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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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yeah it's a payoff matrix....

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.

Maybe it's just me but that calculation seems to be a bit off the mark. What exactly does 'b' signify?

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
...but in the end Duh Puck and I have arrived at similar answers. In my case though I would be more inclined to think that there was more to the Being's claimed ability than meets the eye. Nevertheless, there is little justification for thinking that the whole thing was cooked up just to swindle me out of picking $1000 that I never had in the first place, so whatever the means, all I need to be convinced of is that there is some relationship between my choice and the money in the boxes. Due to the enormous difference in prize value, that only needs to be a remote possibility to be persuasive, I don't even need to have a theory about how it works in order to make a decision based on that.
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Hmm, thought it might be, but I must point out that this is not independent of your choice. As we've seen, most players will pick the risk box most of the time. If the Being knows that and nothing more, it can get a better than 50% success rate just by filling the risk box more often than not. In which case p>0.5 if you pick the risk box and p<0.5 if you pick both (also, if no prescience or post-decision jiggery pokery has taken place, the coefficient of Y would have to be the same regardless of whether you are picking risk box or both boxes).

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that's the root of it when it's all said and done. The money is already there... your choice now can't affect what's in the boxes. Let's say the sides of the boxes facing you are black. You have a friend that can sit on the other side and see through a clear edge into the boxes (but he cant communicate with you obviously). If any funny business goes on he'll know though and the Being will be outed. Are you expecting money to flicker in and out of the box as you waver between your decisions? What if it was a quarter of a million $ instead of a thousand... would that sway your decision?

Regardless of whether the Being was right about you, he's already made his guess (or 100% correct prediction, or whatever) about what you'll do and the money is either there or it's not. So take everything. And if he did make a 100% correct prediction that you would take both boxes (and thus put zilch into the risk box) then it's not in your control anyway

Just throwing hypotheticals out there ;D

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Here's how I'd do the calculations:

Say r is the chance of the risk box being filled, if you take the risk box, and r' is the chance of it being filled if you take both.

if you take both boxes you will win: X + r'Y

if you take the risk box you will win: rY

so in order to take the risk box over both...

rY > X + r'Y

(r-r') > X/Y

So to pick only the risk box with 1mil [Y] and 1k [X] as the dollar amounts involved, r-r' needs to be at least 1/1000, clearly the ratio of amounts involved affects this.

If the being's claims are true then r-r'=1, so if there is a 1 in 1000 chance of this, we have justification for taking the risk box only.

Under normal circumstances we could be sure that r-r'=0 and therefore there is no justification for taking only the risk box. The scenario you described with the glass fronted boxes is along those lines.

That paints a very different picture and I must confess it's more of a genuine dilemma now. In order to take the risk box only, I need to at least acknowledge the possibility that my decision was foreseen, or that it will retroactively chance the history of what was put in the box (amounts to the same thing). Based on my current understanding of how the world works, that can't happen, though I can't absolutely rule out the possibility of being wrong about that. For example you could look at it like Schrödinger's cat, that the state of the system isn't really decided until I make my choice (which means my friend is seeing the risk box as being both full and empty, but is unaware of this duality). A large number of successes might convince me to take the risk box only (as the safe option), but it's an unsatisfactory outcome. Having the $1million would be somewhat tainted by not knowing whether I would have had it anyway, had I made the other choice. But you could say the same about if I picked both and got the $1,000, so after about 10 successes (with differing choices) I'd probably take the risk box. The annoying thing would be that I would not have sufficient information to update my world view, but if the Being's past record is sufficiently consistent and reliable, you have to consider that as empirical evidence.

This experiment is similar to superstition in that the beliefs involve a high reward to cost ratio based on an irrational claim. However, the past history of the Being adds an element of rationality to that claim, and you do not have to believe that the Being's claims are true in order to justify picking the risk box. If you think there is only a 1 in 1000 chance of the Being's claims being true, that's enough. That's why I'd change my mind after only 10 successes. It would not be enough to convince me that the Being's powers were real, but it would be enough to sow the seeds of doubt.

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The original question was whether or not there is anything other than evidence and reason which is justified as an objective basis for belief about what's true and false. After grappling with it for a while, I am unwilling to defend anything which is inherently illogical, such as emotion, or intuitive leanings which have no evidence as an underlying basis. However, I started to conclude that the choice between "evidence and logic" and "something else" is a false dilemma, so I will instead argue that it is a mistake to believe that there is such a thing as "cold hard evidence and reason" which is purely rational and independent of assumptions and bias.

