Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Different kinds of proof

It could well be that different kinds of things require different kinds of proof. For example, should we ask for a mathematical type of proof for something to decide whether your significant other loves you? On the other hand, you could simply refuse to consider evidence that a spouse was unfaithful, and that would be a problem. As would hiring a private investigator without probable cause. 

24 comments:

Karl Grant said...

Well, it's doubtful that some people will ever change their mind regardless of the evidence and arguments against their views. Take for example a recent study conducted by prominent social psychologist Jonathan Haidt. Now keep in mind that Haidt's an atheist and secluarist when he says that despite their pretensions to be devoted to reason, atheists like Harris (and Dawkins, and Dennett) are, in their writing, even more dogmatic than people like Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, and Sean Hannity. So from a scientific standpoint, Sam Harris, who Haidt found to be the most dogmatic and absolutist of the lot, will probably not change his mind regardless of the evidence and arguments arrayed against him.

Dan Gillson said...

Dr Reppert,

Not considering evidence that my spouse was unfaithful could be a problem, but it also could not be. If someone came up to me and said, "There is a 70% chance that your wife is cheating on you." If I said, "Based on what?" and he replied with facts which were entirely irrelevant me, my wife, and our relationship, I would do well to refuse considering the evidence. However, just because his evidence is bad doesn't mean that his conclusion is false. My wife could very well be cheating on me, but I couldn't infer that from the evidence which the bad statistician furnished.

I think that the trouble is that we obsess over the conclusion. We end up working backwards, believing that we can find the evidence which suffices for our conclusions. If I, for some reason, didn't trust my wife, I would probably believe the bad statistician's evidence. If I didn't think she loved me, I might demand a mathematical type of proof.

Some of the closing words from Emerson's essay "Experience" are relevant here:

"I know that the world I converse with in the city and in the farms, is not the world I think. I observe that difference and shall observe it. One day, I shall know the value and law of this discrepance. But I have not found that much was gained by manipular attempts to realize the world of thought. [That is, to do anything to realize our conclusions]. Many eager persons successively make an experiment in this way, and make themselves ridiculous."

planks length said...

HERE is a fascinating article suggesting there may be a link between atheism and autism. Kind of "the shoe's on the other foot" here. Atheists are all too often asserting that believers are somehow mentally ill (or at least deficient). Perhaps it's the other way round?

And please, please, please - I am NOT equating autism with mental illness or deficiency!

planks length said...

HERE is yet another take on the possible psychological roots of atheism. It's about time that somebody kicked the slats out from under the argument that Faith can be explained by mental or cultural influences (a la John Loftus's so-called OTF), but that atheism is just "pure reason" and devoid of context.

im-skeptical said...

"Disappointment in one's earthly father, whether through death, absence, or mistreatment, frequently leads to a rejection of God."

I haven't heard too many stories of people turning to atheism in times of stress or grief. In fact the tendency seems to be just the opposite. Does Vitz have any data to back up these claims? As far as I can tell, people turn to religion for emotional reasons, and turn away from it for intellectual reasons.

How about the realization that God is absolutely not what he's cracked up to be? Loving? Take a look around, and you will see ample evidence that his love is cruel. Benevolent? That's a laugh. Moral? Read the bible. Perfect? There is absolutely nothing in his 'creation' that is perfect and would lead us to believe that the creator is perfect. All you have to do is put aside your emotion and think about it.

By the way, the correlation between autism and atheism seems to be precisely because autistic people have less emotional attachment.

Ilíon said...

"Atheists are all too often asserting that believers are somehow mentally ill (or at least deficient). Perhaps it's the other way round?"

Well, of course it's the other way around, and by the very sort of reasoning they employ and approve of when it results in a conclusion they like -- God-deniers are abnormal in much that same way that "gays" are the odd ones out.

Even if their understanding isn't as sophisticated-and-coherent as that of Judeo-Christianity, most human beings acknowledge that there is something that, without violence to the concept, can be called 'God'. Similarly, most human beings are not sexually interested in their own sex. Ergo, those who deny the reality of God, and those who are sexually interested in their own sex, are abnormal.

Ilíon said...

SO: God-deniers are abnormal.

But, they deficient? are they damaged or incomplete in some way that can be contrasted with everyone else?

LOL ... just look at them, look at how they behave and how they (ahem) reason. The question answers itself.

Karl Grant said...

