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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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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)...everyone who experiences God is interfacing with the same being regardless of what they call Him...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 see the point of your distinction, believing in a god is IMO not so clearly irrational as accepting the doctrine of a religion, since such doctrine is obviously arbitrary and people believe in so many variations. For example, if you have strong personal reasons to believe there is a god, does this imply that claims made about Jesus of Nazareth being the messiah are correct? It's not unusual to assume so if your surrounding culture tells you that these two propositions are equivalent, but I'm sure you can see they are not. I think we should focus on why you think God exists, though religion may have to enter into the discussion. Maybe we'll get around to the Christian aspect later...

A good time to bring up the God gene.
I'm not sure how the God gene comes into this. Could you elaborate?

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)
The emotional bit is true but just the tip of the iceberg. Religions, in order to survive, must have certain properties. They give rise to strong beliefs in people, create powerful incentives to comply with the needs of the religion, and promote behaviour which causes the religion to spread and accumulate more followers. Any religion which does not do this much will be short-lived. The ways in which religions are spread are many and varied, and generally amount to much more than simple evangelizing. Religion has permeated our language and culture so that even those of us from non-religious families are inevitably exposed to elements of religious doctrine as soon as we are aware of our surroundings. Religion promotes the widespread acceptance of postulates which pave the way for religious belief (such as "faith is a virtue", "life is pointless without a greater meaning", "religious beliefs should be respected", "human beings are fundamentally different from animals"). Even without direct contact to religion, we are constantly bombarded by its sales message. You either become aware of that sales message and resistant to it, or you absorb it and are preconditioned to accept religion. It leaves no room for open-mindedness.

When I referred to open-mindedness as a discipline I meant that we have to apply it consciously...

Going back again (sorry!) to the

another observation I made at the time was my own reaction when I was first told that there were UFOs in the sky outside. I went outside after just a second's hesitation. But in that second I was aware of a knee-jerk tendency to avoid the situation, to stay inside. This was not so much fear that I might be abducted by aliens, but rather fear that I might see something which would completely turn my opinions upside down. I had to consciously override this on the basis that the truth was not to be feared, whatever it may turn out to be. As a person who values truth and open-mindedness very highly, it was slightly disturbing to see such clear evidence that not all of my mind saw it that way, and some part preferred to cling onto established opinions while turning a blind eye to contradictory evidence. But this, I feel, is the true nature of the human mind. We need to have a working mental model of the world and if we tore it down and started again every time we saw a bit of evidence that didn't fit, we would be forever at the mercy of illusions and misunderstandings. So we tend to defend our model. Considering this (and digressing), I feel that perhaps it provides stronger motivation for believing in the supernatural than reasons I have previously put forward (i.e. laziness, in a nutshell). A mental model which includes the supernatural is more robust in the face of the unexplained because it incorporates a realm where inexplicable mysteries are allowed to happen without being understood. Without the supernatural, we need reality to be consistent in order for our mental model to hold up. Logic is a house of cards, in the sense that one contradiction would collapse the whole thing. One might even say that adopting such a model requires a degree of faith (:o oh, the irony!) in the consistency of things. Actually I don't agree with that last statement, since we might also adopt that model on the basis that the supernatural is a nonsensical concept, but I'll leave it there because it really tickled me (if you've read anything I've had to say about faith you'll know why) :D

...anyway, the key implication of this is that any process which isn't under conscious control (like, say, feelings or emotions), cannot possibly have anything to do with open-mindedness, since the conscious mind is the ONLY place where the ideal of open-mindedness is pursued.

I'd agree and say that that discipline is prerequisite to overcoming atheism.
Sorry for putting words into your mouth, but it sounds a lot like you mean "openness" rather than "open-mindedness". In other words, a readiness to accept religion. If you are ready and willing to be convinced, in the face of such a powerful convincer as religion (millenia of memetic selection have honed it well to the task), that means you are as good as sold on it. The distinction is a fine one so I'll elaborate:

Consider (you may not like the metaphor, but humour me) how we should behave around someone who may or may not be an accomplished confidence trickster. Some people may choose not to be suspicious, and give the potential conman the benefit of the doubt. This is what I'm calling "openness", as opposed to "open-mindedness". They are open to manipulation, easy prey for the conman. True open-mindedness in this case requires that you be informed and wary, allowing for the possibility that the potential conman is innocent, but highly vigilant for the ways he may try to trick you.

You may not agree with my definitions of "openness" and "open-mindedness", it's just my own usage really, but I need to make the distinction somehow.

...I propose that the question be changed to "Is it rational and reasonable to accept emotions or feelings as evidence for God's existence?"
That's fine. I've already gone into some of the reasons why I think not so I'll leave the ball in your court there

Sheesh! My posts are way too long!
ditto :D
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I'm happy to see two of my favorite atheists (Octopuppy and Unreality) still enjoying level-headed and intellectually stimulating discussion on the big topics. I wish I had more time to participate, but life has a way of getting in the way. I'm sure I won't be able to spend as much time here as I'd like, but hopefully I can contribute a little from the other side of the table. I read through most of the comments and there is a lot of interesting discussion going on, and I don't want to derail anything, but I'd like to focus on the original question, which I think is a worthy one:

While the discussion has taken a pretty natural turn toward the issue of proof for God's existence and the validity of religious writings, I probably don't have a whole lot more to say on those items. Maybe another day ...

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.

First, I think it's important to recognize (and you guys already have, to some extent) the difference between determining the truth of a statement of fact and one with moral implications. Consider the following statements:

1. With all due respect, Captain, there is only a 21.5% chance that the warp stabilizers will withstand your request.

2. There is a 94.3% chance that vaporizing this little village will resolve the conflict and save millions of lives. It is clearly the logical course of action.

(Of course, Kirk refuses to be so cold and boldly risks the lives of his crew and millions of others to successfully arrive at the optimal resolution where only the super-bad guy is killed!)

Second, it's important to recognize that the ability to use logic to arrive at the correct (or most likely correct) conclusion is limited by the available information and the capability of the processor. In the second example above, for instance, is there really any way Spock could arrive at an accurate percentage value for the likelihood of the outcome of something so complex? In reality, there would be too many unknowns for the value to be reliable, particularly for the decisions of other intelligent beings that do not adhere to his system of logic. Of course Vulcans understand this and assign probabilities based on experience, but will this always, or even usually, be a more accurate predictor than Kirk's "gut feeling"?

Chess grandmasters can often look at a position and almost immediately determine the best course of action without doing nearly any calculations (a few basic sanity checks are usually needed, but that takes only a very brief moment). You could call this "gut feeling" or "intuition", but what is it really? Pattern recognition. They've seen so many positions and studied so much that they can draw on this to arrive at a logical conclusion without using logical reasoning to get there. I think this is actually quite similar to what we all do on a regular basis when we form assessments about the world around us despite limited and potentially deceptive input. We rapidly assign truth values and infer meaning based on prior experience. It's one of the reasons that optical illusions are so effective, and fun; they play on this natural ability and highlight its limitations.

