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The most fun I've had on this forum has been discussing religion, and often such discussions, when distilled to their bare essentials, come down to a core difference of opinion. I personally think that any assertion lacks validity unless it can be derived from verifiable evidence by sound reasoning. Those arguing in favour of religion sometimes attempt to produce such verification, but I haven't seen any which stands up to close scrutiny (just my personal opinion; I don't want to make this topic a religious discussion). The true basis of those beliefs, IMHO, is emotional, or intuitive. It is what people claim to "know in their heart to be true". Personally I think this lacks validity because it amounts to simply being convinced of something, and is therefore just circular reasoning. People are often convinced of all kinds of nonsense, so the fact of being convinced is not good evidence. But I expect some people would consider this an incomplete world view.

There is a common stereotype of the "reasonist" as being some sort of stuffy professor living in an ivory tower of logic, not seeing the whole picture. Such a character would never be a hero in a hollywood movie. The hero would do what their heart tells them to do, go with their beliefs, guided by mysterious forces to their destiny, against all the odds. And I acknowledge that there is some value in behaving in such a way, but only because it feels good and other people respond well to it. But when it comes to forming an opinion, if we wish to maximise our chances of being correct, evidence and reason should be the only yardstick by which we measure its worth. I'd like to see if anyone can support an alternative viewpoint...

EDIT (for clarity): What I want to do here is challenge people to justify using anything other than cold hard evidence and reason (like, say intuition for example), to determine what is generally true or false. You don't need to deny the value of reason in order to argue that viewpoint, only to be of the opinion that there are other equally valid means of determining truth. It's not such an uncommon viewpoint, but nobody seems to want to take a stand on it so far :(

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But when it comes to forming an opinion, if we wish to maximise our chances of being correct, evidence and reason should be the only yardstick by which we measure its worth. I'd like to see if anyone can support an alternative viewpoint...

octopuppy, I tend to think along your line of reasoning. To make your question clearer, I think changing the work "opinion" might make it easier to respond to. "Opinion" by definition is a personal belief or judgment that is not founded on proof or certainty. So an opinion that is formed based on emotion, for example, cannot be ruled as worth less than one that is formed by some other basis. Subject matter plays a role also. For example, a movie might be regarded as good by someone. That is their opinion. The basis might be that it stirred some emotion in them. It may not stir any emotion in any other person who saw the movie. That should not lessen the worth of their opinion.

Anyway, I moved away from your discussion on religion. Sorry.

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Maybe I should have said "assessing truth value" rather than "forming an opinion". There's lots of ways to form an opinion which are all good as long as you don't retain those opinions which prove not to make sense. But I'm not convinced that the word "opinion" is inappropriate since what I'm challenging people to do is explore the validity of belief which is not based on verifiable evidence. Though perhaps I should clarify that, to refer only to opinions on matters which have some (presumably) universal truth value rather than matters of taste. Opinions on the supernatural, UFOs, or other matters generally held to be unsubstantiated were more what I had in mind.

Just to clarify, I specifically didn't want this to be a discussion on religion, I just offered that as an example of ways in which people validate opinions which are not evidence-based. It just seems to me that people often place a value on the more irrational aspects of our thinking, which I'd like to see justified. An example of that might be Star Trek, in which Spock's purely logical view is portrayed as being flawed in some unspecified way. Or in the next generation, Data aspires to having human emotions, as if there were some hidden wisdom or intrinsically superior capacity to experience reality locked within. In my opinion, the irrational parts of our minds are a relic of our evolutionary past and not particularly wise or suited to discerning truth in any reliable way. But many people continue to favour irrational judgement over reason. I just wonder if anyone can come up with some support for such a position.

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I think I'm going to try and have some fun playing devil's advocate in this one. :) I agree with your OP, making this kind of difficult. I don't actually expect to win whatever debate we might come up with, and if I somehow do.. I'll start arguing myself. :P (Lmfao, actually, random thought, somewhat pertaining to this. We're doing a myth project in World Religions, and so my atheist friend is doing Jesus, and I'm doing Noah's Ark. Part of the assignment was to find a funny political cartoon. his, mine. The teacher laughed and approved both. :D)

Anyway.. hmm..

You start with the assumption that the people with irrational opinion's goal is to be correct. Maybe their goal is not to be right, but to live comfortably, happily, and free from worry. They don't spend time concerning themselves with what is right, they're too busy doing what is "right" to them. Maybe it's pure hedonistic behavior - people striving to please themselves and find personal happiness by whatever means they can, including but not limited to jumping out of an airplane (irrational in the "wtf" sense), murdering someone (irrational because in most cases it's entirely immoral and the consequences tend to be severe), and believing in a god (just plain ol' irrational). The first we can dismiss as a unique personality trait. The second comes down, again, mostly to personality. If you're the sort of person unable to give up a grudge and constantly seeking revenge, that's likely something you'll do some day. The third, tbh, boils down to ignorance. We've both seen it in on this site over the past yearish, and no, I really don't want to debate gawd for the umpteenth time. The vast majority of people with irrational beliefs are unaware to the facts. Once they discover the facts (or have them shoved down their throats, internet debate style :P), it's usually in a manner they're unwilling to accept. As soon as they admit it comes down to the faith card (which normal people regard as a win, because "Haha, I've just proven your entire argument is irrational, therefore I win!"), the majority are unwilling to budge. ..But you already knew this, now on to the question of why. Other than it making them happy? Man.. Well, okay, there's the hope. And... Well, their "faith" probably makes sense to them. Everyone might see it as an irrational belief, but maybe they never come to that conclusion? If they do, and they still hold on to that position... Uhh... *shrugs* This is hard, dude. =/ I tried.