Skeppy,

How about the realization that God is absolutely not what he's cracked up to be? Loving? Take a look around, and you will see ample evidence that his love is cruel. Benevolent? That's a laugh. Moral? Read the bible. Perfect? There is absolutely nothing in his 'creation' that is perfect and would lead us to believe that the creator is perfect. All you have to do is put aside your emotion and think about it.

'Put aside your emotion?' Excuse me Skeppy, but everything you just said in that paragraph is an emotional statement. You're whining about how His love is cruel and His benevolence is laughable for fuck's sake; you can't get more emotional than that.

By the way, the correlation between autism and atheism seems to be precisely because autistic people have less emotional attachment.

Wrong, wrong and even more fucking wrong. Autistic people don't have less emotional attachment, in fact emotions often run deeper in people with autism. You ever seen an autistic kid have a temper tantrum? What people with autism have is trouble expressing their emotions and understanding the emotional reactions from others.

mattghg said...

Coming back to the main point of the post...

Of course there are different kinds of proof for different kinds of things. In a courtroom the matter at hand can be proven "beyond reasonable doubt" on the basis of witness testimony alone. That's not a mathematical proof.

Ilíon said...

People have a false idea of what 'to prove' means ... personally, I blame the logical positivists (that is, an earlier iteration of God-haters who tried to co-opt science as being merely "applied atheism").

'To prove' merely means to test a thing by an appripriate metric and standard. This, by the way, is why an automobile proving ground is called that.

Crude said...

Karl,

'Put aside your emotion?' Excuse me Skeppy, but everything you just said in that paragraph is an emotional statement. You're whining about how His love is cruel and His benevolence is laughable for fuck's sake; you can't get more emotional than that.

To play off something being said here, I propose the following:

Any person who believes that our world could only have been created by an evil, immoral, unjust God, would be a moral monster to ever have children willfully.

After all, what kind of moral monster would willfully bring a new life into a world that, if it were created, could only have been created by an immoral, sadistic monster?

Notice that the truth of it having been created isn't important here. Say there is no creator - but you've still judged the creation as being something only such a creator could be responsible for. So how can you justify having children if you believe that? I don't think there's a way. To have children would be to either expose someone as a moral monster, or insincere in their estimation of the world.

im-skeptical said...

"To have children would be to either expose someone as a moral monster, or insincere in their estimation of the world."

What crude fails to understand (what a surprise) is that by abandoning our superstitions and facing reality, we don't have to be at the mercy of a world we don't understand. We are in a far better position to improve our lives and make the most of the time we have before it's gone.

planks length said...

Amazingly good point, Crude. Never thought of it that way! By saying that only an evil, immoral monster could have created this world, then regardless of whether or not it was created it remains a terrible place to be - a place one would wish upon no one they cared at all for.

This may not constitute an argument for God, but it certainly exposes the hypocrisy behind one of the atheists' favorite arguments against Him.

(Or, if not hypocrisy, then at a minimum their total failure to see the argument through to its logical conclusions.)

Ilíon said...

"(Or, if not hypocrisy, then at a minimum their total failure to see the argument through to its logical conclusions.)"

It may not initially be hypocrisy that a specific God-hater tries to play that card: it may well be that he hasn't taken the time to think through the logic (*) of the argument nor examine its assumptions. However, once these things have been explained to him and he *still* tries to play it without also embracing its entailments, it becomes clear that he is intellectually dishonest (that is, a hypocrite with respect to reason).


(*) Humans in general, but especially when they have committed to a false notion, such as 'atheism' or 'agnosticism' or 'Darwinism/evolutionism' or 'leftism' or 'Freudianism' or 'environmentalism' -- basically, any '-ism' that has become their god -- tend not to carefully think through their own logic.

planks length said...

Careful there, Ilion. You might have to include conservatism, libertarianism, or right-ism (is there such a word?) on your list!

But I'm with you on the fundamental incoherence of most, if not all, "isms".

im-skeptical said...

"Or, if not hypocrisy, then at a minimum their total failure to see the argument through to its logical conclusions"

The conclusion is that a God such as the one you believe in couldn't have been responsible for this world. The reality is completely out of character with the qualities you attribute to your God. You have to abandon logic to believe it. But as I said, if we leave our superstitions behind, and we can use science harness nature rather than being subdued by it. And that makes far better sense than your God-logic.

Crude said...

planks,

This may not constitute an argument for God, but it certainly exposes the hypocrisy behind one of the atheists' favorite arguments against Him.