Does this imply that our gut feelings are illogical? To the contrary, I'd say that the majority of the time, intuition is more logical than the conclusion we'd arrive at by sitting down and drawing a logic tree. However, this is true only to the extent that our prior experience provides useful patterns to guide us. When we talk about highly abstract topics such as quantum mechanics or the beginning of time, our reservoir is sorely lacking and intuition does not generally prove as useful. Even so, I think it is a mistake to toss out intuition as irrelevant in discussions about such things as the existence of God, because that would eliminate a source of logical reasoning which may actually serve as a reasonable guide in lieu of the capability to accurately process all the available data, which we know is quite incomplete. I have some more thoughts along that line, but it's late and I've gone on long enough and I'll wait for feedback before proceeding. :)

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I agree 100% about the power of intuition. Our conscious mind is only the tip of the iceberg... but like you said, it can be misleading in the face of questions that haven't been ruminating in the genetic cloud of human collective unconscious for thousands of years, things like when to run from tigers. But like you also side, that doesn't mean we should completely ignore what our intuition tells us... just that we should incorporate it justly.

Even if we went entirely by intuition, some people might feel intrinsically that god exists, others won't, and almost everyone will have a different intuition on it. That's how it is in real life... and so if intuition is all we have then nothing is to be gained from even discussing it... but we have another tool, the logical or at least the quasirational thought processes of our conscious mind. We can't influence our natural intuition but we can at least analyze it and ask why. If we feel the need for a god, we can ask ourselves "does that mean there IS a god or do I just want comfort?" (just a random example, I don't know).

What I'm saying is that for tough questions like the existence of a deity or any other powerful spiritual or moral dilemma, we cannot limit ourselves to one faculty of the mind or the other: we need to take into consideration both logic/conscious thought/rationality with emotion/subconscious mind/intuition/instinct

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Duh Puck! How lovely to hear from you again. Such a shame you're letting life get in the way of your internet activity though - you need to sort out your priorities! :D

I'd like to focus on the original question, which I think is a worthy one:
I don't think we've (significantly) departed from that, just focused on a specific example. But still, nice to get a different angle on it...

First, I think it's important to recognize (and you guys already have, to some extent) the difference between determining the truth of a statement of fact and one with moral implications. Consider the following statements:

1. With all due respect, Captain, there is only a 21.5% chance that the warp stabilizers will withstand your request.

2. There is a 94.3% chance that vaporizing this little village will resolve the conflict and save millions of lives. It is clearly the logical course of action.

(Of course, Kirk refuses to be so cold and boldly risks the lives of his crew and millions of others to successfully arrive at the optimal resolution where only the super-bad guy is killed!)

Is this from the new Star Trek movie? I haven't seen it so I may be making some assumptions. We should bear in mind, of course, that whoever has the job of calculating probabilities on the starship Enterprise (is that Spock's job?) is utterly incompetent, and Kirk apparently knows it, since he invariably takes action which, while being overwhelmingly unlikely to work, works anyway. If these probabilities were correct then the chances are that Kirk would simply blow himself and the crew up and leave the conflict unaffected thus allowing huge numbers of further casualties, when he could have prevented it all just by vaporizing a little village. This may well be moral cowardice. Choosing the lesser of two evils is often the duty of military commanders and allowing themselves to get squeamish about the innocent victims of their decisions costs lives. Being cold is a necessary part of the job. Not very heroic, but war is a dirty business. On the other hand, there may be a case for sparing the village if vaporizing it would be highly unethical in the context of the conflict. When we lower our ethics, it affects everybody. The galaxy becomes a less ethical place, and everybody loses respect for Starfleet, which is also a bad outcome. So the benefit of stopping the conflict may be outweighed by the ethical cost of destroying the village. Given sufficient information, the relative benefits and costs could still be evaluated (though in the real world you would need to guess at them), so the matter can still be resolved rationally. Arguably this is a better way than Kirk's gut instinct. He's right, of course, because he's captain Kirk, but in the real world nobody is guaranteed to be right.

Second, it's important to recognize that the ability to use logic to arrive at the correct (or most likely correct) conclusion is limited by the available information and the capability of the processor.
True, but it's a matter of using educated guesses to evaluate the situation as opposed to going with what you feel. Which amounts to choosing to think about it, or choosing not to. That said, I'm not going to discount "gut feeling" as a way of making decisions. Often in real life it is too hard to factor in all the variables to make a good evaluation of the situation (in the above example Spock appears to have neglected the ethical cost). The subconscious is a decision-making engine far more powerful than the conscious mind and we need to harness its power to make the best use of our minds. So often the best decision is the one which is pointed to by "gut feeling" or by sleeping on the problem. As well as giving us access to greater processing power, it also helps us to make decisions which are more in line with our own personal feelings, even those we may not be fully aware of. The decision which you feel is right is often the one which is right, for you. But what I'm focusing on in this topic is "determining what is generally true or false" rather than what is a wise course of action for one person ("objectively true or false" might have been a better way of putting it). This is about how we build a model of how the world is, rather than how we go about making decisions in it.

But your next example of chess grandmasters could be considered a truly objective problem. At any given time there is arguably one best move and we need to figure out what it is. Subconscious pattern recognition is an efficient means of doing the hard work of telling us what is best. Let's consider a situation where we have a dilemma between two moves, either of which will have subtle, long-reaching ramifications for the development of the game. It may be practically impossible to calculate which move is really better, so the grandmaster may fall back on gut instinct to tell them something intuitive about the patterns formed by either move. I would describe that an assessment of objective truth by means other than conscious reasoning. Of course the grandmaster has no means of knowing whether their hunch is correct, but perhaps that is beside the point. Being a successful grandmaster, I think we can allow that their intuition is a better guide to assessing the truth than nothing (conscious reasoning having failed completely in this case due to inadequate processing resources). So I must concede that you have succeeded in the challenge. Major kudos to Duh Puck for a very well devised example! :thumbsup: I'm really very impressed.

Nevertheless the challenge is still open, as there may be other avenues...

...I'd say that the majority of the time, intuition is more logical than the conclusion we'd arrive at by sitting down and drawing a logic tree. However, this is true only to the extent that our prior experience provides useful patterns to guide us. When we talk about highly abstract topics such as quantum mechanics or the beginning of time, our reservoir is sorely lacking and intuition does not generally prove as useful. Even so, I think it is a mistake to toss out intuition as irrelevant in discussions about such things as the existence of God, because that would eliminate a source of logical reasoning which may actually serve as a reasonable guide in lieu of the capability to accurately process all the available data, which we know is quite incomplete. I have some more thoughts along that line, but it's late and I've gone on long enough and I'll wait for feedback before proceeding. :)
As you point out, pattern recognition relies heavily on experience. The hunch of a grandmaster is better than nothing, the hunch of a novice chessplayer is probably worse. So while I don't think intuition is exactly irrelevant in matters such as assessing the existence of God, I think it has more capacity to deceive than it does to inform. Pattern recognition does us no good in such a unique problem, it's not as if we solve similar philosophical questions on a regular basis with sufficient accuracy that we can determine God's existence using an intuitive familiarity with the issue. If your intuition suggests the existence of God, it may be:

1) because there is some piece of information, some subtle chain of reasoning that the conscious mind cannot grasp, but the subconscious can. Or,

2) because you're subconsciously taking patterns which work in your everyday life and applying them where you shouldn't (as in the watchmaker or first cause argument, for example). Or,

3) because you're being influenced by conditioning, desire for a particular conclusion, or some other drive.