Out of curiosity, is there any evolutionary benefit for fearing science, truth, and all? I'm doubting it, but that seems like a characteristic a LOT of people possess...

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Believe in the teachings of a religion, you are blindly committing yourself to some unseen truth in which you place your absolute faith and trust. It must feel good, of course. And if that blanket that supports your life ever gets pulled away, it's devastating.

So those who are religious get instant hope, life happiness, contentness, etc.

Those of us who are atheists have to search, maybe our whole lifetimes, for this oneness with the universe, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I believe I am far along this mental path myself, but what do I know.

Back to what you were saying, I disagree fundamentally. At some point you have to believe in something. This may seem strange coming from me, but it's true. Look at your post:

"I personally think that any assertion lacks validity unless it can be derived from verifiable evidence by sound reasoning."

can you back that up? No. Or you can do it with a meta-level of reasoning, but then that needs backing up. In other words, somewhere down the line you have faith in something, and if it's Reason, then you adhere to that, etc. Godel's Incompleteness Theorem, in a way, says it's impossible to prove reason with reason. You would need an infinite number of levels of reason.

In your case, reason seems to allow you to make sense of what you know of the world, and that's probably the same with me and Izzy too. We choose reason as the foundation for this low-level faith because it is supported by what we see in the real world. Often we try to bridge what we can build from the ground up logically with what we see in the world around us... I don't think anyone has quite yet entirely bridged this, just as nobody has proved or disproved the existence of a god... maybe it's impossible.

What I'm saying is that maybe those who are religious use a higher more "ignorant" (in terms of it being less reasonable, less thought out, what have you) platform to base their worldviews off of. They have faith in this and so build on top of this up to the world, and for them they choose this because it's supported by what they see in the world, just like you choose reason because it supports what YOU see in the world.

I'm positive that you think more about what you see in the world and maybe you've chosen your platform on which to build your life wiser than they have, as long as you can reach and surpass the level of actual existence... that is, as long as you can connect your logical philosophy with what you see and know in the world around you.

In the end we only have our sensory input and mental feelings and emotions to tell us anything about the world, that is the only true input we have. It just so happens that sensory data gives a consistent universe with a place just for us... I think that everyone finds their place in that universe in a different way.

For me, everything is a balance: tradition vs progress, logic vs emotion, rationality vs spontaneity, living life knowledgeable or living life excitably. These things are not always mutually exclusive of course, but everything is a balance...

great topic, octopuppy! this reminds me of something that came to me recently... i'll post a topic on it haha

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I think I'm going to try and have some fun playing devil's advocate in this one.
Thanks Izzy, and I like your cartoons!
You start with the assumption that the people with irrational opinion's goal is to be correct. Maybe their goal is not to be right, but to live comfortably, happily, and free from worry.
Well, that's why I said "if we wish to maximise our chances of being correct". Make that a big IF. Seeking truth isn't top of everybody's agenda, in fact what made me think about this is an incident which occurred last weekend, when I was staying at a friend's house and someone we knew burst in saying there were multiple UFOs in the sky outside. Of course I went straight out and sure enough there were the UFOs. They were flickering orange lights, slowly rising in the sky over one end of the street. Every so often one would pass overhead and become a pale disk in the sky, orange light no longer visible. They flew uniformly overhead, all in the same direction. So naturally I came to the conclusion that they were probably some sort of large paper balloon heated by a little lantern underneath. I chased after one which was descending, unfortunately failed to catch it, but got a closer look and it seemed to be a few feet wide, round and white. Later I looked them up on the internet and found out that they were probably chinese lanterns, responsible for many a UFO sighting. But what was really interesting about this incident were the reactions of the people involved. Certain people (who I know to be of a superstitious nature) were very resistant to the notion that these might be anything so mundane as a balloon, and I also heard some accounts of the UFOs moving in zigzag patterns or moving as a cluster and then splitting up (all of which occurred before I turned up). Needless to say I think these reports are probably the products of overactive imaginations but they seemed to be sincere enough. My interpretation of this is that many people add colour to their lives by livening it up with fanciful interpretations of events, without being consciously aware of making that choice. All of which constitutes a very good reason to doubt your own experiences and memories, particularly those that make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. On the other hand, some people had a UFO experience that night. All I saw were chinese lanterns :(

EDIT: Actually on consideration, it was as much fun for me as it was for anyone. The thrill of "the unexplained" was made all the more fun by the challenge of interpreting what I saw rather than jumping to the obvious bogus conclusions.

Out of curiosity, is there any evolutionary benefit for fearing science, truth, and all? I'm doubting it, but that seems like a characteristic a LOT of people possess...
Good question! I hope some other people have a stab at answering that too. My own interpretation is that we lack sufficient evolutionary benefit for seeking truth, and the search for truth is hard work, it involves a lot of doubt, questioning everything, thinking hard and so on. Much less resources are required to accept whatever "truth" is offered by authority or society, and this is often a better strategy socially (where societies have an extremely irrational version of "truth", there are often greater benefits for playing along, indeed it could be a necessary survival strategy). But the "fear" you describe? Maybe it comes from the inner knowledge that when you open the door to doubt, a lot of what you believe may come crashing down. In order to take that step, you need to not have any emotional attachments to the beliefs which are at risk. Note that this implies a behind-the-scenes decision-making faculty which makes a cynical assessment of the situation, while your conscious self adheres to the beliefs faithfully.

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can you back that up? No. Or you can do it with a meta-level of reasoning, but then that needs backing up. In other words, somewhere down the line you have faith in something, and if it's Reason, then you adhere to that, etc. Godel's Incompleteness Theorem, in a way, says it's impossible to prove reason with reason. You would need an infinite number of levels of reason.
I'm not taking Godel's word for this. My gut feeling is that reason is self-evident and does not constitute an assumption. But I'll need to back that up with some reasoning, and resist the temptation to argue that if reason were not correct then we do not require reasoning to back it up, and if it is correct then nothing remains to be proved, so it's self evident ;) .

