment can happen through mechanisms unknown because the soul is a subject unknown.

I'm not saying no you can't, I'm saying you're trying to force an inappropriate tool to be the one that looks for it.
I don't see how we can find information except by using the tools we use to find information.

Not at all.  The first commandment is essentially "I exist and am capable of transmitting this."  Scripture was given to specific individuals in a specific time and place, there is a still a value to that constant transmission of "Still here, guys".  Not that I'm claiming that is all there is, just that even if that was all there is it would still be a very valuable message.
But if you're claiming anything more to the message, then your example still doesn't hold. The content of the message must matter, therefore delivery of that content must matter.

Your problem there, I would suspect, will be that while ideas travel they can also be thought up independantly.  Agriculture existed in both the old world and new and none but the craziest of crazies attribute that to external forces spreading the idea.  And because receipt isn't perfect, as I've said multiple times, it would be difficult to say that cases of independant thought (in religion I mean here) that aren't identical are elements of something different - just as old world agriculture and new world had (presumably, no idea, tbh) differences but are still both recognisable as agriculture.
Actually, that's why I picked agriculture as an example: It came up independently in a whole bunch of different cultures, because those cultures were all exposed to edible plants and conditions that encouraged cultivation. We should expect the same idea to be developed independently by groups that were exposed to the conditions that give rise to that idea. You say God is communicating via side-channels other than Scripture, so where are the cultures that came up with an idea recognizable as the Christian God before being introduced to them via the normal channels?

God is, as you say, of above-human intelligence
The way He transmits his message looks inefficient by our current understanding
Hence our current understanding is wrong.
Or your understanding of the transmission is wrong, or the messages are not being transmitted as you claim, or God is fallible. Your logic only works by privileging your understanding above other hypotheses that fit the facts equally.

Our tools analyse all messages
The stated way of God transmitting his message appears bad/inefficient to our tools
Ergo, God - at a minimum - is not all He's cracked up to be on the intelligence front.
I have probably overstated that specific conclusion. Others are equally valid; the key point was that the model you are proposing has serious problems that put several of its tenets at odds with each other.

It's not that we're missing something about this method, either - we're familiar with the sort of transmission scheme you propose. We abandoned it for good reasons.

They are restatements of the same point, yes.  And I agree, when a discussion reaches the point where seperate questions can be answered with little more than "ditto" it may well be that there's nothing more productive to say on that point.  There are perhaps other points I could tease out - it seems to me a little that you're conflating "imagining" new things and "predicting" new things in your arguments but I'm honestly of the opinion it would do little good.  You?
Generally agreed, but I'm a touch curious on that point. What is the difference between imagining something you have never seen that fits a very specific set of constraints, and predicting something based on that same set of constraints?



That you felt there weren't.  Obviously I took slight issue with the "aided" there but I think (correct me if Im wrong) that that can be replaced with a "substantially benefitted, to an extent greater than any other method" without too drastic a change in meaning. 

My example was moral questions.  Your personal code may not require them but my submission is that a) the global project of "converting" - for want of a better word - the entire population to that is not viable and will, I think we can agree on this, take some considerable time in any case and further b) I actually don't - personally - approve of a global project to convert people to a different thought system.

I'm kinda curious on your point b here. It has, at some stage, been accepted by pretty much every culture that treating another human being as property was an okay thing to do, and sometimes even a moral obligation. Most of us are getting away from that, and exerting active pressure on others to abandon it. This is a pretty radical change in thought - it requires a complete restructuring of how you look at the Other, of a significant portion of your society, and of your economic model. I presume you don't object to this on principle?

So given that, in the near future at least, there will be a substantial number of people who don't share your distaste of emotional reasoning bereft of an evidence based approach - or at a minimum are willing to accept "This sickens me so it is wrong" as evidence, contrary to you - therefore there will for the foreseeable future be people whose moral code isn't based on evidence, or is based on evidence you wouldn't accept as such.

We agree those people can function identically in moral decisions to you, your sole objection being that they are "not engaging their brain".  I don't believe that's necessary (in the strict sense) for moral behaviour.
Can function identically in specific cases, but are so exceedingly unlikely to do so generally that it's not worth considering as a possibility. They might get any given example right, but are likely to go wildly wrong in other places, because reasoning - even well! - from faulty priors gives you faulty results. "This sickens me so it's wrong" is where we got laws condemning homosexuality, for example.

So, in summation, I believe the non-evidence based approach can produce identical benefits to the evidence based one in moral questions and, as such, those questions are not "substantially benefitted, to an extent greater than any other method" by an evidence based approach.
And there's the difference - "identical". While it is theoretically possible for a system from poor priors to spit out the same results in every case, the chance of that occurring is 1/<the total number of possible outputs for every ethical system imaginable>. I don't have hard data on that number, but I feel safe in asserting that it is basically negligible.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #45 on: July 15, 2013, 09:55:06 PM »
Quote from: Ephiral
Because we don't have a coherent definition for "soul" - it is not understood and clearly demonstrable, to use your example, that a soul is a macroscale physical object foreign to the human body. Therefore, your check is useless. Information, on the other hand, is something we do have definite, observable traits for. Ensoulment can happen through mechanisms unknown because the soul is a subject unknown.

But we only have a coherent definition for God's communication with man because you define it, repeatedly, as information and are insisting it must work the same way.  You could, with the same justification, define souls as a physical thing - hell, there are some Christian sects that do that.  You could say that, in this universe, things being put into a body leave a trace.  It doesn't even have to macroscopic, there are blood tests, DNA tests, presumably some sort of nervous system test that could distinguish between in vitro fetuses and living children and look for the presence of a soul.

My point is that you are willing to concede souls work differently to everything science knows but not willing to concede that communication could as well.  I'm not sure if part of the problem here is one of language?  That using words such as "communication" to refer to the way God...errr...makes his message known to man makes it sound closer to the mundane, information-theory-applicable communication inter-humanity.  while the fact that a seperate term - soul - exists for the travelling body in ensoulment makes it clear we are not talking about something "physical"

Finally, I've deliberately steered clear of quotes for the last few posts for various reasons, but here I feel some are needed to answer a charge I fear has been brewing in your mind (and if it has, I thank you for not voicing it) that I'm frantically backpedalling away from defining God's communication to man as the same as man to man.

Augustine is the go to guy on God-human communication.

From: City of God, Part 2, Book 11:

Quote
"For when God speaks to man in this way, he does not need the medium of any material created thing. He does not make audible sounds to bodily ears; nor does He use the kind of 'spiritual' intermediary which takes on a bodily shape... But when God speaks in the way we are talking of, He speaks by the direct impact of the truth, to anyone who is capable of hearing with the mind instead of with the ears of the body."

ibid.
Quote
"It was through that Wisdom that all things were made; and that Wisdom 'passes' also into holy souls and makes them friends of God and prophets, and tells them, inwardly and soundlessly, the story of God's works."

(note that Augustine was a neo-platonist.  When he says captial W Wisdom he's using it to mean almost the same as the Holy Spirit.  Subtly different, but close enough for our purposes)

I only mention that as I'm worried that you feel I'm, well, moving the goalposts I suppose.  Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.

I think we've reached circles here though?

Quote from: Ephiral
I don't see how we can find information except by using the tools we use to find information.

No, because you're defining those two usages of information to be the same.

Quote from: Ephiral
Actually, that's why I picked agriculture as an example: It came up independently in a whole bunch of different cultures, because those cultures were all exposed to edible plants and conditions that encouraged cultivation. We should expect the same idea to be developed independently by groups that were exposed to the conditions that give rise to that idea. You say God is communicating via side-channels other than Scripture, so where are the cultures that came up with an idea recognizable as the Christian God before being introduced to them via the normal channels?

Well, the problem we face there is that the best source of information about the spread of early Christianity is Acts and the Pauline epistles which are hardly unbiased (though not, funnily enough, in the direction you might think.  Paul took credit for founding essentially every single church, even ones its almost certain he didn't) and the best source about medieval spread is Catholic missionaries who made a positive fetish out of claiming to have discovered previously unknown conclaves of Christians that had never been preached to.  In the modern day the question is clearly moot, there are so few people in the world who could reasonably claim never to have heard of Christianity that any such claim is pretty much instantly dismissable.  The only counter examples that come to me are the various amazon tribes who keep showing up, who haven't progressed beyond animism.

Oh, related:  People, universally, show a progression from animism or totemism to ploytheism to monotheism.  I know the religious justification for this but am not sure it's overly relevant, there's no scientific consensus.  There are, however, no exceptions.  As civilisation progresses, religions follow that progression - sometimes the "old" form dies out and is replaced, sometimes it simply "evolves".  It's claimed (usually incorrectly to the point of desperation, though there are a few instances that are bit more questionable) that there's evidence of this drift in the Old Testament. Dismissing it is trivial - we know from textual analysis that the text changed frequently, as monotheism took over its reasonable to assume that the text would have been altered to remove polytheistic references.  If it wasn't, it frankly raises more questions than it answers given the sheer amount of revisions on other matters that were made.

This only starts to break down in the nineteenth century as some new religious movements started then, from a monotheistic background, embraced polytheism.  For a 20th century example, see Gardnerian Wicca.

But meh.  Thats a side issue.

Quote from: Ephiral
Or your understanding of the transmission is wrong, or the messages are not being transmitted as you claim, or God is fallible. Your logic only works by privileging your understanding above other hypotheses that fit the facts equally.

Well, yes.  Thats kinda precisely what I was saying, although I admit that not being able to think of the word at the time I was typing may ha"ve made that unclear.  Ha, and I've also just noticed that I made a typo in it and said I can think of the word at the moment" when I meant can't which frankly cant have made it any clearer.

Quote from: Ephiral
I have probably overstated that specific conclusion. Others are equally valid; the key point was that the model you are proposing has serious problems that put several of its tenets at odds with each other.

It's not that we're missing something about this method, either - we're familiar with the sort of transmission scheme you propose. We abandoned it for good reasons.

Again, its the premise I object to not the conclusion.

Quote from: Ephiral
Generally agreed, but I'm a touch curious on that point. What is the difference between imagining something you have never seen that fits a very specific set of constraints, and predicting something based on that same set of constraints?

Well, thats why I say you're conflating.  There is no difference, they're both predictions.  Its when it has no constraints or extremely few - cultures were free to not come up with a god, for example - that it becomes imagination. 

I accept your (or what I presume will be your) point that worshipped gods vary arguably as  wildly across

Quote from: Ephiral
I'm kinda curious on your point b here. It has, at some stage, been accepted by pretty much every culture that treating another human being as property was an okay thing to do, and sometimes even a moral obligation. Most of us are getting away from that, and exerting active pressure on others to abandon it. This is a pretty radical change in thought - it requires a complete restructuring of how you look at the Other, of a significant portion of your society, and of your economic model. I presume you don't object to this on principle?

I do.  Just because I agree with the thought process being enforced doesn't mean I agree with enforcing thought processes.  I don't think Christianity should be enforced, I don't think feminism should be enforced, I don't think the belief that Kythia is the pinnacle of human perfection and she be worshipped as a Queen should be enforced (although in the last case its largely because it would be redundant.  Anyone can see that, enforcing it is a waste of everyone's time)

Activate to change it, by all means.  Evangelize in religious terms, raise awareness or similar in secular.  Sure.  But when it becomes enforced it crosses a moral event horizon.  For me, at least.  Perhaps I phrased that badly in referring it to a "global project" - I was referring to teaching it in schools and the like by that.

Quote from: Ephiral
And there's the difference - "identical". While it is theoretically possible for a system from poor priors to spit out the same results in every case, the chance of that occurring is 1/<the total number of possible outputs for every ethical system imaginable>. I don't have hard data on that number, but I feel safe in asserting that it is basically negligible.

2 things.

One - I return to my proposed "PM Ephiral to check" moral code.

Two - hmmm, this is a little awkward.  You asked for an example of a question that wasn't aided by evidence based reasoning.  I gave one.  I realise that you weren't phrasing a law or anything like that and I don't want to hold you to a question you likely hammered out in a matter of seconds.  But, well, the requirement for it to occur in a non-basically-neglible number of cases didn't, to me, form part of the question.  If you want to add that to the wording then thats groovy (and I refer you to (1)), I have zero interest in forcing you to stand by every single word you've said.  Some may have been hastily or incompletely formed, others you may have changed your mind on during the course of this conversation.  If I've misunderstood and you had meant that to be implied then I apologise for misreading you and not catching that implication.

However, it does very much seem to me that you've introduced a new criterion there.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #46 on: July 15, 2013, 09:57:41 PM »
Fuck.