While I cannot rule out the first of those explanations, the others are clearly and demonstrably in effect within religion generally. If the first were the case, I'd expect sooner or later somebody would be insightful enough to clarify it a bit and bring it into the realm of the conscious. So if we are to conclude that the first of those is at all likely to be at play, I think you need to make a much stronger case for it.

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Almost everyone will have a different intuition ... so if intuition is all we have then nothing is to be gained from even discussing it.

This raises the interesting question of the correctness of forming belief based on subjective criteria. What if I had an undeniable/unforgettable personal experience which absolutely convinced me of God's existence, or simply the existence of something supernatural (i.e., inexplicable given a naturalistic understanding of the physical world)? I understand that it may not be convincing to others, but is it unacceptable for me to form a belief based on this experience? Is it unacceptable to say to others "I know it's personal, but here's my reason for belief ...", without being considered illogical or unreasonable? While I agree it doesn't directly contribute to general consensus, I also think it's helpful to take into consideration the reported experiences of others. Healthy skepticism is good, but wholesale dismissal of all subjective experiences that don't jive with a naturalistic worldview certainly risks drawing the wrong conclusion due to a failure to adequately consider the available evidence.

Incidentally, I haven't personally had any experience that was unquestionably supernatural, so this is simply a hypothetical regarding the nature of subjective belief.

What I'm saying is that for tough questions like the existence of a deity or any other powerful spiritual or moral dilemma, we cannot limit ourselves to one faculty of the mind or the other: we need to take into consideration both logic/conscious thought/rationality with emotion/subconscious mind/intuition/instinct

Well said.

Is this from the new Star Trek movie?

No. I just made up some statements to illustrate the point, but in hindsight they weren't well chosen, and I got sidetracked in my proceeding comments. It may have seemed like I was saying that morally-guided intuition is better than cold logic, that Kirk's gut feeling was superior to Spock's calculation, but that wasn't my point. I was trying to show that purely rational thought runs into difficulty with moral judgments. My stated example was a bit too cut and dry, but what if a military commander has to choose between the lives of 5 of his own men or 20 innocent civilians? Of course he can use rational thought to make a decision, as you described, but at some point in this process he has to assign moral values to lives and potential outcomes. Pure logic is insufficient as the sole basis for determining what is correct, and hence we tend to admire "human" qualities that emphasize moral values we esteem.

In everyday life we face decisions involving love, self-sacrifice, mercy, and perhaps even altruism. While you may argue that the value we ascribe to these qualities gradually developed to improve the survival of the species (a whole 'nother discussion, that one), the fact remains that we form a belief about what is "right" based on thought processes not involving logical reasoning. So I'm not saying that intuition is superior, but rather that logic has limitations with regard to morality that do not apply to intuition. I think this is connected with the topic of the human conscience -- the figurative internal judge that pats us on the back when we're good and makes us feel guilty when we're bad. It's common to all peoples, with almost universal agreement on basic moral precepts. This faculty doesn't generally mesh well with a purely rational dissection of what's correct behavior in any situation.

Of course, while the Spock/Kirk contrast draws attention to the behavioral side of logic vs intuition, that wasn't really what you were driving at ...

What I'm focusing on in this topic is "determining what is ... objectively true or false." ... This is about how we build a model of how the world is, rather than how we go about making decisions in it.

Actually, in that context, even my example of the chess master's hunch is not really very compelling, since we can assume that the same conclusion he arrives at can also be found by logical analysis. The player's brain is simply unable to process the quantity of data without using external resources over the board, but it doesn't change the fact that logical deduction wins out in the end.

Therefore, I don't think it's productive to take the stand that intuition is a better guide than logical reasoning, but rather to simply acknowledge its value in guiding decisions. Even so, I will boldly take up the banner of defending the use of intuition for formulating belief ...

... but I just glanced at the clock and I have to leave, so I'll take a stab at that later. :P

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This raises the interesting question of the correctness of forming belief based on subjective criteria. What if I had an undeniable/unforgettable personal experience which absolutely convinced me of God's existence, or simply the existence of something supernatural (i.e., inexplicable given a naturalistic understanding of the physical world)? I understand that it may not be convincing to others, but is it unacceptable for me to form a belief based on this experience? Is it unacceptable to say to others "I know it's personal, but here's my reason for belief ...", without being considered illogical or unreasonable? While I agree it doesn't directly contribute to general consensus, I also think it's helpful to take into consideration the reported experiences of others. Healthy skepticism is good, but wholesale dismissal of all subjective experiences that don't jive with a naturalistic worldview certainly risks drawing the wrong conclusion due to a failure to adequately consider the available evidence.
I'd answer "yes" to the questions there (while noting my preference of the word "unwise" to "unacceptable", since people are free to think whatever they like). While it is not a good idea to fail to consider evidence, the far more prevalent mistake is to take all evidence at face value (or worse, all evidence that supports your chosen point of view). It is important to consider both the reliability of the source and the consistency of the information. If the information is incompatible with an otherwise consistent world view, that points to it being incorrect. If, in addition to this, the source is not one which can be completely validated, there is little reason to consider it correct. This includes our own experiences. If I saw a pink elephant in the garden, which flew off before I had a chance to examine it further, I would still have a poor reason to change my opinions on the existence of flying pink elephants. It's much more likely I hallucinated the whole thing, or saw something else which fooled me somehow. Rather than dismiss it, I would remember it as an unexplained oddity, and further pink elephant sightings (especially if corroborated) may cause me to rethink the position, as this would make the first sighting less inconsistent. Personal experiences are not 100% reliable, memories of personal experiences are less reliable still. I went into the value of consistency in and the problems with anecdotal evidence in (end part of post), so I'll leave that there, except to note that anything "supernatural" is intrinsically inconsistent and therefore would require extremely strong evidence to be likely to be correct.

In everyday life we face decisions involving love, self-sacrifice, mercy, and perhaps even altruism. While you may argue that the value we ascribe to these qualities gradually developed to improve the survival of the species (a whole 'nother discussion, that one)...
Yep I won't get into that except to say it's not about the survival of the species. I'm in the middle of a really good book about the genetic basis for altruism, "The Selfish Gene" by Richard Dawkins. I'd really recommend it (rest assured that since this is about genetics he's not bashing religion in this, well not all the time anyway :D). Honestly I think you'd enjoy it. It's taking me a long time to get through because on every page there's a lot to think about. I like books like that.