I completely agree with Octopuppy that for many, the basis of belief is emotional and not rooted in evidence or logic. I think that someone who claims to want to believe the truth is required to test their belief through reason. This doesn't mean that every individual be required to perform a rigorous analysis, but rather that they at least struggle to verify the validity of what they accept as evidence and the reasons they believe what they do.

Obviously, as someone who believes in the existence of God and claims that this belief is rational and based on evidence, I have a stake in showing that I have not relied upon something irrational to form my beliefs. Hopefully the reasoning to follow will take a step in that direction.

First of all, I will define an explanation as a falsifiable statement or series of statements that provides reasons for the way things are, thereby enabling us to understand the connections and relationships between different observations. It imparts meaning, and the truth of the meaning and any resultant implications depends on the truth of the statements.

To arrive at an explanation, we must:

1. Acquire evidence.

2. Evidence must be judged as to credibility based on perceived reliability of the source. Reliability may be either subjective or objective. While subjectively reliable evidence (e.g., personal observation) may be strong to the individual, only objectively reliable evidence (e.g., independently confirmed observations from multiple sources) carry weight for establishing objective truth. It should be noted that subjective evidence can have objective reliability (e.g., 1000 people all reported seeing that there was a purple cloud).

3. Judging the credibility of evidence requires assumptions about the sources, which may be based on previously established conclusions dependent on other arguments.

4. Having acquired evidence and established relative credibility, we must make deductions or inferences which are used to support an explanation. For controversial matters with competing explanations, inferences are far more common.

5. To judge the relative merit of an argument based on one piece of evidence, we must compare with arguments based on other evidence. This requires assumptions regarding the relative merit of related arguments, either for or against.

6. The existence of arguments which harmonize with others does not increase their respective merit. In other words, you cannot say "Argument A is stronger because it aligns with Arguments B and C", since this can lead to a "house of cards" where you have an entire structure of belief based on weak foundations.

So in reality, logical reasoning (i.e., "cold hard evidence and reason") does not work like a mathematical function, where a given set of inputs always yields the same output. Anytime the issue is complex, involving many sources of evidence and requiring that we make inferences based on the result of other inferences, then there will necessarily be a subjective process of judging the relative credibility of evidence and merit of constituent arguments.

Knowing this, one should theoretically be able to identify all prior assumptions and bias and make a rational defense of the judging process, but in practice it doesn't work that way. This is where intuition and individual leanings, perhaps based on illogical foundations such as emotion, will inevitably influence the outcome of one's process of reasoning.

I have in mind a good illustrative example demonstrating these concepts, but it will have to wait, since my lunch break is over. What do you think of my conclusion, though? Do you think it's possible to use evidence and pure logic to reach objective conclusions that most accurately reflect reality, without the influence of prior assumptions?

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After grappling with it for a while, I am unwilling to defend anything which is inherently illogical, such as emotion, or intuitive leanings which have no evidence as an underlying basis. However, I started to conclude that the choice between "evidence and logic" and "something else" is a false dilemma, so I will instead argue that it is a mistake to believe that there is such a thing as "cold hard evidence and reason" which is purely rational and independent of assumptions and bias.
I'm inclined to think that it's an ideal we should strive towards. This raises the questions of whether assumptions and bias are even avoidable in theory (not necessarily inherent in all knowledge), and if so, whether the goal of avoiding them is acheivable. I acknowledge a lot of what you are saying here, though I do not consider the removal of assumptions and bias to be impossible.

Obviously, as someone who believes in the existence of God and claims that this belief is rational and based on evidence, I have a stake in showing that I have not relied upon something irrational to form my beliefs. Hopefully the reasoning to follow will take a step in that direction.
I think in practice all beliefs and other opinions are initially formed more by persuasion and intuition than by reason and evidence, but then we must use reason and evidence to test their validity. Herein lies the first of our difficulties. Certain assumptions and axioms are often established or selected at the time of forming the belief, and it is hard to remove those from the equation when testing the belief, in order to avoid circular reasoning.