Ignore -
Quote
I accept your (or what I presume will be your) point that worshipped gods vary arguably as  wildly across
  It was part of a point that I realised was very weak as I was typing it and must have missed a bit in the delete.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #47 on: July 15, 2013, 11:13:29 PM »
But we only have a coherent definition for God's communication with man because you define it, repeatedly, as information and are insisting it must work the same way.  You could, with the same justification, define souls as a physical thing - hell, there are some Christian sects that do that.  You could say that, in this universe, things being put into a body leave a trace.  It doesn't even have to macroscopic, there are blood tests, DNA tests, presumably some sort of nervous system test that could distinguish between in vitro fetuses and living children and look for the presence of a soul.
So the problem is that you think there are problematic concepts bundled up in "information", and I don't see how communication is not communication because we tack "God's" on the front of it. I propose rationalist taboo: I'll drop "information" and all synonyms from my vocabulary, and you drop "communication" and all synonyms from yours. Now: What are you talking about? What traits does it actually have? The thing I'm talking about is some signal by which things not previously known by a human can be imparted to that human, and spread from one human to another. As such, it must be comprehensible by the human brain and representable by human language and communication. Is there any disagreement here?

My point is that you are willing to concede souls work differently to everything science knows but not willing to concede that communication could as well.  I'm not sure if part of the problem here is one of language?  That using words such as "communication" to refer to the way God...errr...makes his message known to man makes it sound closer to the mundane, information-theory-applicable communication inter-humanity.  while the fact that a seperate term - soul - exists for the travelling body in ensoulment makes it clear we are not talking about something "physical"
Well, no. I'm willing to say "We don't even have a clear understanding of what we mean when we say "soul", so its properties are completely unknown to us." When you say "communication", I hear "sending knowledge from God to human". The "to human" part of that is what brings into play all the known limitations of communication and information - if it didn't, then human beings would routinely and observably violate our understanding of information and communication theory. They do not.

Well, the problem we face there is that the best source of information about the spread of early Christianity is Acts and the Pauline epistles which are hardly unbiased (though not, funnily enough, in the direction you might think.  Paul took credit for founding essentially every single church, even ones its almost certain he didn't) and the best source about medieval spread is Catholic missionaries who made a positive fetish out of claiming to have discovered previously unknown conclaves of Christians that had never been preached to.  In the modern day the question is clearly moot, there are so few people in the world who could reasonably claim never to have heard of Christianity that any such claim is pretty much instantly dismissable.  The only counter examples that come to me are the various amazon tribes who keep showing up, who haven't progressed beyond animism.
We have at least three other excellent sources of information: Archaeological evidence, trade records from the era (these are very often extremely detailed and do a good job of showing who was talking to whom), and the actual records of these outsider cultures. I appreciate you not just pointing to these medieval accounts as a fait accompli, but it's kinda silly to say this is the only record we have of how a culture spread.

Oh, related:  People, universally, show a progression from animism or totemism to ploytheism to monotheism.  I know the religious justification for this but am not sure it's overly relevant, there's no scientific consensus.  There are, however, no exceptions.  As civilisation progresses, religions follow that progression - sometimes the "old" form dies out and is replaced, sometimes it simply "evolves".  It's claimed (usually incorrectly to the point of desperation, though there are a few instances that are bit more questionable) that there's evidence of this drift in the Old Testament. Dismissing it is trivial - we know from textual analysis that the text changed frequently, as monotheism took over its reasonable to assume that the text would have been altered to remove polytheistic references.  If it wasn't, it frankly raises more questions than it answers given the sheer amount of revisions on other matters that were made.
I am not entirely sure what you mean by "people" here. Clearly it is not individuals, but it isn't exactly nations or cultures either. Can you clarify? The point is interesting, and I would like to address it.

This only starts to break down in the nineteenth century as some new religious movements started then, from a monotheistic background, embraced polytheism.  For a 20th century example, see Gardnerian Wicca.

But meh.  Thats a side issue.
Nnnnno, it's not. You don't get to define something as "this happens, no exceptions" and then acknowledge that exceptions exist without abandoning your original point.

Well, yes.  Thats kinda precisely what I was saying, although I admit that not being able to think of the word at the time I was typing may ha"ve made that unclear.  Ha, and I've also just noticed that I made a typo in it and said I can think of the word at the moment" when I meant can't which frankly cant have made it any clearer.
I... I really don't want to be insulting here, but... it sounds like you start by defining a statement as true, and then building your view of reality around accepting only concepts which uphold that statement, regardless of whether they match reality. This is a poor way to understand the world-as-is, and a very good way to go extremely far off the rails extremely quickly.

Again, its the premise I object to not the conclusion.
The premise is "Humans have used the transmission protocol you described before." This is true. From that, we gret that humans stopped using it because it was extremely poor at actually communicating. The medium might be different, but I'm talking about the protocol - whether you use pulses of light or electricity or magnetic bits or ink on cellulose pulp or timed smoke clouds or furrows in dirt or scratches in clay or direct beaming to the brain is irrelevant to why this is a poor idea.

Well, thats why I say you're conflating.  There is no difference, they're both predictions.  Its when it has no constraints or extremely few - cultures were free to not come up with a god, for example - that it becomes imagination.
All right, then. I'll abandon scientific predictions as an example and turn to science fiction. We have a lot of examples there of elements that were imagined for the sake of telling a good story, which we know for certain exist now. This was in a system which, by your definition, has no constraints - they were free to not write a story, after all, or to write a different one.

I do.  Just because I agree with the thought process being enforced doesn't mean I agree with enforcing thought processes.  I don't think Christianity should be enforced, I don't think feminism should be enforced, I don't think the belief that Kythia is the pinnacle of human perfection and she be worshipped as a Queen should be enforced (although in the last case its largely because it would be redundant.  Anyone can see that, enforcing it is a waste of everyone's time)

Activate to change it, by all means.  Evangelize in religious terms, raise awareness or similar in secular.  Sure.  But when it becomes enforced it crosses a moral event horizon.  For me, at least.  Perhaps I phrased that badly in referring it to a "global project" - I was referring to teaching it in schools and the like by that.
Time to bite the bullet: You are stating an objection to human rights laws.

One - I return to my proposed "PM Ephiral to check" moral code.
And it fails to provide the same output as my system in every situation because a) sometimes my reasoning is flawed, b) I am not a paragon of morality even as I understand it, c) I will likely get bored and stop responding very quickly, and d) before C happens, I might decide to respond badly in a relatively harmless way to demonstrate the failings of this system to you.

Preemptive response to your expected response to point A: Yeah, sometimes I screw it up. Other people help correct me, either by showing my flaws directly (if they use the same system) or by providing a differing perspective that causes me to reevaluate. The system did not provide the wrong answer; I failed to use it or use it properly.

Two - hmmm, this is a little awkward.  You asked for an example of a question that wasn't aided by evidence based reasoning.  I gave one.  I realise that you weren't phrasing a law or anything like that and I don't want to hold you to a question you likely hammered out in a matter of seconds.  But, well, the requirement for it to occur in a non-basically-neglible number of cases didn't, to me, form part of the question.  If you want to add that to the wording then thats groovy (and I refer you to (1)), I have zero interest in forcing you to stand by every single word you've said.  Some may have been hastily or incompletely formed, others you may have changed your mind on during the course of this conversation.  If I've misunderstood and you had meant that to be implied then I apologise for misreading you and not catching that implication.
Okay, I admit I screwed up there. "Negligible chance" is as close as I get to "no chance", because 0 and 1 are infinities in probability, and screwy things happen when you start using them casually. So I kinda took it as read that the brute-force approach - try all possible ethical systems until you arrive at a collision - was not on the table. I would like to specify an additional criterion in light of this: Humans, with whatever tools you care to give them, should be reasonably likely (lower bound 50.1%, say) to find the superior non-evidence-based approach before... let's say the death of Earth. This cuts off brute-force approaches on a nigh-infinite search space, but I figure it should leave you a reasonable amount of wiggle room.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #48 on: July 15, 2013, 11:14:45 PM »
Oh, as an aside, I only included "macroscale" in my description of your theoretical soul because the first place my mind went when presented with that scenario was "quantum tunnelling".

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #49 on: July 15, 2013, 11:54:03 PM »
I'm drunk and going to bed, I'll respond to everything when neither of those things are true.   did just want to clear one thing up though, because vanity of vanities - my "meh that's a side issue" comment was referring to the whole progression of religion diversion, not simply that last paragraph.  Sorry for being unclear there.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #50 on: July 16, 2013, 09:56:10 AM »
Quote from: Ephiral
So the problem is that you think there are problematic concepts bundled up in "information", and I don't see how communication is not communication because we tack "God's" on the front of it. I propose rationalist taboo: I'll drop "information" and all synonyms from my vocabulary, and you drop "communication" and all synonyms from yours. Now: What are you talking about? What traits does it actually have? The thing I'm talking about is some signal by which things not previously known by a human can be imparted to that human, and spread from one human to another. As such, it must be comprehensible by the human brain and representable by human language and communication. Is there any disagreement here?

Only a minor one.  I have no issue as I think I've mentioned with information theory being applied to the spread from human to human.  I'd draw the boundary a bit tighter at: "The thing I'm talking about is some signal by which things not previously known by a human can be imparted to that human" if that's agreeable?

Now, lucky old you, you get a diagram.  Crudely drawn because the goal here is to learn a graphics package I just downloaded.  This is my first picture with it.



So, to expand on the modification I made to your definition, all I wanted to add is that that signal originates from outside the universe and, inherant to that, involves crossing some form of barrier.

Finally, there's a concept known as imago dei - image of God, from Genesis 1:26 "And let us make mankind in our image as our likeness". It has a metric fuck ton of ramifications but the one relevant is there is some innate kinship between man and God, on a basic level some similarity that other animals, not created with Imago Dei, lack.

Are we happy to proceed?

Quote from: Ephiral
We have at least three other excellent sources of information: Archaeological evidence, trade records from the era (these are very often extremely detailed and do a good job of showing who was talking to whom), and the actual records of these outsider cultures

Hence "best" not "only"

Quote from: Ephiral
I appreciate you not just pointing to these medieval accounts as a fait accompli.

Ha, that wasn't actually for you.  I point to them, one of them has without my knowledge been disproved by one of the other sources you point to above.  I say, well, OK, not that one but the others.  Tomorrow a scholar disproves one of the others.  I say well, OK, not those two but the others.  Before I know it I'm defending a God of the Gaps and coming up with strained products of desperation like "well, it was clearly so common that not all of them were felt worthy of recording".  Obviously I can't rule out the possibility that some of them are accurate but given the overwhelming incentive of the Catholic Church to lie about this (to establish a worldwide mandate) it does seem kinda unlikely.

Quote from: Ephiral
I am not entirely sure what you mean by "people" here. Clearly it is not individuals, but it isn't exactly nations or cultures either. Can you clarify? The point is interesting, and I would like to address it.

Yeah, I deliberately used a relatively nebulous term here as if there is a precise anthropological term then I'm not aware of it.

The way it was explained to me is as follows:

Let's imagine that reincarnation is true.  You are born, thousands of years ago, in, for the sake of argument, London (the area we in the present day would call London).  When you die, your consciousness is immediately transferred to a baby born in London.  And so on, until the present day. You're a celt, then a roman, then a romano-britain, then English then British.  THe language you speak evolves and is occasionally replaced wholesale, ditto for your religious beliefs. It's that stream of individuals I'm talking about.  Inhabitants of a place is perhaps the closest I can get to it.  Does that make sense?

Quote from: Ephiral
You don't get to define something as "this happens, no exceptions" and then acknowledge that exceptions exist without abandoning your original point.

They're not exceptions.  The progression holds true without exception, my point was that there was/is an emerging trend that may be the start of a next stage - animism -> polytheism -> monotheism -> polytheism.

I don't actually believe it is the start of a new trend.  The main arguments for it being tend to revolve around new age/Age of Aquarius type theories.  Now, unfortunately I have very little interest in that whole area and, if we're honest, tend to lump it all together as "some crap involving crystals".  So I can't really put their arguments across particularly well as I wasn't overly listening when they were made.  From what I gather its viewed as a breakdown in the colossal belief systems and a return to a more intuitive understanding, but its entirely possible I've mangled or even reversed that position.