...the fact remains that we form a belief about what is "right" based on thought processes not involving logical reasoning. So I'm not saying that intuition is superior, but rather that logic has limitations with regard to morality that do not apply to intuition. I think this is connected with the topic of the human conscience -- the figurative internal judge that pats us on the back when we're good and makes us feel guilty when we're bad. It's common to all peoples, with almost universal agreement on basic moral precepts. This faculty doesn't generally mesh well with a purely rational dissection of what's correct behavior in any situation.
I think it's more a case of moral values being subjective. Take the military commander who has to choose between the lives of 5 of his own men or 20 innocent civilians, for example. How do you weigh the life of a soldier against that of a civilian? A soldier is probably worth more strategically, but a civilian is probably worth more morally (on the basis that a soldier is a willing participant in the conflict, accepts the danger as part of the job, and has a duty to protect civilians). How you weigh one against the other is a subjective matter, as morality is subjective generally. It may come down to your personal feelings on the matter, so naturally the subconscious is a better judge since it is more in touch with your personal feelings. "Correct behaviour" in a moral sense is also subjective. We may agree on some matters of what is or is not correct, but not all matters, and dilemmas such as that of the military commander are not an issue of objective truth. Would you agree with that, or do you consider right and wrong to be immutable, objective matters of fact?

Actually, in that context, even my example of the chess master's hunch is not really very compelling, since we can assume that the same conclusion he arrives at can also be found by logical analysis. The player's brain is simply unable to process the quantity of data without using external resources over the board, but it doesn't change the fact that logical deduction wins out in the end.
You do yourself an injustice there! We mustn't ignore practical considerations. Accurately determining the best move in a game of chess by logical analysis is a huge processing task. Sure, if you did that you'd have a much more reliable answer than intuition would give you, but it's so impractical I think you'd be justified in saying that intuition was the "best" way, certainly within the context of a game. You can chalk that up as a point to intuition as far as I'm concerned.
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Almost everyone will have a different intuition ... so if intuition is all we have then nothing is to be gained from even discussing it.

This raises the interesting question of the correctness of forming belief based on subjective criteria. What if I had an undeniable/unforgettable personal experience which absolutely convinced me of God's existence, or simply the existence of something supernatural (i.e., inexplicable given a naturalistic understanding of the physical world)? I understand that it may not be convincing to others, but is it unacceptable for me to form a belief based on this experience? Is it unacceptable to say to others "I know it's personal, but here's my reason for belief ...", without being considered illogical or unreasonable? While I agree it doesn't directly contribute to general consensus, I also think it's helpful to take into consideration the reported experiences of others. Healthy skepticism is good, but wholesale dismissal of all subjective experiences that don't jive with a naturalistic worldview certainly risks drawing the wrong conclusion due to a failure to adequately consider the available evidence.

I'm afraid I didn't really clarify my point. I think you mistook me for saying that we should ignore certain evidences. Well like I said earlier, it's important to look at everything you see and hear and learn because that's our only true input. We have to make sure we are getting as much information from the outside world as we can (or are physically/mentally able haha).

My real point was that, say everyone has powerful spiritual experiences that essentially were the deciding factor in the person's religious choices from that point forward. If no rational reasoning went into analyzing that experience other than blindly justifying it as opposed to thinking deeply about it, then it can be said to be 100% intuition-based, and therefore I exaggerated by saying "not worth discussing" because there was no reason involved in the making of the decision and therefore no point to an argument between two people whose intuitions differed.

nor did I mean to actually not discuss it; I would discuss it anyway even if it's pointless since I'm more of a "journey" then a "destination" guy :P

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this probably adds nothing to the website but I landed here for an unrelated reason:

http://www.ipl.org/div/farq/plotFARQ.html

and saw in the 3-plot section brief mention of "the logical choice". There it is again... now that I think about it, that theme comes up all the time. The big hero follows his/her intuition instead of the colder, logical choice to leave someone behind or let a smaller # of people die or whatever, and find the optimal solution. As octopuppy and Duh Puck (and I) have said, in those kind of moral decisions it's essentially impossible to apply logic in the first place so if we can recognize that on a metalogic level then the logical choice and intuitive/ethical choice become one and the same.

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...now that I think about it, that theme comes up all the time. The big hero follows his/her intuition instead of the colder, logical choice to leave someone behind or let a smaller # of people die or whatever, and find the optimal solution. As octopuppy and Duh Puck (and I) have said, in those kind of moral decisions it's essentially impossible to apply logic in the first place so if we can recognize that on a metalogic level then the logical choice and intuitive/ethical choice become one and the same.
Not sure if this is what you mean by the "metalogic" level, but I contend that such decisions can be made logically. The logical choice is often characterized as making no consideration of ethics or humanity, but in reality it should make consideration of all relevant factors. It isn't impossible to apply logic to moral problems, we just need to consider all the pros and cons and give them appropriate weightings based on our personal values. However, I would say that, practically speaking, this is often done better by the subconscious, as the conscious mind can too easily fixate on certain aspects of the problem and forget or discount others (thus resulting in the blinkered thinking so often portrayed as logic). The intuitive answer we get from the subconscious is often a more balanced one, and more in touch with our deeper feelings and values. We have no reason to suppose this answer is illogical either, it's just that we haven't consciously checked the logic.

The popularity of this theme in fiction may be because most people don't consider rational analysis to be much fun, and it's pleasant escapism to suppose that easy intuition holds all the answers. Indeed, the exaltation of intuition over rationality frequently goes as far as justifying a clearly irrational choice. While this is invariably the right choice in a film, it's also generally the wrong choice in real life. The persistent use of such plots is probably a very harmful trend. People can take an escapist plot as a life lesson and thus feel intuitively justified in rejecting rationality, even to the point of considering it anathema and persistently making irrational interpretations and choices simply because they are irrational.

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Not sure if this is what you mean ... give them appropriate weightings based on our personal values.

Would it not be necessary to first analyze those personal values using logic/reason?

You strongly indicate that morals are subjective and mainly based on personal feelings. While subjectivity does not disallow logical analysis, the basis in feelings requires information that is not currently available.

So, where do you ground your morals logically? Preservation of: the species? tribe? family? offspring? self? Maximization of: pleasure? offspring? health of offspring? etc. Or are they all equally important? Is there a hierarchy? Is there a logical solution to that? If not then adding a moral element to decisions is inherently illogical.

However, I would say that, practically speaking, this is often done better by the subconscious ... anathema and persistently making irrational interpretations and choices simply because they are irrational.

I haven't ever seen a case of someone sliding that far down your slippery slope. Well... maybe Salvador Dali. :P

However, back to the point, the inaccessability of the subconscious is where the answer is hidden. I don't have any arguments against the explanations of how feelings are felt or thoughts derived in the basic processes of neurochemistry, but the question boils back down to cause. Is it genetic, random, or caused by god or some other undiscovered phenomenon? Why do people have consciences that consistently drive toward common morals with minor flavour variations based on cultural input? Is it what I call the "Light of Christ" or as Dawkins would argue a set of behaviors that have been naturally selected to ensure the passing on of ones genetic heritage?

To answer your earlier question: I view right and wrong as objective matters of truth based not on laws that God created, but rather universal laws that even God is obligated to obey.

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Would it not be necessary to first analyze those personal values using logic/reason?

You strongly indicate that morals are subjective and mainly based on personal feelings. While subjectivity does not disallow logical analysis, the basis in feelings requires information that is not currently available.

So, where do you ground your morals logically? Preservation of: the species? tribe? family? offspring? self? Maximization of: pleasure? offspring? health of offspring? etc. Or are they all equally important? Is there a hierarchy? Is there a logical solution to that? If not then adding a moral element to decisions is inherently illogical.