To arrive at an explanation, we must...
I'd add to that various provisions for minimising subjectivity, for example:

1. The acquisition of evidence is one area where bias can creep in. Peer review is a good way to avoid this. In general we should seek the input of those whose opinions differ from ours, in order to agree on what is a "fair test".

2. Reliability of sources is a big area where preconceptions can creep in. Where we form personal opinions based on the authority of a source, it is important to consider the basis for that authority. I personally am very sceptical of most forms of authority. I would regard the scientific community as a whole as being a reasonably reliable authority, due to the competitive and formalised nature of how it operates, but nevertheless even that authority can collectively go astray. Regarding environmental issues for instance, it is hard to know who to trust, since everybody including governments, have vested interests. It's also a very popular topic, which carries with it the danger of promoting fashionable points of view which deviate from objectivity.

As far as subjective evidence having objective reality is concerned, it is important to view it critically and not draw conclusions beyond what the evidence suggests. This is tricky because all individuals concerned have probably drawn their own conclusions and may report the evidence differently to suit the conclusions they have drawn. This is not a reason to discount such evidence but it needs to be taken into consideration.

3. We only need to assume that which cannot be otherwise established. Where there is an assumption made about the credibility of a source, this should be acknowledged and all dependent conclusions considered only as reliable as that assumption.

4, 5, 6. This is an area in which we can formalise thinking to maximise reliability and objectivity. A lot of differences in thinking probably come down to the fact that human beings are not generally formally instructed in the application of reason. We learn it by example, often by bad example. Much of our reasoning goes on subconsciously, and we seem to acquire the ability without being specifically taught the details. Because it is done informally like this, we often apply all sorts of bad logic. Hence the importance of critical thinking and awareness of common fallacies. Teaching people to think clearly seems to be more about the "do not"s than the "do"s (my earlier comments on 1 to 3 being examples of that). However, there are a core set of "do"s that can be formalised.

...there will necessarily be a subjective process of judging the relative credibility of evidence and merit of constituent arguments.
I'd say that constituent arguments can be formalised and thereby made objective. Credibility of evidence is more difficult to determine and I agree that in practice this can lead to large differences of opinion. If people actively sought objectivity then those differences of opinion would be considerably smaller, and if we could formalise systematic ways to determine credibility of evidence they could be eliminated altogether. The latter would have to be addressed if we were to design an artificial intelligence which gained its own perception of the world. I don't really know if this last part could ever be acheived without bias, I'll have to give it more thought.

I look forward to your example...

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I was reading a book on symmetry, and near the end it was talking about a symmetry expert by the name of Conway who knew the bias of a standard U.S. quarter so well that he could consistently get it to land on the side of his choice.

So let's call him the being. (trying to avoid using God here.) He has two quarters, on each quarter, it has words written, on one side true, on the other, false. He explains ability. He says he'll flip one coin, and it will land on true. You witness him do so. He now says that he will flip the other coin and it will also land on true. However, he catches it and doesn't open his hand. he says you can do one of two things. you can take only the unopened coin, and if it says true you get 1,000,000. or you can take both coins; the coin already showing being worth 1000, and if the unopened coin says false, you get an additional 1,000,000.

which would you pick?

Obviously no time travel or free will is involved here.

You simply have to decide if Conway is honest or not,

both about his ability and the state of the coin.

Once agian, it seems to me that it would be more valueable

to him to be honest, so I would take only the unopened coin.

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The difference there seems to be that it's largely a question of honesty.

With the original scenario, in order to justify taking the risk box only, you have to at least think it possible that there is some connection between your decision and the fact of what is already in the box (in a scenario where this is seemingly at odds with free will). In a sense you're betting on your current world view (which presumably doesn't include prescience) being correct, and with every right answer the Being scores, the odds get longer. As Unreality pointed out, the $1million is either in the risk box or it's not at the time you make your decision, so it's hard to justify not taking the $1,000, since the contents of the risk box, whatever they may be, are yours in any case.

I feel that your example takes the edge off the dilemma slightly because, even though I doubt that anyone can really predict the toss of an unweighted coin with any accuracy, it's not unthinkable that a skilled coin tosser might find a way to get a slightly better than 50% success rate. The choice would then be simply a matter of judging the man's incentives and whether he would consider it advantageous to attempt to predict the outcome honestly or dishonestly. Whichever it is, you are not betting on your perception of reality.