Rather I think there is an element of bad faith here.  Not malicious per se simply that these systems are "made up" rather than "believed" - by the creators at least.  Gardner is a prime example here.  In essence, I believe they have tried to construct a religion rather than developed one, if you can get the distinction I'm drawing.  It's interesting to note that many of these harken back to (hideously mangled) versions of earlier belief systems - Garnder and his almost complete lack of understanding of Celtic beliefs for example - or syncretism - voodoo, say.

Further, this isn't a universal trend by any means.  Baha'i dates to the 19th century, for example, and is monotheistic.

Quote from: Ephiral
I... I really don't want to be insulting here, but... it sounds like you start by defining a statement as true, and then building your view of reality around accepting only concepts which uphold that statement, regardless of whether they match reality. This is a poor way to understand the world-as-is, and a very good way to go extremely far off the rails extremely quickly.

Hmmm.  I don't think I've made any statements that are contradicted by reality (or, provably so, leaving aside a presumed objection that "God exists" is contradicted by reality).  Further I've made a couple of statements of potential aspects of reality that would, if shown, be a body blow to my beliefs.  I'm not certain that charge is well founded, to be honest.

Quote from: Ephiral
The premise is "Humans have used the transmission protocol you described before." This is true. From that, we gret that humans stopped using it because it was extremely poor at actually communicating. The medium might be different, but I'm talking about the protocol - whether you use pulses of light or electricity or magnetic bits or ink on cellulose pulp or timed smoke clouds or furrows in dirt or scratches in clay or direct beaming to the brain is irrelevant to why this is a poor idea.

Again, I think you're being a little disingenuous there.  There is self evidently a premise behind the one you state - some variant of "This is a transmission protocol recognisable by and understandable to humans"  Thats the one I object to.  Before you can state that transmission protocol has been used, you need to state that its usable.

Quote from: Ephiral
All right, then. I'll abandon scientific predictions as an example and turn to science fiction. We have a lot of examples there of elements that were imagined for the sake of telling a good story, which we know for certain exist now. This was in a system which, by your definition, has no constraints - they were free to not write a story, after all, or to write a different one.

Yeah, pretty much.  Once the constraints get tight enough to start cutting off vast swathes then it becomes prediction, while they're loose it's imagination.

Quote from: Ephiral
Time to bite the bullet: You are stating an objection to human rights laws.

Yes, obviously.  I'm not certain what you're getting at here?  Is it simply confirming I agree with the extrapolation of my ideas?

In fact, I particularly disagree with human rights laws.  For reasons that can be explained in one of my patented off topic ramblings.

Here it is
It's to do with how I view the legal system.  The legal system doesn't say I can't shoot my neighbour.  That's obviously untrue.  The legal system, to me, says "The cost for us catching you shooting your neighbour is 20 years in prison".  Which makes this a transaction.  If I want my neighbour dead more than I want the next 20 years to be out of prison, bearing in mind conviction rates for the type of crime I'm planning, then I should shoot him.  If I can make more from being a drug lord than I could in the time I would spend in prison for being a drug lord (plus, presumably, a bit extra to shield my income from being repossessed as proceeds of crime) then the legal system provides no reason for me not to be a drug lord.  I believe legal systems are essentially a price list, serving to raise the disincentives to various behaviours.

So if all we have is human rights laws, then I can be quite rational about slavery.  What are the chances of me getting caught, how much can I raise from human trafficking, is the luxury that would buy me now worth an x% chance of spending y years in prison.  What if I have an inoperable brain tumour.  That reduces the disincentive greatly.  I've never seen it so I could be wrong but I understand there's a show called "breaking Bad" with a broadly similar premise.

So I believe that if we look at laws alone we are legitimising illegal behaviour.  Just as there is nothing wrong with you devoting the next ten years of your life to building a 30000% scale model of a housefly out of toenail clippings if you believe the payoff is worth it the cost, there is nothing (legally) wrong with the slave trade if you are willing to pay the cost society attributes to it.

Morals are what stop people doing things, not laws.  That, in and of itself, doesn't make laws bad.  It just means that I see no reason to exempt them from my dislike of enforced thought systems.

Actually, there is one exception.  Lets imagine that for some reason the UK had simply forgotten to ban slavery.  Everyone thought someone else had done it.  Or we lose our big fat book of laws and have to write them all again.  I would have no objections to the present UK government passing a law banning slavery.  My issue is that legislation can't (shouldn't) drive social change, it should be driven by it.  Because otherwise legislators are enforcing thought patterns and I don't agree with that, no matter how much I may agree with the specific thought pattern being enforced.

Of course, this is all wildly off topic.  Off topic enough that I kinda feel a seperate thread is the way to go if you feel further discussion is needed.

Quote from: Ephiral
And it fails to provide the same output as my system in every situation because a) sometimes my reasoning is flawed, b) I am not a paragon of morality even as I understand it, c) I will likely get bored and stop responding very quickly, and d) before C happens, I might decide to respond badly in a relatively harmless way to demonstrate the failings of this system to you.

Preemptive response to your expected response to point A: Yeah, sometimes I screw it up. Other people help correct me, either by showing my flaws directly (if they use the same system) or by providing a differing perspective that causes me to reevaluate. The system did not provide the wrong answer; I failed to use it or use it properly.

A and B seem out of context.  My point was that that system gave exactly the same answers as the one you, personally, have deduced through an evidence based approach, not that it gave an infallible moral system. 

Quote from: Ephiral
Okay, I admit I screwed up there. "Negligible chance" is as close as I get to "no chance", because 0 and 1 are infinities in probability, and screwy things happen when you start using them casually. So I kinda took it as read that the brute-force approach - try all possible ethical systems until you arrive at a collision - was not on the table. I would like to specify an additional criterion in light of this: Humans, with whatever tools you care to give them, should be reasonably likely (lower bound 50.1%, say) to find the superior non-evidence-based approach before... let's say the death of Earth. This cuts off brute-force approaches on a nigh-infinite search space, but I figure it should leave you a reasonable amount of wiggle room.

Fair enough.  There's probably something about automatic fight/flight type responses but A) that strikes me as a conversation I'm not overly interested in and B) it seems somewhat outside the scope of your question anyway.  Let me put a bit of thought into this. I have a few gut feelings around certain areas - marriage and population migration are the two strongest but I'm struggling around a few issues on each of them - arranged marriages for political purposes and whether economic analysis would yield similar/better results to a desire to be somewhere else respectively, should you care.  I'll develop those a little, with your permission, and put forwards any I feel are strong.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #51 on: July 16, 2013, 12:23:21 PM »
Only a minor one.  I have no issue as I think I've mentioned with information theory being applied to the spread from human to human.  I'd draw the boundary a bit tighter at: "The thing I'm talking about is some signal by which things not previously known by a human can be imparted to that human" if that's agreeable?
That's fine, though it makes me curious as to what the point of evangelism is if the message can't be shared. As I said before, the key point that my arguments and use of these tools depends on is "imparted to that human" - we know how people understand and process information, and we know what more- and less-efficient methods of communicating with humans look like. For these to not apply, they would have to break when applied to humans.

Are we happy to proceed?
Absolutely.

Hence "best" not "only"
I challenge the notion that a source full of known bias and falsehoods specifically on the point we're looking for is better than sources that have no reason to lie about these things, even if the latter are less complete.

Yeah, I deliberately used a relatively nebulous term here as if there is a precise anthropological term then I'm not aware of it.

The way it was explained to me is as follows:

Let's imagine that reincarnation is true.  You are born, thousands of years ago, in, for the sake of argument, London (the area we in the present day would call London).  When you die, your consciousness is immediately transferred to a baby born in London.  And so on, until the present day. You're a celt, then a roman, then a romano-britain, then English then British.  THe language you speak evolves and is occasionally replaced wholesale, ditto for your religious beliefs. It's that stream of individuals I'm talking about.  Inhabitants of a place is perhaps the closest I can get to it.  Does that make sense?
Um, sort of, but I think you're suffering from the vagueness of your concept, there. For one thing, it imagines lines of descent even when they're clearly broken - by this understanding, "inhabitants of Newfoundland" would have a line of descent that went "Native-Viking-Native-English", despite there being no meaningful connection between steps 1, 2, and 3.

They're not exceptions.  The progression holds true without exception, my point was that there was/is an emerging trend that may be the start of a next stage - animism -> polytheism -> monotheism -> polytheism.
I could just as easily, and I think more justifiably, propose that if such a chain exists, it goes animism-polytheism-monotheism-nonbelief. We're about 14% of the population, a number that is on the rise and tends to spike higher in nations with strong ties to Christianity, and the overwhelming majority of nonbelievers, on an individual level (and thus showing a clear line of descent), come from a religious background - disproportionately a Christian one, in places where Christianity has taken root in a significant way. This seems to be a problem with your "all religions are working toward Christianity" concept.

Rather I think there is an element of bad faith here.  Not malicious per se simply that these systems are "made up" rather than "believed" - by the creators at least.  Gardner is a prime example here.  In essence, I believe they have tried to construct a religion rather than developed one, if you can get the distinction I'm drawing.  It's interesting to note that many of these harken back to (hideously mangled) versions of earlier belief systems - Garnder and his almost complete lack of understanding of Celtic beliefs for example - or syncretism - voodoo, say.
First: Voodoo is a spectacularly poor example for your case. It is descended from a polytheistic system, and did not abandon that. Its practitioners were introduced to monotheism, and told to believe under pain of pretty much any punishments their owners could dream up - and rejected it. They took its trappings to avoid punishment, but at no point I can see did they ever actually decide that they were wrong on the whole "multiple deities" thing.

Second: I could just as easily call "bad faith" (pun intended) on the self-reported Christians who believe in belief, not in God directly. The plural of anecdote is not data, but there isn't really any hard data, and in my experience, they tend to be extremely common.

Hmmm.  I don't think I've made any statements that are contradicted by reality (or, provably so, leaving aside a presumed objection that "God exists" is contradicted by reality).  Further I've made a couple of statements of potential aspects of reality that would, if shown, be a body blow to my beliefs.  I'm not certain that charge is well founded, to be honest.
You have asserted things as fact that, if true, would have observable effects on reality. Those effects have not been observed despite us having the tools to spot them. Again, at the very least, we should be able to trace Christianity back to multiple distinct and separate roots if there were a "God exists!" message being transmitted to the species as a whole.

Again, I think you're being a little disingenuous there.  There is self evidently a premise behind the one you state - some variant of "This is a transmission protocol recognisable by and understandable to humans"  Thats the one I object to.  Before you can state that transmission protocol has been used, you need to state that its usable.
You... already specified the protocol. I was working strictly from your description of it. If you're abandoning that specification, fine, but I'd like to make it explicit. That said, a protocol must be understandable and recognisable to the receiving party, else the receiving party is unable to, y'know, receive messages. In layman's terms, you can't read a letter without being able to read the language it was written in, knowing where your mailbox is, and knowing how to open an envelope. You can't listen to the radio without some understanding that different frequencies will contain different messages. You can't get on the Internet without knowing what a computer looks like. You don't have to be able to explain protocol layers or build a TCP/IP stack from scratch, but you must be able to understand what communication looks like when you see or hear it, and how to be in a position to see or hear it.

Yeah, pretty much.  Once the constraints get tight enough to start cutting off vast swathes then it becomes prediction, while they're loose it's imagination.
So we've imagined things both real and unreal. Still not seeing a barrier to ideas-about-God existing in !God-world.

Yes, obviously.  I'm not certain what you're getting at here?  Is it simply confirming I agree with the extrapolation of my ideas?
Pretty much. People often grow enamored of the benefits of their ideas without considering the downsides. It's fine to bite the bullet and say "Yes, this is an acceptable consequence"; the point is to make sure you're aware of the consequences you're accepting.

I would very much like to continue the spoilered discussion with you.

A and B seem out of context.  My point was that that system gave exactly the same answers as the one you, personally, have deduced through an evidence based approach, not that it gave an infallible moral system.
Except that if I fail to apply the system properly (case A) or simply ignore its output (case B), then the result I have is not the one the system produces. Therefore, the result you get from me will not be the one the system produces, and your non-evidence-based system will fail to yield identical results to the evidence-based approach.

Fair enough.  There's probably something about automatic fight/flight type responses but A) that strikes me as a conversation I'm not overly interested in and B) it seems somewhat outside the scope of your question anyway.  Let me put a bit of thought into this. I have a few gut feelings around certain areas - marriage and population migration are the two strongest but I'm struggling around a few issues on each of them - arranged marriages for political purposes and whether economic analysis would yield similar/better results to a desire to be somewhere else respectively, should you care.  I'll develop those a little, with your permission, and put forwards any I feel are strong.
Sounds good to me.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #52 on: July 16, 2013, 02:34:43 PM »
Quote from: Ephiral
That's fine, though it makes me curious as to what the point of evangelism is if the message can't be shared
 

Errrm, I mention in the very thing you quote that the message can be spread from human to human and information theory applies to that.