Knowing exactly what your own inner moral values are is difficult. You could do all sorts of tests I suppose, but you'd never know precisely, and it may be that precision is not possible anyway. Perhaps our relative moral values are only defined vaguely, and they are probably constantly being changed by experience. So a guess or at best an approximation may be the best we can do. It's still information we can use to make decisions even if it isn't precisely correct. Arguably the subconscious has the edge here, having access to the raw data, but it is also influenced by natural urges that you might consciously decide to keep out of the equation. Consciously, we can construct whatever morality we choose. We can choose what kind of people we want to be, and potentially this is better than the morality we have evolved to have. We can consciously decide to have stronger morals than nature has given us, or choose a model informed by the needs of a modern society.

I haven't ever seen a case of someone sliding that far down your slippery slope. Well... maybe Salvador Dali. :P
What I said sounded extreme but I don't think it's all that unusual. I know some people who habitually do what they know is not the right thing, and the more you try to make them aware of this the more they get stuck in their ways. It's as if they feel threatened by reason, they don't want it influencing their decisions to the point where they are consistently unreasonable. Maybe they think "All right, you've got your rationality, that's your way, but this is my way and I'll stick with it." My explanation for why this occurs may not be correct, human nature can be perverse in many ways, but I'm offering a potential contributing factor.

However, back to the point, the inaccessability of the subconscious is where the answer is hidden. I don't have any arguments against the explanations of how feelings are felt or thoughts derived in the basic processes of neurochemistry, but the question boils back down to cause. Is it genetic, random, or caused by god or some other undiscovered phenomenon? Why do people have consciences that consistently drive toward common morals with minor flavour variations based on cultural input? Is it what I call the "Light of Christ" or as Dawkins would argue a set of behaviors that have been naturally selected to ensure the passing on of ones genetic heritage?

To answer your earlier question: I view right and wrong as objective matters of truth based not on laws that God created, but rather universal laws that even God is obligated to obey.

My own interpretation is that we are social animals and all social animals need to have internal guidelines since purely selfish behaviour is not genetically beneficial. This implies that right and wrong are constructs that we have created and not objective matters of truth. Other social animals such as wolves, dolphins, or chimps have their own systems which are generally similar to ours, since a lot of moral principles work fairly universally, but they are not precisely the same. Also human ideas about what is right and wrong have changed considerably over time. Morality is in a constant state of development, being gradually moulded toward a set of rules that will work best for everybody. Maybe the existence of such an optimal set of rules could be considered an argument in favour of morality being an objective truth. However we do not know that any one stable optimal rule set exists, and if it did, it would still be dependent on circumstance. For example, one of the most basic staples of morality, the Golden Rule, fails in situations where different people want different things. Therefore, its usefulness depends on the level of homogeneity within society. It might be an interesting exercise to see if any other moral principles are universal - would you care to suggest one that you think is?
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Dilemmas such as that of the military commander are not an issue of objective truth. Would you agree with that, or do you consider right and wrong to be immutable, objective matters of fact?

Although I do believe there is objective truth, it's not something I would build an argument from, since it's more the by-product of my other beliefs. I understand your point and would agree that that the notion of subjective morality is quite logical on its own merit.

While it is not a good idea to fail to consider evidence, the far more prevalent mistake is to take all evidence at face value (or worse, all evidence that supports your chosen point of view). It is important to consider both the reliability of the source and the consistency of the information. If the information is incompatible with an otherwise consistent world view, that points to it being incorrect.

I can't help but notice the implication that a naturalistic worldview is inherently more "consistent" than one which proposes an intelligent creator. Just as you strongly feel that the existence of an intelligent first cause or any other such "supernatural" mumbo jumbo would be inconsistent with our collective observations, I believe that the existence of life and and a universe which seems peculiarly designed to support it to be inconsistent with the idea that it happened by accident, in the absence of intelligent guidance. I'm obviously familiar with the logical rebuttals against this supposed "argument from ignorance", and I don't want to go down that road again right now, but just wanted to point out that, as we've encountered several times before, the interpretation of evidence is largely dependent on preexisting assumptions. You talk about taking evidence at face value, or only that which supports a chosen point of view, but I'm pretty sure that's not what I do. I'm fairly certain you and I could sit down and consider the same evidence for months on end, sincerely and honestly trying to fit it all together to objectively reach the most logical explanation, and yet arrive at different conclusions. That's the power of the assumptions that define the starting point of one's deliberation, and we all have them.

If, in addition to this, the source is not one which can be completely validated, there is little reason to consider it correct. This includes our own experiences. If I saw a pink elephant in the garden, which flew off before I had a chance to examine it further, I would still have a poor reason to change my opinions on the existence of flying pink elephants.

I agree that if I briefly saw a flying pink elephant I would seriously question my own perceptions and memory, but I don't think this statement does justice to the nature of human experience and memory. I had one experience which I find quite difficult to explain without suggesting supernatural involvement. Now, I will admit that it may simply have been a remarkable coincidence, or that I could have been the target of a highly bizarre trick of sorts (however unlikely), but there is absolutely no question at all for me that I actually had the experience. There were several related events that occurred over the course of a week and involved other people, not just a brief dream or something I thought I heard, and I remember every detail just as clearly as normal everyday life (well, more clearly, I suppose, since it was so unusual). I could call up my friend and have a conversation like "Hey, you remember when that weird thing happened?", and he'd say "Yeah, that was really strange."

So, regardless of whether or not there was in fact a natural explanation, I can assure you that if someone tried to convince me that I just remembered it wrong, I would shrug my shoulders and dismiss their opinion as incorrect. They would simply be mistaken to reject what I am certain to be fact, rather than trying to determine what might have been the real explanation. I certainly wouldn't fault a person for being skeptical, but the skepticism could blind them to truth. Unfortunately, I find that an overly-dismissive attitude is widely prevalent, and I think that does injustice to the very real memories of many people.

And just for the record, this experience didn't convince me of anything or alter my beliefs in any way. I realize its anecdotal and would never use it as an argument for the existence of anything supernatural. But it does make clear to me that personal experiences can be very real, and that it's logical that they would serve as subjective evidence for the person that had them. I think it's ridiculous to suggest otherwise, even if it's true that the memories of some may not reflect reality.

I'm in the middle of a really good book about the genetic basis for altruism, "The Selfish Gene" by Richard Dawkins. I'd really recommend it.

I recently enjoyed reading "The Blind Watchmaker," even if I disagreed with something on nearly every page :). Dawkins is clearly intelligent and from interviews I've seen he seems like a pretty decent and insightful guy. I'll consider picking up your recommendation next time I find myself with access to an English bookstore (tough to find here in Seoul).

Well, it seems I've gotten side-tracked again. What I really wanted to talk about was why I think intuition is helpful for forming beliefs about objective models of the world around us, not just for making decisions or evaluating chess positions. I'll mull over that on the subway and take a stab at it when I get home ...