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personally, I don't really see it being any different. I see it as quite conceivable that someone could watch my choices over say a 5 year period and then make a fairly accurate (better than 50/50) guess as to which choice I'd make in that scenario. yes, his decision is made before I open the box. no, what I decide do to now wouldn't change what's in the box. however, by taking both boxes, I'm betting that he is either incapable of accurately guessing the future, or that he's lying about the state of the two boxes.

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Note: I typed most of this yesterday before reading phillip's spoiler or other comments, but didn't have time to finish it. I've since modified it a bit in view of the comments of others ...

Interesting variation. I really had to think hard about the difference between this and the original problem, and I'm still not sure I totally have it figured out. However, I would likely choose both coins.

Here's how I see the difference (similar to Octopuppy's thought): In the first case, one would obviously choose both boxes unless there was reason to suppose the Being's claim might be valid, but to even acknowledge that possibility would contradict the belief most of us have about how the world works. In your problem, there are no such dilemmas. Either the Being can control the coin flip, he can influence it, or he cannot control it, all of which seem entirely possible. He is either honest or not, both of which are possible. If he cannot control the outcome, then his honesty is irrelevant and you have a 50/50 chance of winning big money with either choice, so you would clearly choose both coins to get the guaranteed 1000. If you think he can control or even significantly influence the toss (and the first toss would incline me in that direction at least a little), then honesty is the issue, and you have to decide based on whether or not you think there is sufficient reason to trust him.

At this point, understanding motive would be key. In any real-life scenario, it would be disadvantageous for the Being to give you a million instead of a thousand, so I would suspect that he was not trustworthy, and we are in a typical guessing game scenario (he thinks that I think that he thinks that I think ...), where I can identify no practical advantage of trusting him ... so I would take both coins and the guaranteed thousand.

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It's an intriguing dilemma, I must admit. Everything you said in your post is true.

I however would like to add a few things.

First, you admit to the possibility that a person can influence a future outcome.

Second, that a person can predict (to some degree) how their influence will affect the future.

So, up against a person who has this down pat, while its true you have no reason to trust them,

you also have no reason not to trust them. In my coin toss example, you admit that he's possibly

flipping the coin and getting it to come up the way he wants it. So, if he's being honest about that,

why not the state of the coin as well? True, he could potentially be lying, about one or the other.

But, while he has no vested interested in being honest, he also has no vested interest in lying either.

If he really can influence a coin toss, then he himself takes equal risk putting it on true or false.

In fact, I would tend to argue that he's taking more risk with false.

(as the person could win both the 1,000 and 1,000,000)

If he can't, they why even make the claim and offer in the first place?

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I agree with a point phillip made earlier. I'm a firm believer in quantum mechanics, however I have no experimental data to back up this belief aside from the fact that I heard it from people who I trust because they're scientists. That's arguably just as fallacious as if I were to believe in fortune telling because a bunch of my friends told me that it's legit. As another example, I've never formally proven that a triangle with two sides of equal length must have their two opposing angles be of equal size, but I can sort of intuitively tell that it's true, and I've relied entirely on intuition rather than a formal proof to be convinced that it's true. I'd say it remains to be proven that what typically falls under the banner of "reason" has much more basis in experiments or logical deductions performed by the believers in such facts than does any superstition.

So, what really is the difference between a belief based on reason and a belief based on intuition? A very difficult question to answer if you believe that reason itself should be somewhat intuitive, which is something that I suspect many scientists would assert.

Of course this is a bit of a straw man argument, I really do believe in quantum mechanics but not in fortune telling, and I also believe that there should be some sort of way of establishing that one of these beliefs is based on reason while the other is not. But drawing the line between what's supported by reason and what isn't may become much more difficult when you're dealing with less trivial examples. The question of how many boxes you should open might be the simplest of such nontrivial examples. Even murkier: is string theory based on reason? And since the OP talks about not only facts and theories but about forming opinions: Are aspects of morality based on reason? How about asking which specific moral issues are and are not supportable by reason: Is the immorality of murder supported by reason, or the immorality of stem cell research? How about the compulsion to be submissive to your parents, or the compulsion to be a contributing member of society? At some point, the distinction between what beliefs are based on reason and what aren't seems to become impossible to make.