Quote from: Ephiral
Um, sort of, but I think you're suffering from the vagueness of your concept, there. For one thing, it imagines lines of descent even when they're clearly broken - by this understanding, "inhabitants of Newfoundland" would have a line of descent that went "Native-Viking-Native-English", despite there being no meaningful connection between steps 1, 2, and 3.

I'm really not sure what to say to this Ephiral.  It's not my concept, there are centuries dead historians you need to take that up with (along with almost unargued current academic consensus).  If you object to the premise of the scholarship then there doesn't seem much point in explaining it.  You, errrrm, you seem to be on auto-attack a little there?

Quote from: Ephiral
I could just as easily, and I think more justifiably, propose that if such a chain exists, it goes animism-polytheism-monotheism-nonbelief. We're about 14% of the population, a number that is on the rise and tends to spike higher in nations with strong ties to Christianity, and the overwhelming majority of nonbelievers, on an individual level (and thus showing a clear line of descent), come from a religious background - disproportionately a Christian one, in places where Christianity has taken root in a significant way. This seems to be a problem with your "all religions are working toward Christianity" concept.

Mmmkay.  Yes, you could just as easily make that claim.  You can make whatever claims you wish.  But I would argue that you would also need to explain why you are in the privileged position to come up with the idea when decades of scholarship hasn't.  This is hardly state of the art.  Im not claiming that new additions to an idea are impossible, but...

I think you have a western bias here.  The samkhya and mimasa schools of hinduism are atheistic and developed alongside more theistic branches.  The various proofs of God dating back centuries show that atheism was known.  Jainism is arguably atheistic. Xenophanes in the 6th century BC was an atheist.  Atheism has clearly evolved alongside religion, and hence doesn't form part of the progression.

Further, your argument doesn't even fit the facts.  The world population is growing at 1.41%, several religions are growing faster than that, meaning that on current trends atheism seems to be shrinking as a percentage of the population even if growing in real terms (unless you are claiming that the bulk of that growth rate is that both e.g Christianity and atheism are winning converts from e.g Shinto?)  Again, I suspect your position is coloured a little by a western bias there.  All stats are from here

Finally, I have always heard atheism explicitly called out as "not a religion", your final sentence seems to be arguing that it is.  Personally, I agree, but its not a claim I've heard come from atheists before.

Quote from: Ephiral
First: Voodoo is a spectacularly poor example for your case. It is descended from a polytheistic system, and did not abandon that. Its practitioners were introduced to monotheism, and told to believe under pain of pretty much any punishments their owners could dream up - and rejected it. They took its trappings to avoid punishment, but at no point I can see did they ever actually decide that they were wrong on the whole "multiple deities" thing.

I struggle to see the relevance of this point.  I said voodoo was a syncretic polytheistic religion that had developed relatively recently and not, I felt, based on a genuine belief in its gods. You seem to agree?  I'm not sure what you're getting at?  It seems to me you think I'm saying that voodoo is monotheistic?  If so then I apologise for being clear - that entire paragraph was, for the record, discussing bad faith belief as an aspect in the creation of recent polytheistic beliefs. 

Quote from: Ephiral
You have asserted things as fact that, if true, would have observable effects on reality. Those effects have not been observed despite us having the tools to spot them. Again, at the very least, we should be able to trace Christianity back to multiple distinct and separate roots if there were a "God exists!" message being transmitted to the species as a whole.

Well, one you're trying to have your cake and eat it there, it seems.  You can't argue, as you did in this post that you don't consider claims worth investigating then cry foul at me for making claims that haven't been investigated.  That's precisely the unfairness I was talking about.

Two I am amazed to hear you claim that absence of evidence is evidence of absence.

I've made repeated claims that are checkable against reality, you said I was arguing "regardless of whether they [my claims] match reality" and it does a seem a little like you've shifted your position to put on onus an me to prove the unproved claims rather than simply not make disproven ones. My theory fits all known facts and doesn't contradict any.  It makes explicit predictions.  What precisely do you want from me here.

Quote from: Ephiral
You... already specified the protocol. I was working strictly from your description of it. If you're abandoning that specification, fine, but I'd like to make it explicit. That said, a protocol must be understandable and recognisable to the receiving party, else the receiving party is unable to, y'know, receive messages. In layman's terms, you can't read a letter without being able to read the language it was written in, knowing where your mailbox is, and knowing how to open an envelope. You can't listen to the radio without some understanding that different frequencies will contain different messages. You can't get on the Internet without knowing what a computer looks like. You don't have to be able to explain protocol layers or build a TCP/IP stack from scratch, but you must be able to understand what communication looks like when you see or hear it, and how to be in a position to see or hear it.

No.  This, again, is the point I keep making.  You made the claim that information theory was applicable and hence what I was stating must, therefore, be translatable into information theory terminology.  I didn't, in fairness to you, immediately notice the flaw with that position.  But in your last post you agreed that a conversation stripped of information theory terminology would be more useful and then we are here again.  Just because it works that way in human terms is no guarantee that it works that way in divine.  Souls don't show up on x-rays but somehow "a protocol must be understandable and recognisable to the receiving party".

We don't seem to be able to get past this point...

Quote from: Ephiral
So we've imagined things both real and unreal. Still not seeing a barrier to ideas-about-God existing in !God-world.

Ah, sorry.  Didn't realise that was the point you were getting at, though it does now seem obvious.

Could you give me an example of an imagined real thing, just so I know percisely what we're talking about.

Quote from: Ephiral
Pretty much. People often grow enamored of the benefits of their ideas without considering the downsides. It's fine to bite the bullet and say "Yes, this is an acceptable consequence"; the point is to make sure you're aware of the consequences you're accepting.

Fair enough

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #53 on: July 16, 2013, 04:34:55 PM »
Errrm, I mention in the very thing you quote that the message can be spread from human to human and information theory applies to that.
Okay, yeah, I misfired here. Mea culpa.

I'm really not sure what to say to this Ephiral.  It's not my concept, there are centuries dead historians you need to take that up with (along with almost unargued current academic consensus).  If you object to the premise of the scholarship then there doesn't seem much point in explaining it.  You, errrrm, you seem to be on auto-attack a little there?
Apologies; I've not encountered it before. it still seems pretty flawed in light of cases like my example - yes, you can argue that a geographic region has ideas pop up in this pattern, but if there's no clear line of descent between the ideas, the idea that they're evolving or growing more refined from X to Y is laughable. It would be just as valid, on that basis, to claim that the Internet is the ultimate evolution of sheep-herding (IPoAC aside).

Mmmkay.  Yes, you could just as easily make that claim.  You can make whatever claims you wish.  But I would argue that you would also need to explain why you are in the privileged position to come up with the idea when decades of scholarship hasn't.  This is hardly state of the art.  Im not claiming that new additions to an idea are impossible, but...
I reject that "coming up with ideas" is a privileged position. An idea should be judged on its merits, not its origin; you are simply making an appeal to authority here.

I think you have a western bias here.  The samkhya and mimasa schools of hinduism are atheistic and developed alongside more theistic branches.  The various proofs of God dating back centuries show that atheism was known.  Jainism is arguably atheistic. Xenophanes in the 6th century BC was an atheist.  Atheism has clearly evolved alongside religion, and hence doesn't form part of the progression.
And monotheism has clearly evolved alongside polytheism, as evidenced by the fact that polytheistic belief systems bearing clear lines of descent to antiquity with no breaks still exist.

Further, your argument doesn't even fit the facts.  The world population is growing at 1.41%, several religions are growing faster than that, meaning that on current trends atheism seems to be shrinking as a percentage of the population even if growing in real terms (unless you are claiming that the bulk of that growth rate is that both e.g Christianity and atheism are winning converts from e.g Shinto?)  Again, I suspect your position is coloured a little by a western bias there.  All stats are from here
"Several" is, as you indicated, not conclusive if you're only judging lack of religion by negative inference. There's also the problem of defining "fastest growing" by percentage of the existing body of believers, which  xkcd so wonderfully illustrates. Education and economic growth show a very direct correlation with lack of religious belief, on the other hand, which is pretty telling for the future. As for western bias: Are people in East Asia more or less likely to identify as nonreligious than westerners?

Finally, I have always heard atheism explicitly called out as "not a religion", your final sentence seems to be arguing that it is.  Personally, I agree, but its not a claim I've heard come from atheists before.
I may have been unclear. My point was that "All religions are working toward their own obsolescence, Christanity included" would appear to be at least equally valid on the facts.

I struggle to see the relevance of this point.  I said voodoo was a syncretic polytheistic religion that had developed relatively recently and not, I felt, based on a genuine belief in its gods. You seem to agree?  I'm not sure what you're getting at?  It seems to me you think I'm saying that voodoo is monotheistic?  If so then I apologise for being clear - that entire paragraph was, for the record, discussing bad faith belief as an aspect in the creation of recent polytheistic beliefs.
Not based on a genuine belief in its gods? It was formed out of a desire to cleave to those gods despite extremely strong pressures to convert. What do you define as "genuine belief"?

Well, one you're trying to have your cake and eat it there, it seems.  You can't argue, as you did in this post that you don't consider claims worth investigating then cry foul at me for making claims that haven't been investigated.  That's precisely the unfairness I was talking about.
But that's just it. Your claim carries, as a direct consequence, the idea that humans will interact with information and ideas in a way which violates the existing models. Human interaction of this type has been studied extensively, and found to fit the models - which is why the models haven't been discarded yet.

Two I am amazed to hear you claim that absence of evidence is evidence of absence.
Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Absence of evidence when we're looking where that evidence should be does, however, drastically lower the likelihood that your proposal is correct.

I've made repeated claims that are checkable against reality, you said I was arguing "regardless of whether they [my claims] match reality" and it does a seem a little like you've shifted your position to put on onus an me to prove the unproved claims rather than simply not make disproven ones. My theory fits all known facts and doesn't contradict any.  It makes explicit predictions.  What precisely do you want from me here.
Okay, from my perspective: You are claiming that there is something imparting knowledge to humans which breaks all known models of human knowledge acquisition. You seem to take it as read that humans are acting on this knowledge. I am saying "Okay, so we should see human behaviour that breaks those models... but we don't seem to see that." You respond "Oh, no, those models are the wrong tools!" I ask what the right tools are, and you seem to be saying "Start from the assumption that I'm correct, and it all makes sense." But... even if we assume you are correct, as long as humans are acting based on the knowledge imparted to them, this should show as the models grow increasingly unreliable and are discarded.

No.  This, again, is the point I keep making.  You made the claim that information theory was applicable and hence what I was stating must, therefore, be translatable into information theory terminology.  I didn't, in fairness to you, immediately notice the flaw with that position.  But in your last post you agreed that a conversation stripped of information theory terminology would be more useful and then we are here again.  Just because it works that way in human terms is no guarantee that it works that way in divine.  Souls don't show up on x-rays but somehow "a protocol must be understandable and recognisable to the receiving party".
This... isn't exactly information theory terminology. This is how perception works. If you are illiterate, you cannot understand the written word. If you don't speak English, then the BBC is of little use to you without a translator. If you are colourblind, then any message written in one of those coloured-dot charts is lost on you. If you are deaf and blind, the world outside arm's reach might as well not exist for all it's going to be communicating with you. You have to be able to a) see the message in the first place, and b) translate from message-as-delivered into your brain.

Could you give me an example of an imagined real thing, just so I know percisely what we're talking about.
Jules Verne came up with rocket-powered travel to other worlds, lunar landing modules, solar sails, submariens that didn't require human power, and deep ocean diving. Rogue planets pop up all over the place in science fiction; we discovered them in 2011. Otto Loewi quite literally dreamed up a proof that nerve impulses were chemical. August Kekulé came up with the structure of benzene the same way.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #54 on: July 16, 2013, 05:39:19 PM »
Quote from: Ephiral
Apologies; I've not encountered it before. it still seems pretty flawed in light of cases like my example - yes, you can argue that a geographic region has ideas pop up in this pattern, but if there's no clear line of descent between the ideas, the idea that they're evolving or growing more refined from X to Y is laughable. It would be just as valid, on that basis, to claim that the Internet is the ultimate evolution of sheep-herding (IPoAC aside).

It seems there is a clear line of descent in the ideas.  Excepting rare cases where a population has been literally exterminated and then the area resettled, there will always be other people there.  Your reincarnated baby self absorbs values from the surrounding population, values which your now-dead former self helped to shape.  And so on.