I'll get back to you on this :wacko:

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Maybe one of the main problems is that some people (read: a lot..) aren't able to see the validity of science. You, Unreality, and I all know that the reason we have experts with PhDs in a subject is so that, by rank, we know they're certified to tell us things. We know science is peer-reviewed, and that we can usually trust the consensus of experts in a field. A lot of the stuff we accept as fact we've never proven ourselves, from the big bang, to evolution, to DNA, to atoms, gravity, to the cosmos, and so forth. We believe in/have faith in these things because of the overwhelming amount of evidence for them, the general agreement for them, that they nicely fit the "gap" of what's supposed to be there, etc. A lot of the kids (more than half, ffs, and these are smart kids - IB students) in my biology class don't believe in evolution. No matter how well the teacher can explain it to them or the amount of evidence she provides for them, they just won't. I think this might be because of either a general mistrust of scientists, the thought of "Well, I've never actually observed this myself, I don't know if I can believe it", or the extremely annoying "Well, it's only a theory." (Psst, God has failed as a hypothesis, and you won't believe in evolution because it's only a theory? In the unlikelihood that one of my classmates is reading this and disagrees: go look up what a theory is. "It's a theory" sounds pretty strong argument to me..) Adding to that, in a lot of cases, someone's parent/preacher/adult friend is one of their teachers. If you go to school and learn one thing, go home and to church and learn another, yet you're too lazy do any proper research about what's right, you're going to come to the conclusion that's easier to understand or is more comforting. So.. while the people still come to irrational conclusions, they can still be justified - by laziness and just not giving a damn.

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I think you're right, Izzy. Anything mysterious is intrinsically easier to understand, you just say to yourself "it's a mystery" and there you go, that's all the understanding you need to do. That's the attraction of the supernatural, it asserts a world where nothing has to make any sense, so you don't need to make the effort. People get attached to that, especially when they have other people and authority figures to back them up. And I think the reaction to evolution is probably the kind of self-censorship I was mentioning earlier, where the subconscious responds to things which you know will undermine your beliefs, reasoning in effect: "Do I want to lose this belief? And the social status, the acceptance and intellectual convenience that goes with it? No I don't, so I'm not going to think about stuff that will overturn it."

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:wacko: Dude imagine how easy things must be for some people. No desire to question, simply back everything up with "Oh, okay, _____ did it, that's how it's supposed to be, I'll live with that."

Edited by Izzy

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Did you ever notice how well the Bible works? It was almost built for indoctrination.

If you teach your children these concepts early on, it will almost be impossible to undoctrinate them.

Notice:

Jesus is always waving his finger and saying "Oh thou of little faith." Then their is the concept of the doubting Thomas, who would only believe when he saw the wounds.

Jesus teaches us that faith equals wisdom, and that lack of faith equals stupidity. Yet faith is to believe in something that has no physical evidence. Yet today we know this as gullibility.

Therefore the gullible are wise, and the skeptics are fools.

Moral: Never question Jesus, such is wisdom

Jesus also teaches us to beware of pride.

He defines the proud as those who question his existence and glory in their freedom

To be continued :(

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Did you ever notice how well the Bible works?

Yeah dude, the Bible works so well. Especially the bits about the Earth being flat, the moon being a light, evolution occuring totally out of order, oh, and you know all this stuff. So you're right. The Bible works really well, maybe even better than the concept of God does. :)

I was flipping through the channels last night, and happened to stop on Comedy Central during South Park at the part where the fat kid was yelling at some kid for destroying whathisface's faith in God. So the kid is in the hospital for whatever reason, and his parents try to preach to him before he dies. The kid's response to "The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away" was awesome. "Mom, Dad, why would God do all those bad things just to prove a point to Satan? God's not real after all." Ftw.

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This is a good topic despite the digressions.

The first thing we have to do is establish our epistemological foundation, or dogma as I like to call it. Do you believe in 1:strict materialism, 2:strict idealism, 3:some mixture of the two, or 4:something totally different? I fall into category 3. It appears unreality does also.

Now back up your choice in dogma. Once you are on the same epistemological footing, you can intellectually discuss any number of topics.

One answer to the OP is that some people believe evidence about the universe we live in can be gather by means other than or in addition to sensory input whether in be aided or unaided by technology. In other words, some people believe knowledge can be obtained... I'll use a quote

In the end we only have our sensory input and mental feelings and emotions to tell us anything about the world, that is the only true input we have. It just so happens that sensory data gives a consistent universe with a place just for us... I think that everyone finds their place in that universe in a different way.

Some people get consistent data from mental feelings and emotions as well as the material side of things.

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Back to what you were saying, I disagree fundamentally. At some point you have to believe in something. This may seem strange coming from me, but it's true. Look at your post:

"I personally think that any assertion lacks validity unless it can be derived from verifiable evidence by sound reasoning."

can you back that up? No. Or you can do it with a meta-level of reasoning, but then that needs backing up. In other words, somewhere down the line you have faith in something, and if it's Reason, then you adhere to that, etc. Godel's Incompleteness Theorem, in a way, says it's impossible to prove reason with reason. You would need an infinite number of levels of reason.

In your case, reason seems to allow you to make sense of what you know of the world, and that's probably the same with me and Izzy too. We choose reason as the foundation for this low-level faith because it is supported by what we see in the real world. Often we try to bridge what we can build from the ground up logically with what we see in the world around us... I don't think anyone has quite yet entirely bridged this, just as nobody has proved or disproved the existence of a god... maybe it's impossible.