Edited by Duh Puck
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I can't help but notice the implication that a naturalistic worldview is inherently more "consistent" than one which proposes an intelligent creator. Just as you strongly feel that the existence of an intelligent first cause or any other such "supernatural" mumbo jumbo would be inconsistent with our collective observations, I believe that the existence of life and and a universe which seems peculiarly designed to support it to be inconsistent with the idea that it happened by accident, in the absence of intelligent guidance. I'm obviously familiar with the logical rebuttals against this supposed "argument from ignorance", and I don't want to go down that road again right now, but just wanted to point out that, as we've encountered several times before, the interpretation of evidence is largely dependent on preexisting assumptions. You talk about taking evidence at face value, or only that which supports a chosen point of view, but I'm pretty sure that's not what I do. I'm fairly certain you and I could sit down and consider the same evidence for months on end, sincerely and honestly trying to fit it all together to objectively reach the most logical explanation, and yet arrive at different conclusions. That's the power of the assumptions that define the starting point of one's deliberation, and we all have them.

Interesting. I don't want to get into the religious debate thing either (although my response would be that because we are alive in our universe, it must be true that this universe can support life - I believe it's called the anthropic principle) but that aside, your assertion that assertions are meaningless sans mutual starting point (which is nigh impossible due to our individualistic natures) is a compelling one.

I have to think about this. It could spell the downfall of much rational thinking.

I propose a game/experiment in which I give you and Octopuppy a set of axioms, rules, presumptions, etc and see where you guys end up. Would Duh Puck and Octopuppy be willing to participate in such an experiment?

I agree that if I briefly saw a flying pink elephant I would seriously question my own perceptions and memory, but I don't think this statement does justice to the nature of human experience and memory. I had one experience which I find quite difficult to explain without suggesting supernatural involvement. Now, I will admit that it may simply have been a remarkable coincidence, or that I could have been the target of a highly bizarre trick of sorts (however unlikely), but there is absolutely no question at all for me that I actually had the experience. There were several related events that occurred over the course of a week and involved other people, not just a brief dream or something I thought I heard, and I remember every detail just as clearly as normal everyday life (well, more clearly, I suppose, since it was so unusual). I could call up my friend and have a conversation like "Hey, you remember when that weird thing happened?", and he'd say "Yeah, that was really strange."

So, regardless of whether or not there was in fact a natural explanation, I can assure you that if someone tried to convince me that I just remembered it wrong, I would shrug my shoulders and dismiss their opinion as incorrect. They would simply be mistaken to reject what I am certain to be fact, rather than trying to determine what might have been the real explanation. I certainly wouldn't fault a person for being skeptical, but the skepticism could blind them to truth. Unfortunately, I find that an overly-dismissive attitude is widely prevalent, and I think that does injustice to the very real memories of many people.

Oh I think memories are for the most part accurate, if for no other reason than fear of my life being a sham :P Have you seen the movie 'Moon'? It's haunting in its implications and raises philosophical questions about memory.

For the most part I think memory is fairly accurate. There are cases where it gets distorted, of course, and oftentimes repetitive things can get hazed together, but I guess that's a space-saving technique (like jpeg compression or something haha), but in general memory is okay. However, our INTERPRETATION of memory after-the-fact can distort the memory itself. I'm not necessarily questioning the "weirdness" of your experience but just pointing out that we can post-modify things to make them more dramatic or leaning toward our pre-existing belief structures.

But you already said that you agreed that anecdotal evidence is purely subjective and as often incorrect as it is correct, so let's move on from that and back to what we were saying before:

What I really wanted to talk about was why I think intuition is helpful for forming beliefs about objective models of the world around us, not just for making decisions or evaluating chess positions. I'll mull over that on the subway and take a stab at it when I get home ...

this comes back to that experiment/game I proposed as well

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I can't help but notice the implication that a naturalistic worldview is inherently more "consistent" than one which proposes an intelligent creator. Just as you strongly feel that the existence of an intelligent first cause or any other such "supernatural" mumbo jumbo would be inconsistent with our collective observations, I believe that the existence of life and and a universe which seems peculiarly designed to support it to be inconsistent with the idea that it happened by accident, in the absence of intelligent guidance. I'm obviously familiar with the logical rebuttals against this supposed "argument from ignorance", and I don't want to go down that road again right now, but just wanted to point out that, as we've encountered several times before, the interpretation of evidence is largely dependent on preexisting assumptions.
I don't think I'd call that an "argument from ignorance" exactly. To expand on unreality's comments regarding the anthropic principle, I think it hinges on whether you consider our universe to be special in the sense that it exists and other possible physical systems don't. If not, it's clear that we would still perceive our universe as being all that exists because we are part of it, but because the only universes containing lifeforms which perceive them as existing are ones fine-tuned to allow such things to occur, it's hardly surprising that ours is one of those. Neither point of view can be verified, however. I personally don't think they are equally valid since one contains more assumption than the other, but I see why they could be considered assumptions from which differing points of view are derived (or is it the other way around)? No matter. In practice I agree that people do tend to proceed from certain assumptions, but we should aspire not to and always treat the data as if we did not. Easier said than done.

I had one experience which I find quite difficult to explain without suggesting supernatural involvement. Now, I will admit that it may simply have been a remarkable coincidence, or that I could have been the target of a highly bizarre trick of sorts (however unlikely), but there is absolutely no question at all for me that I actually had the experience. There were several related events that occurred over the course of a week and involved other people, not just a brief dream or something I thought I heard, and I remember every detail just as clearly as normal everyday life (well, more clearly, I suppose, since it was so unusual). I could call up my friend and have a conversation like "Hey, you remember when that weird thing happened?", and he'd say "Yeah, that was really strange."
I'd like to hear more about that, just out of interest. These things are equally fascinating through the eyes of a sceptic.

And just for the record, this experience didn't convince me of anything or alter my beliefs in any way. I realize its anecdotal and would never use it as an argument for the existence of anything supernatural. But it does make clear to me that personal experiences can be very real, and that it's logical that they would serve as subjective evidence for the person that had them. I think it's ridiculous to suggest otherwise, even if it's true that the memories of some may not reflect reality.
I'd say it's natural that such things would serve as evidence for the people who had them. Trusting your own memories and perceptions is something we all need to do as a matter of course. I'm not convinced that it's entirely logical, but it is human nature, which I am flying in the face of by proposing we do otherwise.

I propose a game/experiment in which I give you and Octopuppy a set of axioms, rules, presumptions, etc and see where you guys end up. Would Duh Puck and Octopuppy be willing to participate in such an experiment?
Wow, that could be really interesting, though I'd say you've set yourself a hard task in coming up with our systems of thinking. Still, I'm certainly up for it. I suggest we be blind to each other's axioms.
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the idea would be to give you both the same set of starting axioms and see where you end up. I guess it'd be a test of how definite the rules of manipulating the axioms would be. Hmmm. It definitely couldn't be pure logic seeing as that's designed to be consistent, at least at any non-chaotic level I could think of. It would have to relate more to the real world. I'll think about this

maybe we should have multiple experiments. Here's a starting one just to see if this will work:

You have found yourself in a sort of contest run by a mysterious Being... in this contest, you are in a room with a table. On the table are two black boxes of equal size. The boxes are locked and need a special piece of wireless technology from the Being to unlock. In the box on the left is $1000, always. The box on the right has either NOTHING or a MILLION dollars. The Being entered the room this morning and put in either a million or nothing, depending on what It thinks you will do... because that's the catch. The Being claims to be able to see the future.