Quote from: Ephiral
I reject that "coming up with ideas" is a privileged position. An idea should be judged on its merits, not its origin; you are simply making an appeal to authority here.

Not quite.  My issue is that I consider it more likely that scholars who have spent their lives looking at the idea have already come up with an objection - one you were able to think up within hours of hearing the idea - and answered it than that not being the case.

Quote from: Ephiral
And monotheism has clearly evolved alongside polytheism, as evidenced by the fact that polytheistic belief systems bearing clear lines of descent to antiquity with no breaks still exist.
 

Not within a people, though.  Yes, there are a few extant polytheistic religions and considerably more animist ones.  My point was, though, that alongside a given culture's dominant religion or religions there has always been a strand of atheism.  However, its only once cultures started intermixing that there has existed a polytheistic strand alongside a dominant monotheism or vice versa and these are almost universally (I cant think of a counter example but its not actually important) idealogical imports.

Quote from: Ephiral
"Several" is, as you indicated, not conclusive if you're only judging lack of religion by negative inference. There's also the problem of defining "fastest growing" by percentage of the existing body of believers, which  xkcd so wonderfully illustrates. Education and economic growth show a very direct correlation with lack of religious belief, on the other hand, which is pretty telling for the future. As for western bias: Are people in East Asia more or less likely to identify as nonreligious than westerners?

I actually have no idea, though I judge from the phrasing of your question that you do and they are.

How would you prefer lack of religion to be measured other than negative inference?

Xkcd is funny, sure, but its a bit of a red herring because "fastest growing" forms no part of my claim whatsoever - simply that it is growing in absolute terms faster than the world's population.

Quote from: Ephiral
I may have been unclear. My point was that "All religions are working toward their own obsolescence, Christanity included" would appear to be at least equally valid on the facts.

Gotcha.  Thought it was a bit of an odd claim.

It would yes.  As would many others.  Hitchens's razor cuts both ways though, so the more likely still would seem to be that "some stuff will probably happen"  Importantly, though, the claims about the progression of religions were secular ones.  They were accepted, ever so slowly, by the church.  So I'd like to split out a couple of topics for ease here, if we might.

The secular claim that there is an observable progression in religion.

The Christian interpretation of that which ties into earlier Christian teaching about supersessionism and the like that religions inevitably approach Christianity.

Quote from: Ephiral
Not based on a genuine belief in its gods? It was formed out of a desire to cleave to those gods despite extremely strong pressures to convert. What do you define as "genuine belief"?

"Genuine belief" isn't the point of rupture, here.  "Its gods" is.  You say yourself that various of the voodoo loa were traditional west african beliefs that were mixed up with and covered over by merging them with Catholic saints - well, you don't say precisely that but I think we can agree to it.  I'm calling "its gods" as the syncretic product of that while, it appears to me, you are using that term to refer to the underlying traditional beliefs.

Quote from: Ephiral
But that's just it. Your claim carries, as a direct consequence, the idea that humans will interact with information and ideas in a way which violates the existing models. Human interaction of this type has been studied extensively, and found to fit the models - which is why the models haven't been discarded yet.

Could you expand here a little.  I think I see where we've diverged but I'm not sure.  "Human interaction of this type" is my particular issue - what type precisely is "this type"? 

I suspect I'm going to say that what has been studied extensively is inter-human communication of a type you are defining as similar, but I don't want to jump the gun too much.

Quote from: Ephiral
Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Absence of evidence when we're looking where that evidence should be does, however, drastically lower the likelihood that your proposal is correct.

Happy to stipulate to that, yes.

Quote from: Ephiral
Okay, from my perspective: You are claiming that there is something imparting knowledge to humans which breaks all known models of human knowledge acquisition. You seem to take it as read that humans are acting on this knowledge. I am saying "Okay, so we should see human behaviour that breaks those models... but we don't seem to see that." You respond "Oh, no, those models are the wrong tools!" I ask what the right tools are, and you seem to be saying "Start from the assumption that I'm correct, and it all makes sense." But... even if we assume you are correct, as long as humans are acting based on the knowledge imparted to them, this should show as the models grow increasingly unreliable and are discarded.

With the best will in the world, I would also characterise your argument as of the "start from the assumption I'm correct" variety.  You are stating that the models are applicable to this situation and that my position that they're not is incorrect.  I think we may just both have to let that slide a little. 

"How old are these models?" would be my main question.  If you're arguing that they will grow increasingly unstable and that forms a detection mechanism I think its relevant whether they were developed yesterday or before recorded history.  I'm not, just to allay any concerns, going to try to dick around and answer "well, thats not long enough" to simply any answer you give, I hope I've come across as arguing in better faith than that.  But I do think the question is relevant.  The system Im proposing, which works across multiple generations, would seem to need to be monitored across multiple generations at a minimum in order to cause a blip on the radar. 

Quote from: Ephiral
This... isn't exactly information theory terminology. This is how perception works. If you are illiterate, you cannot understand the written word. If you don't speak English, then the BBC is of little use to you without a translator. If you are colourblind, then any message written in one of those coloured-dot charts is lost on you. If you are deaf and blind, the world outside arm's reach might as well not exist for all it's going to be communicating with you. You have to be able to a) see the message in the first place, and b) translate from message-as-delivered into your brain.

Telepathy.  Or, rather, the ability to place an idea in someone's brain, Im not 100% clear a) if there is a standard definition of telepathy and b) if, if there is, it includes that.

Quote from: Ephiral
Jules Verne came up with rocket-powered travel to other worlds, lunar landing modules, solar sails, submariens that didn't require human power, and deep ocean diving. Rogue planets pop up all over the place in science fiction; we discovered them in 2011. Otto Loewi quite literally dreamed up a proof that nerve impulses were chemical. August Kekulé came up with the structure of benzene the same way.

OK.  I'm going to ignore Jules Verne for the moment.  Just so you don't think I'm asking for an example then saying I'll ignore it (or, rather, just so you know why I've just done literally that):

It seems there are two classes there.  Verne imagined things that later became real, the other examples imagined things that were currently real but unknown.  I think the conversation would get confusing if we were to discuss the two classes at the same time.  Im more than happy to return to Verne, or even start with him - the decision was entirely arbitrary - but I do think its worth splitting them.

Is that agreeable?  I don't want to run roughshod over your examples here and start a conversation in, apparently, bad faith by having ruled out of bounds something essential to your argument.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #55 on: July 16, 2013, 06:22:45 PM »
It seems there is a clear line of descent in the ideas.  Excepting rare cases where a population has been literally exterminated and then the area resettled, there will always be other people there.  Your reincarnated baby self absorbs values from the surrounding population, values which your now-dead former self helped to shape.  And so on.
Mmm... if it does aqcknowledge those cases as exceptions, then it does sound like you're talking about nations. And, well, the general trend there once again seems to be to abandon the idea of identifying a nation with a religion as the last step in the equation.

Not quite.  My issue is that I consider it more likely that scholars who have spent their lives looking at the idea have already come up with an objection - one you were able to think up within hours of hearing the idea - and answered it than that not being the case.
Then the appropriate response is "That has been addressed by X", not "You lack the proper credentials."
 
Not within a people, though.  Yes, there are a few extant polytheistic religions and considerably more animist ones.  My point was, though, that alongside a given culture's dominant religion or religions there has always been a strand of atheism.  However, its only once cultures started intermixing that there has existed a polytheistic strand alongside a dominant monotheism or vice versa and these are almost universally (I cant think of a counter example but its not actually important) idealogical imports.
Only because the geography rule says that a diaspora is no longer the same people. You provided an example yourself: Voudun is polytheistic. The direct descendants of its followers follow a direct descent of the idea. It's still polytheistic. And it appears to have originated before inter-cultural contact, and happily coexisted while Christianity was dominating the crap out of Europe.

I actually have no idea, though I judge from the phrasing of your question that you do and they are.
Right.

How would you prefer lack of religion to be measured other than negative inference?
The same way religion is measured - self-identification.

Xkcd is funny, sure, but its a bit of a red herring because "fastest growing" forms no part of my claim whatsoever - simply that it is growing in absolute terms faster than the world's population.
The chart you cite is measuring growth as a percentage of the existing body of believers. Its figures showing each religion as a percentage of the global population, extrapolated out over 25 and 50 years, show not a single religion climbing by anywhere near the 37.5 and 75% needed to beat a 1.4 per annum global population increase. So... if you're not measuring via the problematic method indicated, I fail to see how those figures come from the cited material.

"Genuine belief" isn't the point of rupture, here.  "Its gods" is.  You say yourself that various of the voodoo loa were traditional west african beliefs that were mixed up with and covered over by merging them with Catholic saints - well, you don't say precisely that but I think we can agree to it.  I'm calling "its gods" as the syncretic product of that while, it appears to me, you are using that term to refer to the underlying traditional beliefs.
The Voudun pantheon splits at the level of individual families. Why is one more split, with the underlying forms still recognizable, enough to say "Nope! Not part of the same line."?

Could you expand here a little.  I think I see where we've diverged but I'm not sure.  "Human interaction of this type" is my particular issue - what type precisely is "this type"?
Recognizing, processing, and acting on information, of which communication is a specific subset.

I suspect I'm going to say that what has been studied extensively is inter-human communication of a type you are defining as similar, but I don't want to jump the gun too much.
A point I have been trying to make for some time now is that the source is irrelevant to the question of whether we can use evidence-based approaches to study the phenomenon, because the destination is always a human being, and we can study that side of the equation to learn things about the message.

With the best will in the world, I would also characterise your argument as of the "start from the assumption I'm correct" variety.  You are stating that the models are applicable to this situation and that my position that they're not is incorrect.  I think we may just both have to let that slide a little.
Not really. I'm starting from the fact that these models cover every other instance of human-knowledge interaction, and some of them cover every other instance of what constitutes knowledge. This is a huge mountain of evidence that they do, in fact, work in general. If you're saying "not in this case", then there needs to be some piece of evidence we can point to to balance the scales. There must be a way the models visibly break down when applied to Christian thought. There... isn't one.

"How old are these models?" would be my main question.  If you're arguing that they will grow increasingly unstable and that forms a detection mechanism I think its relevant whether they were developed yesterday or before recorded history.  I'm not, just to allay any concerns, going to try to dick around and answer "well, thats not long enough" to simply any answer you give, I hope I've come across as arguing in better faith than that.  But I do think the question is relevant.  The system Im proposing, which works across multiple generations, would seem to need to be monitored across multiple generations at a minimum in order to cause a blip on the radar.
Not terribly, I'll admit. But... why is this relevant? It's not like we're unable to examine the scholarship and writings of yesteryear.

Telepathy.  Or, rather, the ability to place an idea in someone's brain, Im not 100% clear a) if there is a standard definition of telepathy and b) if, if there is, it includes that.
Still brings us to the same problem: If you can't tell which of your thoughts are Orders from On High and which ones are your own, then the probability that you will ever follow God's will is <number of Divine Ideas>/<total number of ideas>, and cannot improve. So if people are going to actually progress reliably toward Godliness, then either the percentage of Divine Ideas is so great that they'll be psychologically unrecognizable as human, or God is forcing actions as well as thoughts, which should be recognizable as inhuman behaviour patterns.

OK.  I'm going to ignore Jules Verne for the moment.  Just so you don't think I'm asking for an example then saying I'll ignore it (or, rather, just so you know why I've just done literally that):

It seems there are two classes there.  Verne imagined things that later became real, the other examples imagined things that were currently real but unknown.  I think the conversation would get confusing if we were to discuss the two classes at the same time.  Im more than happy to return to Verne, or even start with him - the decision was entirely arbitrary - but I do think its worth splitting them.

Is that agreeable?  I don't want to run roughshod over your examples here and start a conversation in, apparently, bad faith by having ruled out of bounds something essential to your argument.
That's fine. Verne was the weaker example - there's an argument that the later inventions were inspired by him, after all - so I'm actually pretty happy dropping it entirely.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #56 on: July 18, 2013, 03:42:13 AM »
Once again, I plan to put some horizontal lines in to help me keep things straight.  I'm also gonna skip some of your points and, hopefully, address them in a more freeform style as I think the conversation is fragmenting into several smaller conversations.  Please do call me up if I have not answered something in a quote and then not addressed it in the wider discussion, and please accept my pre-emptive apology.

Please don't think I'm trying to enforce structure on you, this is simply a means of organising my own thoughts and tying some of the small quote-conversations back into what I see as the wider point.