OK, I said I would have a stab at justifying the worth of reason as being self-evident, so here it is (still feels a little half-baked if I'm honest, maybe someone else can improve on it).

Considering what reason is, it could be viewed as a negative concept. There are plenty of ways to justify a belief, reason is the principle of distilling those down to a bare minimum, those which we cannot dispute. In other words, it is the principle of believing as little as possible. So it's not so much a case of having faith in reason, as lacking faith in that which is known to be unreliable. Any aspect of reason and logic which we generally take to be axiomatic is still open to question, but without any successful challenges, remain the firmest means we have of forming an opinion.

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Some people get consistent data from mental feelings and emotions as well as the material side of things.
That's certainly where I'd like to drive the discussion, we need someone to really champion that viewpoint.

In my opinion, mental feelings, emotions and sensory input are all open to question. However, most sensory input can generally be confirmed by external opinion and measurement (unless we're imagining the fact that other people agree on our sensory input, but that's unlikely and a hopeless scenario*), but there are exceptions. Consider optical illusions, hallucinations and ghost sightings as examples. Optical illusions can be identified as such because when we attempt to build a consistent mental model of how the world works, such a model implies that some sensory input is inconsistent. When we can identify why the input is inconsistent and study the processes by which it occurs, we have a complete and consistent model which includes the sensory input. Hallucinations can be identified as such because only one person experiences them. The lack of external confirmation, combined with the consensus of external opinion that the real world is otherwise, means that we can identify this as false sensory input. Ghost sightings also generally lack external confirmation, but the main thing that brings these into question is the fact that they are inconsistent with the model of reality which we can build up from our collective experiences. We can theorise about why such things occur (and of course we know that hallucinations do occur, giving a much more consistent concept of what a ghost sighting is), but the workings of the human mind are not sufficiently well understood to provide a complete model which would wrap up the issue beyond question. However, the inconsistency is sufficient that such information should be treated as being extremely unreliable, IMO.

Moving on to mental feelings and emotions, we generally lack external confirmation of these**. Furthermore, they are demonstrably unreliable. It has been shown on numerous occasions that people can have their instincts, their feelings, and their "sixth sense" confused and bamboozled by deceptive input or suggestion. This is why I consider them to be virtually worthless in determining truth.***

* There are various scenarios (like the Matrix) where we could imagine sensory input to confirm a consistent model of the world, and still be wrong. However, consistency is the best we have. As I suggested in my last post, you don't have to believe in anything, while still recognising that consistent data is intrinsically more reliable than inconsistent data.

** Religious people may disagree, considering the phenomenon of a shared religious experience. However, such experience is not detailed, just a commonality of feeling which may simply be due to similarities in human nature, and the will to share such an experience. There is insufficient common verifiable data to identify this as a response caused by an external "supernatural" agent acting on several people at once.

*** But still extremely useful in forming opinions. Our subconscious mind has, IMO, a processing power which dwarfs that of the conscious mind, and our inner feelings and emotions are driven by this. However, it's a tricky little beast with a "mind of its own", with goals and objectives which differ from those we hold consciously, and is therefore not to be trusted. Hence we need to sieve that input through the rationality of the conscious mind in order to filter out the deceptive bits.

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You treat emotion, feelings and logical thoughts as distinct functions of the brain, but are you sure they are not all the same thing in different form? As you say we have little control over our subconscious mind but how much control do you think you have over your conscious mind? And I mean that even inside the limits of determinism, that is - ie, how much control over your conscious mind does the workings of your conscious mind have? I don't know. We still know so little about the human mind and how it works. I think this article could have an interesting effect on our conversation but i've only just started reading it:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qualia

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You treat emotion, feelings and logical thoughts as distinct functions of the brain, but are you sure they are not all the same thing in different form? As you say we have little control over our subconscious mind but how much control do you think you have over your conscious mind? And I mean that even inside the limits of determinism, that is - ie, how much control over your conscious mind does the workings of your conscious mind have? I don't know.

We still know so little about the human mind and how it works. I think this article could have an interesting effect on our conversation but i've only just started reading it:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qualia

The qualia stuff smacks of inconsequential philosophizing to me, but if you think there's something in it, please go ahead along those lines.

As for the distinctness of emotion, feelings and logical thoughts, I know the human brain is a lot messier than that. But logic can be distinguished by being externalised. When I think through a logical problem, gut feeling and intuition are probably responsible for some, if not most of the capability I have for solving such a problem. Finding answers is a tough process and the subconscious does a lot of the work IMO. But the answer cannot be validated unless we can come up with complete reasoning to support it. Maybe it is more useful to draw a distinction between that which we can formalise and that which we cannot. This is precisely why I value this sort of conversation on Brainden. It's all very well to have a gut feeling about something, but for it to stand up here it needs to be explicitly supported by structured reasoning. You can do that internally, but writing it down is sometimes better (it's like "thinking out loud", only better, because the need to type it means you can get the train of thought spot-on, and even edit it). Sometimes (as in this topic), it helps to have somebody put your ideas under attack, to highlight the dim corners and the weak bits, and see if your reasoning holds. In the end, you can be much more certain of your opinions, or have them torn to shreds, depending on how it goes. I also find that, because you become more aware of the details and logic underpinning those opinions, this informs your world view in other directions. Maybe in this case its asking too much that somebody use reasoning to challenge the value of reasoning, but you never know.

Anyway, in order to draw useful distinctions between conscious and subconscious, I think a defining feature of consciousness is that it is aware of itself, in other words, not only can it experience things and think things, but it knows that it is experiencing something, and it knows what it is thinking (whereas the subconscious could be considered more of a "black box" which just spews out the answer, or behaviour, or emotion, or whatever). Hence the correlation between conscious thinking, and thinking which can be externalised. I would stop short of making the externalised bit a defining quality, since you could conceive of a conscious being who could not communicate. It's fortunate that we have the means and the language to turn our train of thought into words*, but since we can, I think it illustrates the difference nicely. Maybe subconscious and conscious should be considered more "dark and light" than "black and white", within the mind I'm sure there are shades of grey.