You have two options. You can get the key to just the MILLION/NOTHING box. Or you can get the key that opens BOTH boxes!

If the Being thinks that you will open just the one risk box, It will put $1,000,000 inside. If the Being thinks that you will open both boxes, it will put NOTHING in the risk box!

The Being has already entered the room this morning to put either a million or nothing in the box. The money is either already there or it's already not.

What do you do? Take only the risk box, or take both boxes?

Is your answer changed by the statistic that the Being has run this contest 100 times before and predicted correctly what the person would do each time? 10 times before? 10000 times before?

Think about it a little before answering (PM your answer). The question is a little more subtle and confusing than it at first seems

Anyone that reads this, feel free to PM me what you would do (don't post it here)...

Edited by unreality
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this has gotten fairly off topic, the original question being, what, besides logic and reason, can we use to determine truth?

well, in my opinion, logic and reason are necessary, but not sufficient, to determine truth.

Archimedes was a big believer that the word could be understood, that facts could be enumerated and from them conclusions drawn. but he got some very different results from what we have today, such as the sun rotating around the earth, and force = mass*velocity rather than force = mass*acceleration.

it's clear that our base assumptions and intuition play a significant rule into what we perceive to be true.

i don't know how a microwave works. i know if i stick food in and set the timer, i get hot food when the time ends.

i "know" it has something to do with magnetism and electricity, but the only reason i know this is because it's something i've learned from others. i've never taken a part a microwave to confirm it. i don't know how a computer works. i "know" it shifts bits around, based on commands it receives from the user, and other parts of the computer. but i've never taken a degree in electrical engineering to understand exactly how it stores, moves and changes those bits. to some degree, we are all reliant on each other's knowledge and understanding. which means a good portion of our beliefs are based on what others have learned and are convinced is true. we can try to confirm the truth for ourselves, but that in itself often requires the input or knowledge of others.

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it also requires personal experimentation and curiosity. If you saw a microwave and knew nothing at all about it, after some experimenting around you might have at least some idea :D

By the way, Phillip, only octopuppy has responded to my proposed scenario in the post above yours (still waiting on Duh Puck), but feel free to PM me about it too if you wish

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octopuppy's message:

Hmm, good dilemma, seems to be loosely based on the promise of heaven. If the Being is telling the truth, it's a no-brainer, so let's consider the other possibility. A believer would take the risk box, a sceptic would probably take both boxes. Or would they? If the number of successful runs is low, I'd take both boxes. A small number of correct predictions might mean that the Being can tell a sceptic from a believer, so it would be in your interests to convince the Being that you are a believer, but that's not specified as part of the game. However, after a large number of correct predictions, even a sceptic has good reason to rethink their scepticism, on the basis that other sceptics have probably done the same and taken only the risk box, and the Being has predicted this correctly, so it knows your state of mind well enough to predict this. So if it's only doing a mind-reading (or mind control) trick, it's amazingly good at it, and even if you feel it's a free-will decision it's probably not. In that case, if you can be one of the sceptics who chooses the risk box only, chances are you won't be the first and since the others got the $1M, chances are you will too. One might argue that if that's the case, you may as well take both boxes anyway and be $1K better off, but the Being's track record demonstrates that it would be unwise to push your luck. It seems to either know what you will pick or manipulate your choice. The latter is interesting because if you believe it to be true you still have the option to pick both boxes, but by doing so you accept that you have been subtly manipulated into doing so and thus will only get $1K. Better to think that you have been subtly manipulated the other way. Regardless of track record, if it would be strongly in the Being's interests to be proven correct, they may be trick boxes which can move the money secretly in and out. In which case I'll take the risk box. Otherwise, if it seems likely that the track record may be fake, and this is a one-off joke being played on me, I'd pick both boxes.

EDIT: I realise that's not a clear strategy, so here it is clarified.

Assuming the Being's track record is genuine;

If I felt the Being has more incentive to be proved correct than to save money (like if the challenge is televised), and there is any possibility of there being trick boxes, then I would pick the risk box only.

If the Being's 100% correct track record included cases of people choosing both options, or at least 2 people choosing the risk box, then I would pick the risk box only (I would increase that threshold if trickery could be ruled out completely)

Otherwise I would pick both boxes.

In any case I would do my best to convince the Being that I believed its claims, or at least that I would be picking the risk box only.

I think the toughest dilemma is if the track record consists entirely of people who picked both boxes, so we have no previous case of anyone winning $1M. My decision would rest on my reading of the situation (incentives and setup)

phillip1882's message:

there was something similar to this posted in the paradoxes forum.

there, you could either take the 1000 cup, or both the 1000 and million risk cup.

similar to yours, what was in the risk cup would be based on what the prophet thinks you would pick. there, i suggested taking both cups, as you still got 1000, with a very slight chance of getting 1 million as well. but on reading your version, i'm not so confidant that the same idea works. while its true you gaurantee 1000 by taking both boxes, you also have a high probability not getting the million. if you take only the million dollar box, you have a high probability getting the million. seem to me in this case you would want the million dollar risk box.

Duh Puck's message:

Sorry for the delay ... just too much going on this weekend ...

I would choose the risk box. Knowing that the being had accurately predicted the result numerous times before would only reaffirm the choice.

I like what you're trying to do, and the more I thought about it the more I appreciated the subtleties, but I think it falls short due to the imbalance between risk/reward in the choice. Let's say it was a simple 50/50 of getting the million, rather than being dependent on the Being. Would I choose the sure $1000 or the 50/50 million? Probably the latter, and this based only on my assessment of the risk vs the reward. I think most people would do the same.

Therefore, if the Being in your example actually could foretell the future, I would certainly be safe to choose the risk box, but even if he couldn't, he would likely guess that most people would choose the risk box unless he is either dumb or malevolent, which you gave us no reason to believe, and my odds would probably be better than 50/50.

It was interesting looking at the differences in reasoning. I did not make this up, I got from a Martin Gardner book on paradoxes. In essence, it's a paradox about free will as well as the belief in supernatural Beings.

My interpretation...

If you believe in free will - or in the absence of Beings - you're likely to say that the Being has already made its decision and the money is either there or not. By taking both boxes you will get all of the money that you possibly could have.

If you believe in the absence of free will - or if you believe in supernatural Beings with mystical powers - you're likely to say that the Being's track record speaks for itself and it has predicted what you will do correctly and is true to its word and thus you should pick the risk box and take the million it is expected to put there. But here is where further paradox comes up: you picked just the risk box because you believed that the Being knew your decision beforehand and so put the million$ there. Let's say that the Being spoke truly when it said it can see the future and knows exactly how it will turn out, deterministically. If that's possible than what you do now has the ability to CHANGE THE PAST. If you pick just the million$ box, the Being will have seen that and put the million there. If you pick both, the Being will have seen that and put nothing there. But that opens up paradoxes of time travel, causality and temporal paradox… if the boxes were clear and you could see what was in both, making a mental choice can't change the situation in front of your eyes…

but assuming that the Being can't really see the future but just makes accurate guesses about someone's character and is very good at it, you should take just the million$ box.