Progression of Religions

Quote from: Ephiral
Mmm... if it does acknowledge those cases as exceptions, then it does sound like you're talking about nations

Potentially so, as I say - I'm not sure of the precise term.  I'm happy to run with "nations" for the purposes of this conversation, certainly.




In general, the consensus is that a nation - using our agreed definition, the word in the original was "menschen" meaning roughly "people" or "humans" see, for example, ueber-and unter mensch - progresses from animism/totemism to polytheism to monotheism.  The bulk of work here was done in the late 1800s.

You seem to propose a fourth step to that, atheism.  Figures for worldwide growth of atheism seem to be all over the place, to be perfectly honest, and its rare to find two sources that agree.  The University of Cambridge seems broadly typical when it claims it is falling worldwide as a function of higher birth rates in less industrialised countries and less industrialised countries typically being more religions - the Republic of Ireland and the USA frequently called out as exceptions.  But a global (relative) decrease in numbers of atheists - if, indeed, it exists -  isn't sufficient to refute your position.

As I say, the concept is with nation states and, yes, more "advanced" - I think we can both agree on what is meant there - nations tend to have higher numbers of atheists.  Which does tend towards your theory as showing a progression, the argument presumably being that the more religious, less advanced states have not progressed sufficiently along that scale for your proposed stage 4 to be seen.

My major objection to that is that atheism has always existed as a strand of thought alongside religions and within the population the religion draws from, throughout at least polytheism and monotheism - the earlier societies tended to not have written records so its difficult to be sure there.  By definition, though, the population of a religion has not had both polytheistic and monotheistic tendencies, the two are mutually incompatible.

In essence, I'm saying that atheism is something different.  Rather than a progression of:

animism - > polytheism - > monotheism - > atheism

I would say that the situation is more like:



Please forgive the crudity of the graph, and the layout/represented percentages are for illustration only - especially the straight line of atheism's growth which clearly doesn't match historical trends and the hard cut offs between forms of religion which don't either.  I'm simply trying to convey that I believe atheism is a separate trend that, while it may come to supersede religion, doesn't form part of the same process.  An illustration would be a house.  Over time an extension is added, a conservatory, a downstairs toilet.  Then the house is knocked down and a motorway built in its place.  The modifications to the house form part of an unbroken chain, the motorway is something replacing it.



Side issue from progression of religions

Quote from: Ephiral
Then the appropriate response is "That has been addressed by X", not "You lack the proper credentials."

You are, of course, correct.  I'm sorry.

I'm never certain if an explanation cheapens an apology or not.  I go to and fro on this matter.  As you can tell by the way I'm about to launch into an explanation I am currently fro (or possibly to, I didn't really define my terms).  If you feel it would cheapen it then I ask you not to read.

As you're no doubt aware there is a widespread belief that the vocal atheist movement holds scholarship and academia from the humanities in contempt.  I personally blame the influence of Dawkins here, but that is simply opinion.  Regardless of its source, it can be seen repeatedly.  Theology perhaps coming in for particular vitriol - leprechaunology - but the pattern holds across other areas as well.  I have heard it suggested that some are so enamoured of the ability of science to derive a conclusion from first principles that they find irrelevant any discipline not based on the sciences which rings somewhat true for me, but that is again mere supposition.

Now.  You don't come across like that and, frankly, even if you did a pissy comment wouldn't be the best way of addressing that.  But it was irritation with that position - I hadn't realised you hadn't realised this was established scholarship and had, perhaps, viewed your questioning of it as an outgrowth of the above position -  coupled with various external factors that caused me to respond badly.  Of course, this is borderline justification - I have been both irritated and hot before and not responded badly and even if I hadn't the fault would still lie with me.  So I don't want the above to take anything away from my apology and I hope it didn't.



Voodoo

Quite honestly, I didn't expect this to be a controversial point or to generate any discussion at all, let alone the amount it did.  It seems clear that I view it as distinct enough from its origins to be called something different and you don't.  In all honesty, I'm not certain it matters.  I am hoping we can just agree to disagree on that rather than prolong a conversation that I strongly suspect neither of us have any real interest in. 



Spreading the message

Quote from: Ephiral
A point I have been trying to make for some time now is that the source is irrelevant to the question of whether we can use evidence-based approaches to study the phenomenon, because the destination is always a human being, and we can study that side of the equation to learn things about the message.

My apologies, I hadn't realised that was a point you were trying to make.  We spent two pages discussing the necessity of the sender to develop good protocols, etc.  and I think that amount of discussion on the source may have led me to miss the fact that your underlying point was that the source was irrelevant.  I'm very sorry, I know that sounds sarcastic and I have written and rewritten the paragraph a few times to try to remove that but every new phrasing fails just as badly or worse.  I mean to say that I think we may have allowed the conversation to become sidetracked, then, into a different issue that unfortunately obfuscated your main point a little. 

However:

Quote from: Ephiral
Not terribly, I'll admit. But... why is this relevant?

Because of:

Quote from: Ephiral
But... even if we assume you are correct, as long as humans are acting based on the knowledge imparted to them, this should show as the models grow increasingly unreliable and are discarded.

You state that the mechanism for seeing our models aren't applicable would be them increasingly growing unreliable.  That "increasingly" seems to imply, to me at least, that you don't view this as an instantaneous matter.  As such, it seems clear to me that the models must exist for a certain amount of time - I proposed a number of generations as the message itself spreads on the scale of generations - in order to see if they are, indeed, growing increasingly unreliable and being discarded.  If I say that the test of my house building skills is that my houses don't fall down it would not be unreasonable to say that one must observe my houses for a period of time before conceding that point.

This seems, in all honesty, such a trivial statement that your questioning it makes me think I may have misunderstood your meaning.  I have, however, stared at the statement for a while and I genuinely can't see another

Quote from: Ephiral
or God is forcing actions as well as thoughts

God isn't forcing actions - free will.  I just thought I'd make this explicit.



I honestly believe we've reached an impasse here and even if we haven't we have, with the best will in the world, reached the limits of my interest in this conversation.  It is something of a side issue to the topic, in reality, that I believe your interest in information theory and my failure to recognise what I saw as a fallacy in your position - trying to apply it in this case - has allowed to grow unchecked. 

I lack the specialised vocabulary in this area and have thus made statements that are incorrect based on a stupid attempt to mimic yours. It does seem to me though that you're being intransigent in your insistence that the models of information theory apply.  Many aspects of religion should have measurable effects given the current state of science - I return again to ensoulment - and I fail to see the distinction you draw between those and this.  Throughout this thread I have explicitly raised any predictions that my beliefs lead to that are, in my opinion, checkable.  This, Ephiral, either isn't or, at a minimum, I haven't understood your argument.  We have been discussing, a side issue as I say, for some considerable time now though and I would submit that if this is the case we have both given it a good crack of the whip.

As I say, we have almost certainly reached the limits of my interest in this area.  If you wish I can give as full an answer as I can think of to the question "how does God communicate directly with mankind" but I am essentially uninterested in further analysis of that as it seems fruitless. 


The impossibility of imagining God did He not exist

Your submission is that there are instances of people having imagined something that, unknown to them, actually existed.

I actually felt that Loewi and Kekulé were relatively weak examples.  My issue there is that neither was an unemployed bricklayer who suddenly woke up in the middle of the night with an idea.  Both were actively working all day on that very subject.  All this seems to be is confirmation that "sleeping on it" has benefits in some cases, which we knew anyway.  Many times I have "slept on" a problem and woken up with a solution.  This seems no different.  In essence, I think you're privileging dreams a little there - the examples would be wholly unremarkable if they had been struck with the answer on their lunch break.

Rogue planets seem, to me, the strongest example, so that's the one I'll focus on: Why are rogue planets imaginable to mankind but not God.

I mentioned earlier the concept of imago dei.   Though I'm not Catholic myself, the Catechism of the Church covers the bit I want and I (broadly) agree with the wording:

CC 355:
Quote
God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them. Man occupies a unique place in creation: (I) he is "in the image of God"; (II) in his own nature he unites the spiritual and material worlds; (III) he is created "male and female"; (IV) God established him in his friendship.

it then goes in to a bit more detail on each of those cases, if you're interested you can find it all here but the expansion isn't overly necessary.  For reference, the opening is repetitive because its a direct quote from Gen 1:27 which is repetitive as it was likely meant to be spoken out loud and memorised, you see that trend a lot.

So man was created uniting the two worlds - that of God and that of Man.  This underpins a whole load of areas, its the reason animals don't have souls, for example.  It's also, not to reopen a can of worms that I don't want open, necessary for God's communication with man.  But I'll move swiftly away from that point.

This unity with the spirit world is why I say that God is an integral part of man.  Why religions are moving towards Him, for example.  God is "inbuilt".  So that's why, to take the positive half of the question, man does imagine God. 

On to take the negative half - why couldn't man imagine God without Him being part of man's basic nature.  The same reason no culture has imagined the gaumular.  What's a gaumular I hear you cry?  Well, it's a creature that bears no similarities to any other creature on this planet.  It's not a reptile, amphibian, mammal, any of the *thinks* Kingdoms.  It doesn't look like a horse, nor does it have a shell like a tortoise.  There is not a single point of reference between it and anything we've seen before.  God falls into that category.  There is no omniscient being on earth, no being who exists outside our possible perceptions, no undying being, God, in short, shares literally no characteristics with anything we have ever seen.  Sure, people - me included - sometimes talk as if He does but that's an artefact of human language.  I also say my laptop is being a cunt when it boots up slowly, anthropomorphism in short.  But I think everyone accepts that that's a limitation of human language and thought from every major monotheistic religion and all the older polytheistic has classified their God as unknowable to the human intellect.

Not to put words in your mouth, but I can see two potential objections which I'll try to clear up.

First, you could argue that while obviously we don't know anyone omniscient we do know people smarter, don't know anyone immortal we do know people older.  That is to say the attributes of God are mere extrapolations rather than new characteristics.  Varying in degree, not kind.  This is a strong argument, in my opinion, and in the end comes down to a matter of line drawing.  When does something become different enough from the original to become something else?  It seems to me from our brief discussion of voodoo that you consider that to be quite some way further than I do, but absent an agreed on definition I'm not sure how much further we can progress there?

Second you might point to the stab we've taken at xenocreatures or Adams' hyperintelligent shades of the colour blue as examples of things we've imagined that don't correspond to anything we've seen.  First, loads of aliens are clearly based on humans with bumpy foreheads, they can be discarded with a wave of the hand.  Planet of Hats TV TROPES LINK!! BEWARE!!  The alien races that are more serious attempts, I remember reading somewhere about a hypothetical species of floaters living in the atmosphere of a gas giant which was quite interesting, are pretty clearly predictions.  Given what we know of how life works, what we know of gas giants, what we know of etc. what would a life form in that situation look like.  Hyperintelligent shades of the colour  blue aren't a thing.  No-one believes in them.  No-one thinks they are or could be real while, pretty unarguably, people do think that about God.  The point I'm getting at here is that no-one has ever proposed the existence of those things and worked through the ramifications because the idea is internally inconsistent.  While religions, God, no matter how much you might disagree that they are consistent with the rest of the world, are internally inconsistent.

So, to return to the question, we didn't imagine rogue planets until we had the reference point of planets pretty firmly established.

I actually felt Verne was a stronger example than Loewi and Kekulé, and clearly a stronger one than you did so I'll just talk briefly about that.  Sure, some of his ideas may have inspired research but I think its a stretch to say all of them did.  However, they fall, still, into this problem of reference.  You even mention submarines that didn't require human power - submarines were invented in 1620, a boat that didn't require human power sailed the Saône twenty years before Verne was born.  *Shrug*  I don't think there was anything remarkable about combining those.  Kepler wrote in 1610 "Provide ships or sails adapted to the heavenly breezes, and there will be some who will brave even that void." based on his observations of comet tails pointing away from the sun and Maxwell had proved that light exerted pressure a few years before From the Earth to the Moon.  Point is, all of this was known.  Not to take anything away from him for connecting the dots, but nothing new was created, just a synthesis of old things.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #57 on: July 18, 2013, 11:47:15 AM »
I have no problem with your imposition of structure; in fact, I think I'll steal it.

Progression of Religions

My major objection to that is that atheism has always existed as a strand of thought alongside religions and within the population the religion draws from, throughout at least polytheism and monotheism - the earlier societies tended to not have written records so its difficult to be sure there.  By definition, though, the population of a religion has not had both polytheistic and monotheistic tendencies, the two are mutually incompatible.
You are using two different definitions of "population" there. If it is impossible "by definition" for a population to believe in many gods and one god simultaneously, it is equally impossible to believe in many gods and no gods, or one god and no gods.