*EDIT: This is one of those moments when externalising an idea makes it "click". I've been reading a little about human prehistoric development, and one of the aspects of this I find most interesting is identifying the key developments that drove changes, such as the speciation of our ancestors (bipedal gait, use of tools and so on). One puzzle is the time lag between the genetic development of Homo Sapiens (thought to be as much as 200,000 years ago), and their dispersal out of Africa and subsequent displacement of other species, which was only about 60,000 years ago. Humans seem to have developed a great deal in the last 60,000 years, and relatively little in the preceding 140,000, yet those of 200,000 years ago are genetically very similar to modern humans. The key developments seem to have been cultural rather than physical. There is evidence that the use of symbols and artistic representation is one of the earliest major developments following the dispersal from Africa, with corresponding technological improvements. The use of symbols suggests that maybe a linguistic development was a trigger that enabled more symbolic thinking, reasoning, explaining and imagining. It could be that the human mind owes more to the use of language (and other symbolic representation) than we might at first think. When we look to the more modern technological explosion and information age, so much is dependant on our abilities to think collectively, pooling our resources, building on the achievements of previous generations, and, importantly, formalising. This arc of development may date back 60,000 years, and it could be all about externalising our thoughts. It's a bit of a digression but maybe instead of "fortunate", I should have said "pivotal".

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That's certainly where I'd like to drive the discussion, we need someone to really champion that viewpoint.

In my opinion, mental feelings, emotions and sensory input are all open to question.

<sigh> I guess I'll do it. :rolleyes::P

However, most sensory input can ...be treated as being extremely unreliable, IMO.

Agreed

Moving on to mental feelings and emotions, we generally lack ... the rationality of the conscious mind in order to filter out the deceptive bits.

This is a marginalization of idealism in your epistemological framework. External confirmation comes not from "shared religious experience", but from massive independant replicable confirmation across a wide cross-section of earth's population. The consistency of experience from person to person and within each person is undeniable. Demostrable unreliability in instinct or "sixth sense" is a side issue, because there is nothing paranormal (nevermind the statistically significant results in scientific research that indicate paranormal abilities are not a sham) about experiencing God. There are a certain set of conditions necessary for "the experiment" the come to know God to work. One of the most ironic (I'm sure most of you would substitute "convenient") things is that skepticism almost completely inhibits the ability to feel God.

stuff about emotions, thoughts, etc. being different sides of the same coin and qualia

I agree that the basic neurochemical processes are what compose any human's experiences. Some of those processes happen without conscious awareness.

Qualia relates to qualitative analysis. I think it would be a tangential to our discussion.

As for the distinctness of emotion, feelings and logical ... use reasoning to challenge the value of reasoning, but you never know.

It would be wrong to introduce a false dichotomy here. Gaining knowledge of the world through emotions/feelings or logic/reason are not mutually exclusive. It is myopic a worldview that rejects either. Let's allow that reason and logic are unassailable and that sensory input is reliable to the point of not being a/the issue.

Anyway, in order to draw useful distinctions between conscious and subconscious,... within the mind I'm sure there are shades of grey.

I don't really think distinctions are necessary.

Now, I don't really know where to go from here except to say: I know that God exists.

PS Sorry for the WoT. Hope it was at least readable.

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<sigh> I guess I'll do it. :rolleyes::P

I'd be interested in getting more involved with this thread, but I've only really had a chance to scan it at this point, so I don't have time or sufficient absorption of the topic to get into the full-fledged discussion. However, I do think that I can offer an additional query into a currently unexplored part of the conversation.

It ties in to mental feelings and the subconscious. I read this article* a little while ago. For those who don't want to mess with the subscription junk, I'll try to briefly synopsize the subject matter.

He interviews an author who worked in the medical profession for years and found that she and other nurses and doctors had similar experiences and that often patients did as well that couldn't be explained by current accepted evidence and reasoning. Nurses reported having dreams where they would see patients they hadn't met before and they would be sick or hurt in a particular fashion and sometime in the next couple of days, the nurse would physically meet this person and upon investigation would find something wrong with the person representative of the dream illness (ie. the dream would show physical symptoms while the reality would show a tumor (or something) at the same site). Sometimes patients would report dreams about pains or rashes in places on their body and a medical exam would reveal similar problems.

The centerpiece of the story (the one which the article starts by describing) is from a mother who woke up from a nightmare where the light fixture in the nursery crashed into the crib. Her husband insisted it was just a dream, but she was so rattled, she took the baby into their room. Later that night, there was a crash and events the the mother had seen in the dream were matched (in time and weather).

This is wandering into the world of psychics and such and the vast majority of such things are almost certainly nonsense, but the author of the book felt that there were enough people with a shared experience in such things to warrant writing a book chronicling them. As a slight person anecdote, my mother told me a story about how she and her sister both knew when their uncle (I think :unsure: ) had passed away, even before their mother had called to tell them. As I understand it, the uncle had been very close to both of them.

So while I can't exactly champion the cause of this subject, I do think there is sufficient data to add to the discussion.

This is a bit rushed, but I have to run. :dry:

* It's from an Alternative/Natural health website. I think you have to give them an email address to read the article (a bit annoying, I know :rolleyes: ), so if you have a spam email account or a filter, you should be okay since he'll start sending periodic links to articles on the site. You can probably also unsubscribe after you're done with it too.

As for the contents of his articles, I would say they fit into three general categories: "things to consider," "crazy conspiracy stuff" and "I don't what to think." This article fits into the third category.