And off topic, but now that I'm finally going to be free for a couple of weeks, it's about time to see what RD.net will think of Phronism.

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I agree with a point phillip made earlier. I'm a firm believer in quantum mechanics, however I have no experimental data to back up this belief aside from the fact that I heard it from people who I trust because they're scientists. That's arguably just as fallacious as if I were to believe in fortune telling because a bunch of my friends told me that it's legit. As another example, I've never formally proven that a triangle with two sides of equal length must have their two opposing angles be of equal size, but I can sort of intuitively tell that it's true, and I've relied entirely on intuition rather than a formal proof to be convinced that it's true. I'd say it remains to be proven that what typically falls under the banner of "reason" has much more basis in experiments or logical deductions performed by the believers in such facts than does any superstition.

So, what really is the difference between a belief based on reason and a belief based on intuition? A very difficult question to answer if you believe that reason itself should be somewhat intuitive, which is something that I suspect many scientists would assert.

Of course this is a bit of a straw man argument, I really do believe in quantum mechanics but not in fortune telling, and I also believe that there should be some sort of way of establishing that one of these beliefs is based on reason while the other is not. But drawing the line between what's supported by reason and what isn't may become much more difficult when you're dealing with less trivial examples. The question of how many boxes you should open might be the simplest of such nontrivial examples. Even murkier: is string theory based on reason? And since the OP talks about not only facts and theories but about forming opinions: Are aspects of morality based on reason? How about asking which specific moral issues are and are not supportable by reason: Is the immorality of murder supported by reason, or the immorality of stem cell research? How about the compulsion to be submissive to your parents, or the compulsion to be a contributing member of society? At some point, the distinction between what beliefs are based on reason and what aren't seems to become impossible to make.

One thing I would say is that evidence supporting the basic precepts of QM is peer-reviewed and supported by the research of a number of people supposed to be experts in their field. Your friends, I imagine, are not the leading authorities on "Fortune Telling Science" so while they may be totally convinced in the success of fortune telling, they don't have the rigor of the scientific process to back up their argument. Yes, the scientific process can be abused or used to justify things that are in actuality untrue, but the peer-review process is the part that is supposed to remove the outliers from the equation and leave us with the most reasonable data with which to build our model of the Universe. :thumbsup:

In the case of deciding the whether reason can dictate the morality of something, I think that depends on how we define morality. Considering murder, I would say there is plenty of evidence to show it to be immoral. If we consider morality in terms of what allows humanity to exist in relative peace, murder most certainly can be shown to be immoral in most circumstances. If anyone could eliminate another being simply because it pleased them or inconvenienced them to permit the other to live, then civilization would crumble since you could not rely on anyone to be there for you and your family. So as I see it, there is certainly a reasonable explanation for why murder (and many other "moral" transgressions) is immoral, though it could be argued whether or not the morality of the action is connected to the reasoning against it. :unsure:

And off topic, but now that I'm finally going to be free for a couple of weeks, it's about time to see what RD.net will think of Phronism.

Cool, I'll be interested to hear how it goes...It may go to show how open-minded some of the people on there really are...(I have no idea, but narrow-mindedness often cuts both ways. :rolleyes: )

just wondering about athiests, do you think there is a 0% chance of their being a god or just .00000000001?

I think that most of the "Atheists" here are more of the A-Theist variety than the Atheist. Some would consider it more of an agnosticism than true atheism. For the most part, we see a lack of evidence for a god to exist and simply choose to not believe in any god. If we found a compelling reason to believe in a god, then I would like to think that we would "believe" (being open-minded and all ;) ). So it's not a matter of 0%, it's more of a ?% and in all honestly, I think that the question is irrelevant since determining the likelihood of the existence of god will not reveal the value of the Universal Constant of Gravitation or anything explaining the physical world. By which I mean that someone could show me a proof that god must exist with 50.1% probability and I would not find it all that significant (though I can't speak for anyone else on the matter :P ). Speaking for myself, I don't think of it in terms of percents; I don't bother with the question at all. I see nothing that indicates to me that a god must exist, so I leave it as something that requires more data. It's not something I spend time thinking about. I'd rather spend time pondering the world we can experience than wonder about a world about which we can likely learn nothing no matter how hard we try.