Also, we have several examples throughout history of cultures that came from mixed backgrounds and operated under a general principle of freedom of religion - leading to populations in which polytheists stood side-by-side with monotheists and atheists. Classical-era Rome springs to mind.

To be perfectly honest, I still find the entire "progression" model highly questionable; my point in proposing a stage 4 to it was less about saying "This is a good idea worth entertaining" and more "This is another hypothesis which fits the presented facts equally and has equal predictive power, so it seems like you're privileging a monotheistic worldview." Which, it should be noted, research from the 1800s almost certainly was.

Please forgive the crudity of the graph, and the layout/represented percentages are for illustration only - especially the straight line of atheism's growth which clearly doesn't match historical trends and the hard cut offs between forms of religion which don't either.  I'm simply trying to convey that I believe atheism is a separate trend that, while it may come to supersede religion, doesn't form part of the same process.  An illustration would be a house.  Over time an extension is added, a conservatory, a downstairs toilet.  Then the house is knocked down and a motorway built in its place.  The modifications to the house form part of an unbroken chain, the motorway is something replacing it.
In this context, I fail to see the distinction. We have examples of animism, polytheism, and monotheism existing side by side. Using "It existed simultaneously!" to bar atheism from consideration in the same light seems to fail.



Side issue from progression of religions

You are, of course, correct.  I'm sorry.

I'm never certain if an explanation cheapens an apology or not.  I go to and fro on this matter.  As you can tell by the way I'm about to launch into an explanation I am currently fro (or possibly to, I didn't really define my terms).  If you feel it would cheapen it then I ask you not to read.

As you're no doubt aware there is a widespread belief that the vocal atheist movement holds scholarship and academia from the humanities in contempt.  I personally blame the influence of Dawkins here, but that is simply opinion.  Regardless of its source, it can be seen repeatedly.  Theology perhaps coming in for particular vitriol - leprechaunology - but the pattern holds across other areas as well.  I have heard it suggested that some are so enamoured of the ability of science to derive a conclusion from first principles that they find irrelevant any discipline not based on the sciences which rings somewhat true for me, but that is again mere supposition.
Your apology is quite gracious, and gladly accepted.

As a total aside: I hold theology to be valuable as an essentially sociological study: The study of human belief, and in particular a subset of that that seems particularly attractive tot he human brain. What I find valuable about science is actually its ability to check against reality, and adjust itself rather than trying to adjust reality when the two are in error. I believe I've mentioned before that I hold science in no special regard except that it happens to be a better tool than most; show me a theology that does a better job of conforming to the world as we know it (and adjusting when we learn something new), and it will become a major tool in my kit.

And for the record: This being established scholarship does absolutely nothing to exempt it from needing to justify itself. I think it's important to question what we think we know on a regular basis - we're constantly learning new things about reality, and old ideas need to be checked against this new knowledge.



Voodoo

Quite honestly, I didn't expect this to be a controversial point or to generate any discussion at all, let alone the amount it did.  It seems clear that I view it as distinct enough from its origins to be called something different and you don't.  In all honesty, I'm not certain it matters.  I am hoping we can just agree to disagree on that rather than prolong a conversation that I strongly suspect neither of us have any real interest in.
I'm fine with dropping this just to keep the conversation from getting more unwieldy.



Spreading the message

My apologies, I hadn't realised that was a point you were trying to make.  We spent two pages discussing the necessity of the sender to develop good protocols, etc.  and I think that amount of discussion on the source may have led me to miss the fact that your underlying point was that the source was irrelevant.  I'm very sorry, I know that sounds sarcastic and I have written and rewritten the paragraph a few times to try to remove that but every new phrasing fails just as badly or worse.  I mean to say that I think we may have allowed the conversation to become sidetracked, then, into a different issue that unfortunately obfuscated your main point a little.
Probably, yeah. The reason I brought that stuff in is because, once it is established that the receiver must operate within the established framework of the universe, the sender would do well to design a message that works well within that framework. It did kinda turn into a huge digression, and I apologise.

You state that the mechanism for seeing our models aren't applicable would be them increasingly growing unreliable.  That "increasingly" seems to imply, to me at least, that you don't view this as an instantaneous matter.  As such, it seems clear to me that the models must exist for a certain amount of time - I proposed a number of generations as the message itself spreads on the scale of generations - in order to see if they are, indeed, growing increasingly unreliable and being discarded.  If I say that the test of my house building skills is that my houses don't fall down it would not be unreasonable to say that one must observe my houses for a period of time before conceding that point.
Point of rupture here. I intended "increasingly" as new ideas are introduced by the info-theory-violating source. The further back we go, the more things should conform; the closer we get to the modern day, the more unreliable the models should be, and this pattern should continue going forward. It's more a test of my skills as a home inspector, to torture your analogy a bit: Houses I sign off on will not fall down as quickly as ones I do not, all other factors being equal.

This is irrelevant, but I find it kind of interesting.
I lack the specialised vocabulary in this area and have thus made statements that are incorrect based on a stupid attempt to mimic yours. It does seem to me though that you're being intransigent in your insistence that the models of information theory apply.  Many aspects of religion should have measurable effects given the current state of science - I return again to ensoulment - and I fail to see the distinction you draw between those and this.  Throughout this thread I have explicitly raised any predictions that my beliefs lead to that are, in my opinion, checkable.  This, Ephiral, either isn't or, at a minimum, I haven't understood your argument.  We have been discussing, a side issue as I say, for some considerable time now though and I would submit that if this is the case we have both given it a good crack of the whip.
The distinction generally turns out to be obvious with another game of taboo. This time, the taboo word is "soul". What are the actual properties of the thing you're talking about? And on a related note, could P-zombies exist?



The impossibility of imagining God did He not exist

Quote from: Kythia link=topic=178506.msg8594768#msg8594768
First, you could argue that while obviously we don't know anyone omniscient we do know people smarter, don't know anyone immortal we do know people older.  That is to say the attributes of God are mere extrapolations rather than new characteristics.  Varying in degree, not kind.  This is a strong argument, in my opinion, and in the end comes down to a matter of line drawing.  When does something become different enough from the original to become something else?  It seems to me from our brief discussion of voodoo that you consider that to be quite some way further than I do, but absent an agreed on definition I'm not sure how much further we can progress there?
I'd say the limit is in the variables. The difference between God and any other creature is in the value of the variables; we simply take a human being, crank Noticeability down to 0, and Intelligence and Lifespan as high as they'll go, and it meets the traits you've described. The gaumular, on the other hand, cannot be arrived at this way - there is no existing being with a Flergle variable we can set to match the gaumular. While I agree that we have a difficult, perhaps impossible, time imagining the gaumular, it seems to me that, based on the examples presented, the dividing line is between gaumular and God, not between God and, say, dragon.

Quote from: Kythia link=topic=178506.msg8594768#msg8594768
Second you might point to the stab we've taken at xenocreatures or Adams' hyperintelligent shades of the colour blue as examples of things we've imagined that don't correspond to anything we've seen.  First, loads of aliens are clearly based on humans with bumpy foreheads, they can be discarded with a wave of the hand.  Planet of Hats TV TROPES LINK!! BEWARE!!  The alien races that are more serious attempts, I remember reading somewhere about a hypothetical species of floaters living in the atmosphere of a gas giant which was quite interesting, are pretty clearly predictions.  Given what we know of how life works, what we know of gas giants, what we know of etc. what would a life form in that situation look like.  Hyperintelligent shades of the colour  blue aren't a thing.  No-one believes in them.  No-one thinks they are or could be real while, pretty unarguably, people do think that about God.  The point I'm getting at here is that no-one has ever proposed the existence of those things and worked through the ramifications because the idea is internally inconsistent.  While religions, God, no matter how much you might disagree that they are consistent with the rest of the world, are internally inconsistent.
I think I'm misunderstanding you, because thi argument looks inconsistent. It seems like you're saying that if something is plausible, it's a prediction, but if it's not plausible, it's too silly to be counted. This conveniently rules out... well, everything ever. Assuming that's not what you meant, and that you want something that is completely imaginary but which groups of people can believe in... well, there's all the gods that we agree are false, for a start. Roswell-style grey aliens. Reptilians. Bigfoot. Nessie. Ghosts. Yes, these are patently silly from our outsider's perspective - but taken as deadly serious real things by their adherents.

I actually felt Verne was a stronger example than Loewi and Kekulé, and clearly a stronger one than you did so I'll just talk briefly about that.  Sure, some of his ideas may have inspired research but I think its a stretch to say all of them did.  However, they fall, still, into this problem of reference.  You even mention submarines that didn't require human power - submarines were invented in 1620, a boat that didn't require human power sailed the Saône twenty years before Verne was born.  *Shrug*  I don't think there was anything remarkable about combining those.  Kepler wrote in 1610 "Provide ships or sails adapted to the heavenly breezes, and there will be some who will brave even that void." based on his observations of comet tails pointing away from the sun and Maxwell had proved that light exerted pressure a few years before From the Earth to the Moon.  Point is, all of this was known.  Not to take anything away from him for connecting the dots, but nothing new was created, just a synthesis of old things.
[/quote]The submarine example, I think, is the strong one here. Ships that didn't require human power were old hat. Submarines were old hat. Vessels which required neither human power nor open atmosphere, however, were a radical new concept, and would require an engine that bore no resemblance to anything in Verne's frame of reference. I fail to see a meaningful distinction between that and "Long-lived creatures are known, but something that never dies is outside our frame of reference."

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #58 on: July 18, 2013, 11:47:53 AM »
And it would seem I've mangled my quote tags. Hopefully you can forgive me.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #59 on: August 07, 2013, 06:36:53 PM »
Hmmm.

I distinctly remember writing a reply to this and have been waiting for your reply to it.  Somewhere on my computer there is a notepad file, probably called "Untitled (11)" or something similar, I suspect, waiting for me to copy and paste it over.

Anyway.  I shall retype.

Progression of Religion

I actually don't believe I am using two definitions of population.  I think the point is a little more subtle.  My dad, step-dad technically, would self-identify as a Muslim.  But he doesn't go to Mosque, cheerfully eats haram foods, and frankly doesn't believe in Allah.  The situation is even more heightened if you look at Judaism.  The entry criteria is "mother is a Jew".  It's entirely possible to be an atheistic Jew, it's not possible to be a polytheistic one - at that point you become something else.  And that's just the western/abrahamic religions.  Schools of Hinduism and Buddhism are explicitly atheistic but adherants are still Hindus and Buddhists.  In short, while I agree its impossible to believe in many gods and no gods, belief in a deity isn't and realistically never has been the entry criteria to belonging to the population of a religion.  It's possible to be a UK citizen without holding a UK passport, it's not possible to be a UK citizen and hold a foreign passport.  (It is, of course.  My father does.  But lets pretend that dual citizenship doesn't exist just so my analogy works).

That's why I bar atheism with "it existed simultaneously!".  Because atheism exists as a strand within religious populations simultaneously to other forms of belief, but those forms of belief are mutually incompatible.

As a brief aside, this is why I was a little surprised to hear you espouse self-identification rather than negative inference as a means of counting atheists, I suspect it will cause the number to plummet.



Side Issue

I think this issue's closed?



Spreading the Message

Ah, that makes sense.  OK.

I would point out though that removing religions gives us vanishingly few examples of a system of thought that has lasted for the sheer lengths of time that religion has (I can't think of one off hand but am unwilling to rule them out).  In short, at extreme lengths of time, the major data points are largely religions.  What I mean is that your models are - presumably at least - derived in part from the way religions spread and as such expecting them to break models is a little off base.

But yes.  I said I was uninterested in further conversation on this point then couldn't resist trying to get the last word in.  Why do I do that?  New, disciplined, Kythia begins... now.



The Impossibility of imagining God

I'd like to think my argument was badly phrased rather than inconsistent, your mileage may vary.  My point wasn't strictly plausability, it was more depth of imagining.  There are ramifications to imaginary creatures - for the sake of argument lets include all Gods in that.  Dragons have to live somewhere and eat something, Gods have to have desires, ghosts have to be created somehow.  Hyperintelligent shades of blue have had none of those things fleshed out, it's essentially a random string of words linked together rather than a cohesive idea.  Does that make any more sense?