Exactly. I suppose someone could find some way to work this into a pragmatic argument for belief in God, but that's not my goal here. Notice how quickly it gets walked back - we've gone from 'This is a world only a cruel and sadistic creator would make!' to 'But it's not so bad, if you're an atheist you can like... try to change things!' Yeah, so can every theist. The atheist may as well say 'The world is bad... but it can be redeemed, and that makes it good!'

At which point, my my... sure sounding like Christian doctrine there.

Ilíon said...

"Careful there, Ilion. You might have to include conservatism, libertarianism, or right-ism (is there such a word?) on your list!"

Why would you imagine that I don't include libertarianism in the list of false gods?

planks length said...

"Why would you imagine that I don't include libertarianism in the list of false gods?"

Am I that wrong? I thought you were one. Your comments certainly sound like it. Perhaps we have differing understandings of the term.

planks length said...

"sure sounding like Christian doctrine there"

Dammit, Crude, you beat me to it. That's what I was going to say!

im-skeptical,

According to orthodox Christian doctrine, since the Incarnation we are now the Body of Christ (see: Saint Paul). It is our duty to be the hands of the Almighty, to work to make the world a better place wherever and whenever we can... to (dare I say it?) to redeem it.

Karl Grant said...

Skeppy,

What crude fails to understand (what a surprise) is that by abandoning our superstitions and facing reality, we don't have to be at the mercy of a world we don't understand. We are in a far better position to improve our lives and make the most of the time we have before it's gone.

Or we are in a better position to invent new horrors. Hurry, hurry step right up! Witness this wonderful blister agent delivered via 155mm artillery shell! Watch as the people's skin melts off and they puke their own guts out! Order yours today, before our fine scientists and engineers invent something even better that renders this one obsolete!

And tell me Skeppy, was global warming, the product of unrestrained scientific and industrial development, and all the wonderful environmental catastrophes that come with it proof that we are in a far better position to improve our lives? Or was that the children of thalidomide? I mean isn't this just little bit hypocritical to say God is cruel because animals prey upon each other but science is good and will save us while living in a city that probably two or three nuclear-tipped ICBMs pointed at it?

im-skeptical said...

"I mean isn't this just little bit hypocritical to say God is cruel because animals prey upon each other but science is good and will save us while living in a city that probably two or three nuclear-tipped ICBMs pointed at it?"

First, I don't insist that God is cruel. I insist that God is not a reasonable thing to believe in. Second, I don't insist that science has the attributes that you assign to your god. Science is not all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, etc. Science can be used to bring about harmful results. It doesn't provide guarantees that all our troubles will magically disappear, but it does gives us the ability to improve our lives, and it has certainly done a great amount of good. Religion offers an empty promise - the hope that things will be all peachy when you're dead. I see nothing hypocritical in my position.

Karl Grant said...

Skeppy,

First, I don't insist that God is cruel. I insist that God is not a reasonable thing to believe in.

Bullshit. In your post on February 07, 2014 10:15 AM your exact word were "Take a look around, and you will see ample evidence that his love is cruel."

Second, I don't insist that science has the attributes that you assign to your god. Science is not all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, etc. Science can be used to bring about harmful results. It doesn't provide guarantees that all our troubles will magically disappear, but it does gives us the ability to improve our lives, and it has certainly done a great amount of good.

The attributes statement is a complete red herring. What matters is that you are condemning subject A (God) because of cruelty in this world whose creation is attributed to subject A despite people attributing many good things to subject A while excusing the cruelty created by subject B (science and engineering), and that cruelty is considerable, because subject B has also done some good things.

Religion offers an empty promise - the hope that things will be all peachy when you're dead.

Really and how many empty promises has science failed to deliver? If the scientists of the 1950s were to be believed we should have eradicated all disease, be living on the moon, driving nuclear-powered flying cars, etc... Instead we got global warming, new diseases like AIDS and Big Brother Is Watching You. Yeah things kind of suck now and some of it is science's fault but just you wait! Science will make our lives better in the future. Yes science has given us the ability to annihilate ourselves but it will make all better! You just have believe. Yeah, that is some real fucking improvement over religious promises right there.

I see nothing hypocritical in my position.

Not surprising as you lost any capacity you had for self-reflection and criticism long ago. Assuming, of course, you even had it in the first place.

planks length said...

Karl,

Jetpacks. You forgot jetpacks. I'm still waiting for mine!