But why not take the other box too for an extra grand?

~~~

This sort of shows how initial presumptions can affect the evidence... thanks for taking part, guys :D

Edited by unreality
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Shoot ... was hoping you were sleeping somewhere and didn't get my response until after I had sent you my follow up correcting the error in my thinking. That's what I get for not reading carefully. :)

My response after further deliberation:

I had in mind that I was choosing between the $1000 box or the Million/Nothing box (which is an obvious choice, as I noted), but choosing between the risk box or both significantly changes the stakes. My bad.

On the surface it seems clear that my best choice would always be to open both if I didn't think it likely that the Being actually had any ability to foretell the future, while I would choose the risk box if I believed it likely or even somewhat probable that it could. While true, it's very difficult for me to determine the turning point from the first to the second. Would 1 to 1000 odds that the Being was prescient be sufficient to choose the risk box and miss out on the sure $1000? No, I don't think so. 1 to 5? Yes, but I don't really know why (intuition?!?), nor any way of really establishing odds in the first place. In any case, any significant degree of prior predictive success would probably sway me toward choosing the risk box (10 times would be enough for me).

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here's the thing.

in order to consider what i would do in this scenario, i have to make a series of base assumptions.

firstly that a being that can see the future, or at least is pretty good at guessing it, exists.

secondly, that he would make such an offer to me. third, that he's not likely to lie, as this would reduce his credibility to future participants.

from these assumptions, its seems to me, in no way am i forcing him to put a million dollars in the second box, nor is he forcing me to take only the million dollar box. however, being a good predictor of the future, if i try to take both boxes, he's likely to know before hand that i would do so. once again, in no way does taking both boxes prove that i have or don't have free will. so free will really isn't a factor here, it's pure risk assessment. is it more valuable to me to get 1 million dollars at a fairly low risk, or should i go for the 1000 and possibly an additional 1000000 at high risk?

as for the time travel argument, i don't really follow your logic there.

how does me knowing what the being wants me to do allow me to change the past in anyway?

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here's the thing.

in order to consider what i would do in this scenario, i have to make a series of base assumptions.

Well, I guess the point of this was to determine what, if any, assumptions or bias the players have ahead of time, and see how this causes them to reach different conclusions, so I shouldn't be picky, but ... I don't think you need to make any of your three stated assumptions in order to reach a decision. If the Being is just the imaginary invention of a sly carny who's totally dishonest and doesn't even have a million to give out, then it's obvious that you should open both boxes. The only reason you would ever choose just the risk box is if you had some reason to believe that the Being might actually be the real deal. That's why past predictive success was the deciding factor for me, although it seems I required less convincing to possibly miss out on the $1000 than Octopuppy. :)

However, I do agree with your statement about risk assessment, which is what I was focusing on in my initial response. I figured that regardless of whether or not the Being was actually prescient, there was a significant chance of the money being in the risk box since the story said the Being would actually act according to what he thought you'd do (I don't think the wording really left it open to all these scamming possibilities, but maybe that's just my naive assumptions kicking in there :P). For me the difference between 1,000,000 and 1,001,000 was negligible enough that I was willing to go along with the game if there was even a small likelihood the Being was legit, regardless of whether I was entirely convinced of it.

Edit: Whoops ... Not enough zeds in 1,000,000

Edited by Duh Puck
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The only reason you would ever choose just the risk box is if you had some reason to believe that the Being might actually be the real deal. That's why past predictive success was the deciding factor for me, although it seems I required less convincing to possibly miss out on the $1000 than Octopuppy. :)
Interestingly, I think despite my possibly more cynical approach we both had a pretty similar tipping point (some prior success needed but 10 times would be more than sufficient). I would be more inclined to think some trickery was afoot, but that's fine as long as it's trickery that will win me $1,000,000. I may be more inclined to take both boxes if you could rule out trickery (to say the past success is due either to dumb luck or prescience, nothing else), but in the real world you can never do that, it's such an unrealistic scenario that I wasn't inclined to interpret the question like that. The fact that the Being made such claims in the first place suggests that it has some plan to substantiate them, so very few successes are needed to reassure me that this is probably the case. I don't need to know what the plan is is in order to know that it's quite possibly working, and with $1,000,000 at stake, I'm better off playing along with it.

Incidentally, Duh Puck, what would you do if the Being had predicted the outcome 10 times successfully, but all 10 players had picked both boxes (nobody has won $1,000,000)?

Sadly I don't think this has highlighted much about our differing perspectives, other than the fact that I'm more inclined to think there are possibilities other than luck or prescience, even when I don't know what they are. Still a fun diversion though, maybe Unreality has more up his sleeve.

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yeah it's a payoff matrix.... if X is the 1k value and Y is the 1m value, and 'b' is the probability of the Being being true to its word and predicting your action correctly and all, then:

if you take both boxes you will win: X + (1-b)Y

if you take the risk box you will win: bY

the top evaluates to X + Y - bY

the bottom is bY

so in order to take the risk box over both then 'b' must be large enough to satisfy...

bY > X + Y - bY

2bY > X + Y

b > X/(2Y) + 1/2

So to pick only the risk box with 1mil [Y] and 1k [X] as the dollar amounts involved, your value of 'b' had to be approximately 50% + .05%

in general, because we know X is always less than Y or the problem becomes trivial, that X/(2Y) is always going to be less than half a percent and usually a lot less, so when analyzed in full, all 'b' needs to be is greater than 1/2, NO MATTER THE DOLLAR AMOUNTS CHOSEN, and you will go with the Being's offer and take only the risk box.

If the unconscious carries a similar (probably more subjective) process then the likelihood of you picking only the risk box depends on how much faith you would have in this Being's ability to predict the future and your initial assumptions about free will and supernatural entities

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Incidentally, Duh Puck, what would you do if the Being had predicted the outcome 10 times successfully, but all 10 players had picked both boxes (nobody has won $1,000,000)?

Taking the initial puzzle at its word, which says the Being would actually put the million in the risk box if it thought you'd choose it, I would be inclined to choose the risk box. The 10 previous correct outcomes would be an indicator that there might actually be something to it (doesn't matter if it's actual prescience or simply the ability to read people), so I'd take the chance. If it proved wrong, I'd be out the $1000 but the Being would be proven a fraud and people could stop, uh, being scammed into accepting a free grand.

Of course, if this were a real-life scenario, and some guy came up to me representing an unidentified "Being" who was offering this game, I'd be more cautious, much as you described. Even though I may believe in a God with the ability to foretell the future, I don't believe that humans have that ability, nor that God would be a participant in this cash give-away, so I'd constantly be thinking "What's the catch?" since in my experience unidentified people are highly unlikely to give loads of money away to strangers.

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"Taking the initial puzzle at its word, which says the Being would actually put the million in the risk box if it thought you'd choose it, I would be inclined to choose the risk box."

right, that's what i meant when i was talking about the assumptions i was making.

i suppose those assumptions aren't absolutely necessary, but its not absolutely necessary for 1+1 = 2 either, it just makes math a lot nicer.

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