Sorry for the somewhat rambling post, but I felt I would like to try to get back into this discussion and it's gone in a number of different directions so far... :wacko:

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Yes, I too feel we've gotten fairly sidetracked here. I'm not really sure what more I can add to the original question, being what besides logic and reason can we use to understand the world around us.

it seems to me however, we also need a wide variety of tools to analyse the world around us. microscopes, telescopes, computers, I could list 100's if not 1000's. and not every tool is constructed the same way. errors crop in, to some degree, though for the most part not sufficient enough to affect the outcome of the study.

yet, look at the wide variety of theories we have about how the world works. I'm not just talking the religious views, I'm also talking about the scientific ones as well. some believe in string theory, some not. some believe in dark matter, some not. Some believe in anti black holes, some think black holes are gateways to other universes or can be used to create tunnels in space, etc.

I'm not saying we should reject science to any degree, but I would feel better if scientists actually agreed with each other on a more consistent basis.

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the examples you gave of disagreements among scientists are all in cosmological physics related areas... ie, very big mysterious things that are very very very very very far away. As for string theory, that's almost like a metaphysical theory, at least now. You're forgetting about the bulk of 99% of science that gives us what we've got today.... and most of that was at the fringe in its time, just like black holes and string theory now (although black holes aren't fringe science anymore - they're part of astronomy and physics) and its the very argument, disagreement and speaking of opinions is what makes science flow.

When scientists all agree on one thing, be very afraid :thumbsup: Science is built on revolution, disagreement, questioning the status quo and arriving at new hypotheses

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Ok, getting back to the original point of the thread,

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 :(

There's one very good argument I can think of for using intuition as well as evidence and reason in deciding what is likely to be true. Ever try to solve a math problem for a real life application (say deciding how much money to budget for a task), then get an answer and say "wait a minute, that looks like it must be off by a few orders of magnitude", and then go back and find out that you left out a decimal point in the middle of your calculations? Reasoning, at least when applied by real people in real life, is fallible, and sometimes those errors can be caught by intuition. And you already made a case about evidence occasionally being fallible with the example of UFO sightings.

So when it comes to the real point of the thread,

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.

As I've said, logic is fallible when applied by any particular human at any point in time. A very common logical fallacy is to think that if you reject one part of a theory (like the existence of a god) then you must reject the entire theory (including all the lessons about morality that come with the religious package). If a human with faulty reasoning thinks they face a false choice of having to reject religion and morality both or adopt them both, then maybe they're better off choosing to be religious based on their intuition. The best counterexample of faulty reasoning leading to catastrophe is someone deciding that a loving god doesn't exist (they're more likely to arrive at this conclusion because of a bad life experience than from sitting down and reasoning it out, but regardless...) and therefore "rationally" (in their minds) deciding that the rules of morality that come along with their religion must also be rubbish.

So for individual humans prone to logical traps, intuition comes in handy from time to time.

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Plasmid's post reminded me of Malcolm Gladwell's book "Blink," which is probably right on target with this topic. I haven't actually read it, but I did see the interview he did on the "Colbert Report" and my dad has read it.

As I understand it, he says that experienced people are very good at making value judgments in the blink of an eye (hence the title). Actually, I don't think that you have to be particularly talented according to what he writes. He mentioned a study where they taped a couple of teachers teaching in a classroom, removed the audio and played the video for a series of test subjects. Then the subjects were asked whether they thought the teacher was effective. After 30 seconds or so, the testees could fairly accurately identify which teachers, just from a visual cue of their actions, were preferred by the students who had been in the classroom.

I think his point is that there's a lot going on under the hood in the human mind and to discount everything that we can't deduce logically would be doing ourselves a disservice. So for making snap decisions or getting a first impression, I suppose that intuition is a valid method. Though I would certainly advocate backing up an intuitive feeling with verifiable evidence if it's available. (Of course, I'm very much a non-intuitive type, so some people might not need that sort of reassurance. :rolleyes: )

I would say that intuition can be useful for making quick choices in the real world, but for any large, highly metaphysical subjects, intuition (and simply being convinced of it) are not sufficient to make a valid conclusion.

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I would say that intuition can be useful for making quick choices in the real world, but for any large, highly metaphysical subjects, intuition (and simply being convinced of it) are not sufficient to make a valid conclusion.

Why?