I'm going to discard of "the gods we agree are false" with a quick diversion.  There are no real world gods I believe are 100% false (I use "real world" to distinguish it from the gods of roleplaying systems, fantasy literature, etc).  All are incomplete glimpses of God.  So false is a bit of a strong word.  I also have meant to mention for a while that I've given something of a misrepresentation of my own beliefs, somehow.  My beliefs as a practicing Christian in 2013 vary wildly from those of one in 113 or 1013.  Christianity is evolving in exactly the way other religions have and it may well be that by 3013.  My belief is the current best understanding of the divine is given by Christianity but I've mentioned continuing revelation a lot and that still applies - the nature of the faith will change and evolve over time and my practices will eventually be viewed as outdated.  So when I say all religions are progressing towards Christianity, what I actually mean is that all religions including modern day Christianity are progressing to some form of perfected Christianity.  If that makes sense.

So with them out of the way:

Quote
Assuming that's not what you meant, and that you want something that is completely imaginary but which groups of people can believe in... <snip> Roswell-style grey aliens. Reptilians. Bigfoot. Nessie. Ghosts. Yes, these are patently silly from our outsider's perspective - but taken as deadly serious real things by their adherents.

Indeed they are.  I watched a video about illuminati symbolism in Manchester, England today (don't ask) and crazy as the man was, he certainly seemed to believe it.

But none of those are Gods.  None even purport to be.  That's my core point, and I realise you disagree.  But there is no real difference between nessie and a dragon, bigfoot and unicorns.  You have mentioned that you see the line as being between
Quote
gaumular and God, not between God and, say, dragon
and that's fair enough but I disagree.  And, ultimately, I think this may come down a little to where individual lines are drawn.

Finally, Verne.  I think you're overestimating the man's engineering knowledge a little.  Sure, there are engineering challenges in making a vessel requiring neither human power nor open atmosphere but Verne solved precisely none of them.  There's nothing to suggest he was even aware of them.  I think you're applying your knowledge of engineering to him and saying that it's totally outside his realm of experience based on a distinction he didn't know.  I can "predict" massive colony ships travelling faster than light to Alpha Centauri when there are substantial engineering problems in the way of them, but I simply don't know of them.  I'm not sure how well I've made that point.



On topic.  Gasp!

Marriage.  The choice of who to marry has real tangible effects and doesn't benefit from an evidence based approach.

Lets get some terms here.  I'm trying to cast nets as widely as possible, and if I rule something out that you feel should be ruled in then please shout. The first few lines of the wikipedia entry run:

Quote
Marriage (also called matrimony or wedlock) is a social union or legal contract between spouses that establishes rights and obligations between them, between them and their children, and between them and their in-laws. The definition of marriage varies according to different cultures, but it is principally an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged. When defined broadly, marriage is considered a cultural universal.

And I'm broadly happy with that.

The other term I want to throw up - and get your agreement on - is about the degree of "choice" within marriage.  Over here there's a broad distinction made between arranged marriages and "unarranged" ones.  But I don't think its helpful to define that as a binary, rather as a spectrum.  How much say an individual has over their marriage partner(s) ranges from "none at all" to "100%" by time, place and culture with the two extremes being no more than two points on the spectrum.

Happy with terms?  Shall I proceed to give my argument?

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #60 on: August 27, 2013, 04:35:41 PM »
I actually don't believe I am using two definitions of population.  I think the point is a little more subtle.  My dad, step-dad technically, would self-identify as a Muslim.  But he doesn't go to Mosque, cheerfully eats haram foods, and frankly doesn't believe in Allah.  The situation is even more heightened if you look at Judaism.  The entry criteria is "mother is a Jew".  It's entirely possible to be an atheistic Jew, it's not possible to be a polytheistic one - at that point you become something else.  And that's just the western/abrahamic religions.  Schools of Hinduism and Buddhism are explicitly atheistic but adherants are still Hindus and Buddhists.  In short, while I agree its impossible to believe in many gods and no gods, belief in a deity isn't and realistically never has been the entry criteria to belonging to the population of a religion.  It's possible to be a UK citizen without holding a UK passport, it's not possible to be a UK citizen and hold a foreign passport.  (It is, of course.  My father does.  But lets pretend that dual citizenship doesn't exist just so my analogy works).
Um. I'm not sure this holds. If you actively reject the core tenets of a religion in one manner, you can call yourself a member, but if you reject it in this other way, that's it, you're out? How is "There are no gods!" a weaker rejection of, say, Judaism than "I worship Odin!"?

That's why I bar atheism with "it existed simultaneously!".  Because atheism exists as a strand within religious populations simultaneously to other forms of belief, but those forms of belief are mutually incompatible.
Most of the population of Japan would like a word with you about "mutual incompatibility", as an example.

As a brief aside, this is why I was a little surprised to hear you espouse self-identification rather than negative inference as a means of counting atheists, I suspect it will cause the number to plummet.
I'm interested in accuracy, not winning a numbers game. Negative inference is pretty weak on that, given as many variables as we have in play here.



The Impossibility of imagining God

I'd like to think my argument was badly phrased rather than inconsistent, your mileage may vary.  My point wasn't strictly plausability, it was more depth of imagining.  There are ramifications to imaginary creatures - for the sake of argument lets include all Gods in that.  Dragons have to live somewhere and eat something, Gods have to have desires, ghosts have to be created somehow.  Hyperintelligent shades of blue have had none of those things fleshed out, it's essentially a random string of words linked together rather than a cohesive idea.  Does that make any more sense?
Okay, so your key point is coherence and depth. In that case, I'd say that Niven's Kzinti or Puppeteers seem to fit the bill nicely - the deep-rooted implications of their existence, culture, and actions are examined in depth, and there is a single cohesive idea of what they are and what they are not. This latter is very clearly not true for any God you care to name.

But none of those are Gods.  None even purport to be.  That's my core point, and I realise you disagree.  But there is no real difference between nessie and a dragon, bigfoot and unicorns.  You have mentioned that you see the line as being between  and that's fair enough but I disagree.  And, ultimately, I think this may come down a little to where individual lines are drawn.
The problem here is that I'm not seeing the logic behind your line. I am looking for traits that God-as-concept has which dragon-as-concept does not, or traits that dragon-as-concept has which God-as-concept does not... and not seeing any.

Finally, Verne.  I think you're overestimating the man's engineering knowledge a little.  Sure, there are engineering challenges in making a vessel requiring neither human power nor open atmosphere but Verne solved precisely none of them.  There's nothing to suggest he was even aware of them.  I think you're applying your knowledge of engineering to him and saying that it's totally outside his realm of experience based on a distinction he didn't know.  I can "predict" massive colony ships travelling faster than light to Alpha Centauri when there are substantial engineering problems in the way of them, but I simply don't know of them.  I'm not sure how well I've made that point.
Not terribly well - your objection appears to be that he did not envision the precise mechanism by which these things would happen, to which I rebut: What is the precise mechanism of God spreading His message?



On topic.  Gasp!

Marriage.  The choice of who to marry has real tangible effects and doesn't benefit from an evidence based approach.

Lets get some terms here.  I'm trying to cast nets as widely as possible, and if I rule something out that you feel should be ruled in then please shout. The first few lines of the wikipedia entry run:

And I'm broadly happy with that.

The other term I want to throw up - and get your agreement on - is about the degree of "choice" within marriage.  Over here there's a broad distinction made between arranged marriages and "unarranged" ones.  But I don't think its helpful to define that as a binary, rather as a spectrum.  How much say an individual has over their marriage partner(s) ranges from "none at all" to "100%" by time, place and culture with the two extremes being no more than two points on the spectrum.

Happy with terms?  Shall I proceed to give my argument?

I'm happy with terms, but reject the idea that the choice of who to marry does not depend on evidence. How many marriages take place without an examination of the prospective partner for desirable traits? The traits may change (social class, wealth, and political connections at one end of the spectrum, personal and sexual compatibility on the other), but they're still examined. How many people marry someone sight unseen, and what is the happy-marriage rate among those people as compared to the general population?

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #61 on: September 10, 2013, 06:55:55 PM »
Sorry this took me a bit to get to.  Internet then work issues.  I'll get you the references we discussed in the discussion at work tomorrow.

The Impossibility of imagining God

Mmmkay, let me expand this back out a little.  Tying your posts together it seems to me - and apologies if I'm putting words in your mouth - that your objection focuses around the fact that God/gods don't seem sufficiently different from other things that we both agree are purely imaginary to justify my putting them in a separate category.  Am I representing your objection fairly?  The remainder of this is predicated on that so if I'm wrong you may as well skip the next bit.

There are no cultures that have failed to come up with a god.  There are multiple ones that have failed to come up with a Dragon - and frankly eastern and western dragons are so dissimilar that if we used two different words for them noone would bat an eyelid.  Ditto for bigfoot, nessie, all the others.  There is no universal nature to those.  Look at any culture and there are things/beings/pick-your-own-collective-nouns that are immediately recognisable as a god.  Not so far vampires, ghosts, anything else I'm aware of.  We can likely agree that that's a result of something deep in the human mindset, I'd imagine its whether that aspect of the mindset is divinely inspired or not that we differ upon.  However, that is where I draw the line between "God-as-concept" and "dragon-as-concept", this universality.

I'm aware you disagree and broadly aware of the reasons why, but I hope that at least answers your confusion about where the line is.

Following on from that point, you raise an objection about the precise mechanism of God not being universal, even if you (hypothetically) agree the concept is.  No, you're quite right, its self-evidently not.    Very well.  You raised earlier, in an unrelated context, the idea of agriculture.  Chinese rice paddies, European three-fields and mesoAmerican terrace farms.  Three very different ways of achieving the same end.  Why so different?  Well, I hope we can agree its because local climates, topology, etc led to the same basic idea being interpreted/created in different ways in different places.  It's the same with social concepts, Monarchy for example, substituting societal factors for climate ones.  I assume we can agree that the same idea can arise separately in different and unconnected areas and, yes, I accept that that doesn't support my point.

But fear ye not, I'm not done.  For many cultures didn't develop agriculture, or monarchy (or either).  So god does stand alone in that respect, in universality.  Whether we know the mechanics and precise systems whereby monarchy develops in one way in one place and another in another isn't overly important.  I'm happy to assume that such models could be developed, for a given level of accuracy.  And I've made the point repeatedly that the conception of god is coloured by human perception/viewpoints.

tl;dr - The difference between religion and everything else is that religion is universal, nothing else is.  The reason its not universally defined is this issue we spent a lot of time discussing of divine messages being interpreted through human understanding.

On topic.  Gasp!

Heh, it's a brave man who gives a counter argument before hearing the argument  :P

preamble

Yes, there are a certain number of variables to examine in selecting a future spouse.  Suitor A is richer, B more handsome, C more politically advantageous.  And so forth.

Which brings us to one thread of my argument, but I'll return to it in a moment, it makes more sense to discuss the other first.

You ask what the "happy-marriage-rate" is in various cases.  There's a huge assumption lurking behind that, namely that a "happy marriage" is the universal success criteria for all marriages.  What about merging of dynasties?  Getting a green card?  Trophy wives and rich husbands?  There are in fact many success criteria for entering a marriage and whats more they need not remain constant.  Trophy wives can fall in love with billionaire octogenarians, unexpected changes or revolutions can render dynastic marriages no longer relevant.  I'm sure you can think of other examples.

So, I have - on any given day - seventy to eighty marriage proposals.  I'm pretty fucking awesome and most people want to marry me.  So I have a wide range of suitors, each with a different set of attributes.  Each with their own success criteria for a marriage, which may or may not be the same as mine.  And mine may well change in the future, as might there's, but we have no way of knowing what it might change to and, indeed, whether it will or not.

So.  By definition if I want an evidence based approach I need evidence.  Sadly not a one of the suitors camping outside my window and generally making a nuisance of themselves comes with a character sheet, so first I have no objective measure of whether Suitor #64 scores higher on the "willingness to tidy up after me" scale than #4, nor do I know whether #45 is more or less likely than #28 to eventually get bored of writing odes to my beauty.  That has to be determined experimentally.  I date them for a while, or my family weighs them up, or a third party matchmaker does, or one of any other root for determining suitability based on my current success criteria for a marriage.

"Ah ha" you cry.  "Evidence".  Yes.  But it takes more than the existence of evidence to make my approach evidence based.  I'd need to weigh it up, compare it in some way.  It'd be tough but I could do that.

getting to the damn point

So.  The crux.  I'm a scientist.  I have a state I wish to explain, and the knowledge that this state may or may not change in some unpredictable way at some unpredictable time in the future.  I have a number of theories and a vague idea of their current state, but again the knowledge that the ramifications of them could change in the future.

What would be the evidence based way of choosing one?