:wacko:

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It would be wrong to introduce a false dichotomy here. Gaining knowledge of the world through emotions/feelings or logic/reason are not mutually exclusive...reason and logic are unassailable and that sensory input is reliable to the point of not being a/the issue.
Quite right, I didn't intend to suggest a dichotomy and it's really the value of beliefs gained from anything other than verified [sensory] evidence & reasoning I'd like to discuss.

External confirmation comes not from "shared religious experience", but from massive independant replicable confirmation across a wide cross-section of earth's population. The consistency of experience from person to person and within each person is undeniable.
Are you just talking about religious experiences here?

Anyway, consistency of experience is not in itself sufficient to give us an explanation of the reason for the experience. Maybe religious experience is consistent due to consistencies in the human mind and in what people want and expect from religion. The conclusions drawn from it are consistent within religious groups but are highly dependent on the locally prevailing beliefs, which shows a strong element of social influence. Even sensory experience may be consistent yet consistently give us the wrong impression (as in illusions), but at least sensory experience contains a huge quantity of specific and verifiable data which enables us to form a testable and consistent picture of the world. Feelings and emotions are IMO much more illusory by nature. They are indicators of something, but it's generally very hard to discern what, and can often be our minds playing tricks on us. So when we draw conclusions from them, the conclusions may simply confirm whatever we have been conditioned to believe.

Demostrable unreliability in instinct or "sixth sense" is a side issue, because there is nothing paranormal (nevermind the statistically significant results in scientific research that indicate paranormal abilities are not a sham) about experiencing God.
I agree it's not paranormal in the sense of being unusual, though I would say the conclusions people often draw from it fly in the face of normality. I'd really like to hear more about that scientific research though.

There are a certain set of conditions necessary for "the experiment" the come to know God to work. One of the most ironic (I'm sure most of you would substitute "convenient") things is that skepticism almost completely inhibits the ability to feel God.
lol, couldn't agree more except I would word it as credulity being a prerequisite for feeling God!

Seriously though, the trouble with that "experiment" is that firstly the result is determined subjectively and secondly the "God" result is obtained only by those who want or expect that result. In itself that doesn't mean the result is wrong, only that the evidence for it is extremely poor. But when we consider the plausibility of the conclusion derived and its consistency with any evidence-based model of the world, it becomes poor evidence for an inconsistent conclusion.

I read this article* a little while ago...while I can't exactly champion the cause of this subject, I do think there is sufficient data to add to the discussion.
Thanks for the synopsis as I really wouldn't want to stick my email address into that nasty little popup.

I know of a lot of anecdotal evidence for similar things, and of course we need to know what to do with such data. All data is indicative of something, so I won't just dismiss it, but I think we need to consider it in the right context. While it might be nice to think that people can predict the future or be psychically aware of distant events, we have to consider how this might be possible and what evidence supports it. If it is seemingly impossible and the evidence is purely anecdotal (or is it? Semper Rideo may have something up his sleeve), it's looking doubtful.

The value of anecdotal evidence could probably be a topic in itself. I had a friend who reported a slightly less impressive version of the chandelier story. He dreamed about hearing a lorry go past followed by a door banging and a dog barking twice (or something like that), woke up, then heard the lorry go past (thought "wow I just dreamed that") and then heard the door and dog just as he'd dreamed. When hearing things like that, my response is that of a sceptic, I wonder if perhaps there might be a mundane explanation which does not require a complete subversion of my current mental model of how the world works. If we consider premonition to be impossible, what does that leave? Maybe it was coincidence, but probably not. Maybe he was lying, but I don't think so. Or maybe it was a delusion. This strikes me as being more likely. The timeline of events may not be what he thought they were. Perhaps he heard the lorry, door and dog in a half-waking, half-dreaming state, and either dreamed the whole premonition story, or his sleepy mind got confused when he awoke and pieced together the jumbled memories into a sequence of events that seemed real but never happened. It's remarkable how many premonitions and supernatural experiences seem to occur when someone is half-asleep in bed. I think that memory can play its part in the deception, because people often think of memory as being like a video tape which you can replay to give a faithful record of events, whereas I'm inclined to think it's more like a story or collection of odd bits of information which you re-imagine in your mind, fleshing it out in convincing detail which belies the fact that it's cobbled together out of bits and pieces.

The baby and chandelier story contains details that would seem to contradict that explanation (Why did the woman take the baby out of bed? How could she have told her husband about the dream before taking the baby if it wasn't a premonition?) However the validity of the data depends on the accuracy of the story. It could be that the story arose from the confused and emotional state of the people involved, or that they played on the drama of the event and embellished the story, or that the author misreported the events. Considering the website it came from, it's a stretch to suppose that it must be completely true. There's a lot of money to be made in peddling meretricious pseudo-science to the gullible, which would appear to be largely what that website is about.

Another thing to consider, regarding the veracity of such anecdotal evidence, is that people seem to have a tendency to adjust their memories of events so as to fit in with the interpretation they wish to place on them, and some people prefer interpretations which are paranormal. The I posted earlier is an example of this in practice. When presented with lights in the sky, some people want to believe that they are flying saucers from another planet, so their accounts of events are adjusted to preclude the possibility of other explanations. I could hear this happening in real time as we were watching the UFOs, with detailed accounts of erratic flight patterns springing up. It is to my lasting regret that I didn't just keep my big mouth shut and see how far it went. I'm sure a very convincing anecdote was in the offing, but unfortunately I snuffed it out before it had a chance to really blossom.

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Are you just talking about religious experiences here?
Not necessarily

Anyway, consistency of experience is not in itself sufficient ... the conclusions may simply confirm whatever we have been conditioned to believe.
This should be the focus of the discussion.