Here's where I see a flaw in your logic. Assuming that metaphysical behaviors exist, why is intuition not good enough?

When a 19 year old Sargeant in the USMC leads his troops while they're under fire, there's a lot of training involved, but when it comes right down to it, which way to jump when a mortar is coming and when to duck is mostly just intuition. There have been multiple documented cases of people just having a 'gut feeling' that something is wrong, and leaving a building, only to find out later that they would have been killed if they had stayed. If humans are capable of trusting their lives, their very existence, to their intuition, why is it insufficient to trust metaphysical subjects to intuition?

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Why?

Here's where I see a flaw in your logic. Assuming that metaphysical behaviors exist, why is intuition not good enough?

When a 19 year old Sargeant in the USMC leads his troops while they're under fire, there's a lot of training involved, but when it comes right down to it, which way to jump when a mortar is coming and when to duck is mostly just intuition. There have been multiple documented cases of people just having a 'gut feeling' that something is wrong, and leaving a building, only to find out later that they would have been killed if they had stayed. If humans are capable of trusting their lives, their very existence, to their intuition, why is it insufficient to trust metaphysical subjects to intuition?

dawh was saying that we can trust things to instict & intuition that have been refined by evolution. But there was no evolutionary benefit to have a particular worldview, and if there is a natural tendency toward some belief, then it's tuned for survival and not for correctness.

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Why?

Here's where I see a flaw in your logic. Assuming that metaphysical behaviors exist, why is intuition not good enough?

When a 19 year old Sargeant in the USMC leads his troops while they're under fire, there's a lot of training involved, but when it comes right down to it, which way to jump when a mortar is coming and when to duck is mostly just intuition. There have been multiple documented cases of people just having a 'gut feeling' that something is wrong, and leaving a building, only to find out later that they would have been killed if they had stayed. If humans are capable of trusting their lives, their very existence, to their intuition, why is it insufficient to trust metaphysical subjects to intuition?

Just saw unreality's comment and it is a fairly accurate, succinct representation of what I was saying. This is a more detail-oriented response:

Well, I wasn't considering dodging a mortar when I was talking about a metaphysical subjects. I would agree that that would be an eminently suitable time for intuition since there's very little that reason can do to improve on the situation.

I hadn't really considered that sort of "gut feeling" to do something like leaving a building when I was talking about metaphysics. I suppose that there isn't really a physical explanation for something like that and while some might argue that it's little more than random chance, I'll leave that question to others. Whatever the case, I would put that circumstance into a different class than the more detailed metaphysical entity that I had in mind (ie. "I believe in one God, the Father...").

My complaint is about using intuition to justify a specific belief. You may have a gut feeling that there is a god and that feeling convinces you that it is true. That might fall into the same category as the sense to leave a building. But to take that intuition about a belief in god to convince yourself of the truth of a specific creed about God is a different animal altogether. That's the sort of "highly metaphysical" subject that I was thinking about when I last posted.

While people may have had some kind of religious experience that gives them a "gut feeling" about god's existence, I doubt that (m)any of them provide a context for that metaphysical belief. A Christian and a Muslim could have the same experience that personally shows them the glory of God and each would use that to further justify his belief in his particular interpretation of God. (Of course, not knowing what such things are like, I can't fully justify the validity of my statement.) As much as it may convince that individual, it's not evidence that we can examine and as such, I don't see that it could be used to reach a valid conclusion on the subject. That's the distinction I would make between the situations that you are suggesting and the ones that I was intending. I was emphasizing the "highly" part of "highly metaphysical" to the point of abstraction; things that don't have a direct bearing on the physical world.

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I must admit, I believe in God's existence, and certain attributes about Him, without a whole lot of justification.

There are of course many things I don't know both about God and the world around me, and I try to be honest about that.

I won't go into my religious beliefs here, if you would like to discuss them with me we can do so on a other topic.

But I did want to say, when dealing with the unknown, such as the existence or non-existence of God, what else can we use besides intuition?

Yes, there is no scientific proof of the existence of God. But there's also no scientific proof that the earth will still be here when I wake up tomorrow. There a million things that could go wrong that bring about the end of the world. Solar flares, astriod impact, super novas etc.

yet, I'm not worried.

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I must admit, I believe in God's existence, and certain attributes about Him, without a whole lot of justification.

