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Offline Ephiral

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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.

Offline KythiaTopic starter

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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.

Offline Ephiral

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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.