I agree it's not paranormal in the sense of being unusual, though I would say the conclusions people often draw from it fly in the face of normality. I'd really like to hear more about that scientific research though.
Read Dr. Dick Bierman's work. Although he concludes that the results of his presentiment experiments show statistically significant evidence of presentiment, Dr Bierman is not afraid to point out where and how parapsychology's "scientific" research fails and possible errors in his own research.
lol, couldn't agree more ... it becomes poor evidence for an inconsistent conclusion.
I agree; It almost begs the question. Though I would still word it the way I said it. You don't need to believe(credulity) in order to believe. You merely need to have a desire to know the truth. In other words, you must approach the question with an open mind rather than skepticism. It's hard to do. I still have doubts sometimes, but I can't deny that I know God exists.

[Anecdotal evidence is not good]
Agreed

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*EDIT: This is one of those moments when externalising an idea makes it "click". I've been reading a little about human prehistoric development, and one of the aspects of this I find most interesting is identifying the key developments that drove changes, such as the speciation of our ancestors (bipedal gait, use of tools and so on). One puzzle is the time lag between the genetic development of Homo Sapiens (thought to be as much as 200,000 years ago), and their dispersal out of Africa and subsequent displacement of other species, which was only about 60,000 years ago. Humans seem to have developed a great deal in the last 60,000 years, and relatively little in the preceding 140,000, yet those of 200,000 years ago are genetically very similar to modern humans. The key developments seem to have been cultural rather than physical. There is evidence that the use of symbols and artistic representation is one of the earliest major developments following the dispersal from Africa, with corresponding technological improvements. The use of symbols suggests that maybe a linguistic development was a trigger that enabled more symbolic thinking, reasoning, explaining and imagining. It could be that the human mind owes more to the use of language (and other symbolic representation) than we might at first think. When we look to the more modern technological explosion and information age, so much is dependant on our abilities to think collectively, pooling our resources, building on the achievements of previous generations, and, importantly, formalising. This arc of development may date back 60,000 years, and it could be all about externalising our thoughts. It's a bit of a digression but maybe instead of "fortunate", I should have said "pivotal".

read the book Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. I have a feeling you'd find it very interesting :thumbsup:

As for consistency of experience, Semper Rideo - well, one of the greatest roadblocks to all religious arguments is the difference in religion around the world. If there really was this self-consistent spiritual knowledge among those with open minds, then why are there so many vastly different religions around the world? What exactly kind of religious person are you - Christian, Jew, Muslim, etc? Do you think that other religions are false?

Also, say you know that God exists, and you know that you know... now how does that extend to the religion that you subscribe to? ie, what made you choose one or the other, or were you born into one? Why is one better than another?

Not necessarily attacking your beliefs, I'm just trying to understand your beliefs and where you're heading with this train of thought

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Read Dr. Dick Bierman's work. Although he concludes that the results of his presentiment experiments show statistically significant evidence of presentiment, Dr Bierman is not afraid to point out where and how parapsychology's "scientific" research fails and possible errors in his own research.
This article seems to sum up what you were saying, so I presume that's what you are referring to. It was very interesting, though maybe he overworks the statistical analysis, finding patterns and correlations everywhere (FSM's global temperature vs. pirates correlation springs to mind :D). My own knowledge of statistical analysis is not sufficient to critique it properly, but it looks to me like evidence of very little, since the conclusions drawn depend on how you analyse the data.

For example, the overall findings show statistically significant evidence for the validity of psi phenomena. Look no further and there you have it, apparent proof of the paranormal. But Bierman does look further and reveals how the statistical significance of those findings has declined over time. Broadly speaking, if the data was confined to studies performed after 1970, it looks like you'd have no significant evidence of anything. Bierman is sincere enough in acknowledging the potential factors of selective reporting and improving study quality over time, but then proposes to explain all the statistical findings with what looks suspiciously like a half-baked bastardization of quantum physics (not that my understanding of quantum physics is perfect either, but I very much doubt that it accounts for shamans losing their power when their "tribal reality" is merged with the larger world). I think I'll stick with the selective reporting and improving study quality.

The contrast between these conclusions, derived from the same data, illustrates how we should be very careful with statistical analyses . Bierman accepts data which is not confirmed by later, more rigorous experiments, even though a small amount of bad data would make the statistical analysis meaningless. Like my maths teacher used to say "there's lies, damn lies, and statistics". The trouble is that the choices you make in the analysis greatly influence the results.

I agree; It almost begs the question. Though I would still word it the way I said it. You don't need to believe(credulity) in order to believe. You merely need to have a desire to know the truth. In other words, you must approach the question with an open mind rather than skepticism. It's hard to do.
That's where I differ, as I'm not convinced that open mindedness and a desire to know the truth are what you need, or even what you might possible have. It might feel like that, but nobody is really open minded when it comes to religion. Generally, it's either something we want or don't want (bear in mind that wanting it doesn't mean you consciously know you want it, but seeking something is an indicator that you want it). Also, we all have (culturally influenced) opinions and expectations on the matter. I'd say open-mindedness is more an ideal or discipline which you can impose upon yourself, than something which comes naturally, being intrinsic to your frame of mind. So your actions and explicit reasoning can be performed in an open-minded way, but the black-box operations of your subconscious could never be expected to be so even-handed.

I still have doubts sometimes, but I can't deny that I know God exists.
Isn't that a contradiction?

Anyway, back to the point of the discussion, how do you know God exists, if not by rational means?

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read the book Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. I have a feeling you'd find it very interesting :thumbsup:
Thanks, I'll let you know what I think of it ^_^

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As for consistency of experience...other religions are false?

As was stated before, and I agree, peoples' emotions/feelings can be colored by a variety of factors and can even be generated by an individual's conscious or unconscious processes. This does not preclude what some might call revelatory experiences. I don't see inconsistency in experience. I see inconsistency interpreting what that experience means or implies. I am christian. Unlike what seems like the majority of christians, I don't believe that all other religions are catagorically false and that all those not agreeing with me are going to hell to burn for all eternity or other such nonsense. I was trying to keep this objective so as to argue on behalf of all who might believe in god(s).

Also, say you know that...is one better than another?

This comes down to the method of coming to know God. I pray(ed) to God in the name of Jesus Christ. Personally, I believe that there are many ways to experience God; that God loves all his children and won't turn his back on someone simply because they aren't christian; and that everyone who experiences God is interfacing with the same being regardless of what they call Him.

Not :blink:necessarily :blink: attacking your beliefs, I'm just trying to understand your beliefs and where you're heading with this train of thought

lol. I wasn't heading anywhere in terms of a specific religion. My personal belief in God diverges from "mainstream" christianity in too many points for my personal experience to represent any specific group. I was heading toward trying to determine if we can definitively say the emotions/feelings people (like myself) use to justify a belief in God are caused by random, genetic, or God's processes.

That is where my original comment about epistemology comes in. Although a strict materialist episteme doesn't preclude the possibility of God being the cause, it flatly denies the way in which rational people proclaim to know that God exists.

[Link] seems to sum up what you were saying...you make in the analysis greatly influence the results.

Having barely passed my advanced probability theory and statistics with a C, I still understand and agree with what you are saying. I think it's interesting and even notable work that Dr. Bierman is doing, but I don't/wouldn't place too much stock in it. lol at the FSM quote (though to be totally pedantic that data is fabricated to be facetiously)

That's where I differ, as...seeking something is an indicator that you want it).

A good time to bring up the God gene. I disagree that nobody is open-minded about religion. Or maybe I am nailing you down on an overgeneralization you made for rhetorical reasons. I'll assume you meant it's nigh impossible for a significant number of people to be open-minded/objective about religion for [insert reason] (I'd say: due to it's very nature as an emotional connection to core beliefs) I'd like to make a distinction, though I don't know if it is valid, between belief in god and religion. I would say belief in god is like a foundation and religion is a human construction built on that foundation. We should be looking at undermining that common foundation to topple all the buildings built on it. I understand that attacking the superstructure is a lot easier what with christians killing abortion doctors, muslims killing infidels, jews commiting genocide because God told them to, etc. but it does nothing to stop the hindus or what have you.

I'd say open-mindedness is more an ideal or discipline which you can impose upon yourself, than something which comes naturally, being intrinsic to your frame of mind.

I'd agree and say that that discipline is prerequisite to overcoming atheism.

So your actions and explicit reasoning can be performed in an open-minded way, but the black-box operations of your subconscious could never be expected to be so even-handed.
Granted

Isn't that a contradiction?

The way I said it almost is. Though doubting and denial are not the same thing. Here's an example of externalizing things making them clearer, I was saying I have doubts about particulars of religion(s). Although thinking about it I do, albeit rarely, have doubts about the existence of God, but they are fleeting.

Anyway, back to the point of the discussion, how do you know God exists, if not by rational means?

Unfortunately, if the question is "if not by rational means", then it could be anything from hallucinations to just plain blind acceptance. It seems to me that if reason is lacking, anything is possible. That is the whole point of pastafarianism. It's an elaborate reductio ad absurdum argument against belief in god, religion, and specifically against teaching creationism in public schools. As funny and fun as the FSM is, I think it's a strawman hand-delivered by unreasonable(not necessarily irrational) people who espouse untenable beliefs and got political power. Therefore I propose that the question be changed to "Is it rational and reasonable to accept emotions or feelings as evidence for God's existence?"

Sheesh! My posts are way too long!

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Semper, we are more alike than you think. I just had to make sure that you weren't one of those that advocates open-mindedness then talks how all other religions are false. I respect you for your respect of ALL religions, and I agree with you that religion - even faith - is a human construction built on a more fundamental principle.

Also pastafarianism is one big joke, I hope you realize that. The unreasonableness of it is the whole point. The creator of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, however fun it has become, intended it to be a parable to christians... that is, showing christians how ridiculous Christianity looks from the outside.

Therefore I propose that the question be changed to "Is it rational and reasonable to accept emotions or feelings as evidence for God's existence?"

Sheesh! My posts are way too long!

"Is it rational and reasonable to accept emotions or feelings as evidence for God's existence?"

This comes back to the logic vs. emotion thing Octopuppy has been previously discussing. I just rewatched Star Trek (the new one; great movie!) the other day and Spock's father tells him "to put logic aside and do what's right" and it's basically about how logic is not complete for their existence.

You may expect me to dislike this message as octopuppy does but I think that in some sense it's right... logic and rational thinking is only one aspect of our overall mental experience and we can't ignore the other aspects that compose the mind. Octopuppy wouldn't be here without his innate desire to learn and know and change, something that's not always logical.

Don't get me wrong - I like logic and think too many people are too illogical. But I also think it's foolish to base your life entirely on logic because even though we have a logical model of our universe (not sure if we do entirely yet, but even if we do), we cannot always create an isomorphism from that to our real world perceived by our senses and thoughts and emotions in what we presume is our brain.

In a nutshell... of the aspects of our existence that make our mind, logic is important but not the only pillar of life.

But do I think that an emotional experience can justify a decision that greatly affects all the other "pillars" of the mind? I don't know. But here's my opinion: a true religious experience should be so powerful and mind-altering that it doesn't need to be backed up with reason or rationality. If it's doubted whether or not it's rational to base your religious stance based on the experience, then it wasn't such an experience...

And if it was true but not so powerful, then obviously weight was given to the logical and choice-based aspect of your brain, so you should evaluate it realistically

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