There are of course many things I don't know both about God and the world around me, and I try to be honest about that.

I won't go into my religious beliefs here, if you would like to discuss them with me we can do so on a other topic.

But I did want to say, when dealing with the unknown, such as the existence or non-existence of God, what else can we use besides intuition?

Yes, there is no scientific proof of the existence of God. But there's also no scientific proof that the earth will still be here when I wake up tomorrow. There a million things that could go wrong that bring about the end of the world. Solar flares, astriod impact, super novas etc.

yet, I'm not worried.

I get your overall gist but I have a bone to pick with the specific analogy you used:

On Induction [bertrand Russell]

It can't be proven but via induction we can (subjectively?) place the probability as very very high :unsure:

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...when dealing with the unknown, such as the existence or non-existence of God, what else can we use besides intuition?

Yes, there is no scientific proof of the existence of God. But there's also no scientific proof that the earth will still be here when I wake up tomorrow.

All you need to know about the earth still being here tomorrow is that it's quite likely (and outside your control). The question of the existence of God also comes down to likelihood, in the absence of firm proof. In assessing that, we have to decide how much worth to assign to the intuitive data, in the context of other data available. If intuitive data is all you have for such a major addition to our model of the universe, that's intrinsically dubious. If we can see other ways that such intuitive data might come about, without complicating our model of the universe, that probably offers a better explanation.

I'll digress for a bit here to acknowledge that plasmid has identified probably the biggest problem with using only explicit reason to determine objective truth. In fact, part of why I started this thread was because I had a gut feeling that there was an argument to be made but couldn't think what it might be. So plasmid has proved me wrong in my initial assertion, but at least I have the comfort of knowing that he has confirmed both my gut feeling and also the validity of using it :D I'll have to modify my position now to say that both reason and intuition are potentially flawed means of determining objective truth.

Reason is flawed because we apply it in flawed ways. This is too common a phenomenon to be overlooked, particularly where human minds have a tendency to fixate on certain aspects of a problem leaving potential blind spots elsewhere. Maybe this will be a short-lived difficulty, perhaps we could develop reasoning machines that check our reasoning just as we use a pocket calculator to check our arithmetic. But for now we muddle through doing it in our heads. However, the strength of reason is that, like arithmetic, there is a right way to do it even if we persistently do it wrong. A reasonable person who makes a flawed argument can be shown the flaws in their argument and (being a reasonable person) will accept that they are wrong. Since faulty reasoning is common, the value of a reasoned argument depends on the extent to which it has been checked. It is entirely conceivable that a reasoned point of view could be compelling, universally accepted, and yet wrong due to an error in reasoning which is so subtle that nobody noticed it. Hence the value of critical thinking. Putting a point of view forward on a forum like this is a good way to check your reasoning. The number of minds which turn themselves to the problem make it statistically less likely that flaws in reasoning will go unexposed, but still not impossible.

Intuition taps into a greater resource than reason. But intuition is also flawed because that resource, our subconscious, cannot be cross-examined to check the validity of its decision-making. Worse still, as unreality put it so neatly, it's tuned for survival not correctness, so in some situations we have no reason at all to trust its conclusions. Incorrect intuitive data may come about when survival-tuning is at odds with correctness.

So going back to the matter of intuitive reasons for believing in God, is our survival-tuning letting us down there? I think it may be. A mind tuned for survival looks for purpose everywhere. It thinks about things in terms of what they are for, so as to see their potential uses. It guesses the intention behind things, so as to be one step ahead of danger or competition. It seeks out patterns and tries to make sense of things. Things without purpose or pattern are of little interest. Often we see purpose in something which has none, such as the mountains that challenge us to conquer them, or the stupid keys that hide from us. That isn't generally a big problem. On the other hand, failing to see purpose where purpose does exist can be a very serious mistake, so our perception is biased to look for purpose. Seeing things in terms of what they are used for, we see that fruit is there for us to eat, the moon is there to light up the night, and so on. Looking for the intention behind these things, clearly they were put there for our benefit. By whom?

Likewise we see pattern where pattern doesn't exist, like constellations in the stars. A particularly interesting kind of pattern is the relationship between our actions and external responses, and we're always on the lookout for these. So it is hardly surprising that people report responses to their prayers, and no amount of scientific evidence of the inefficacy of prayer can convince them otherwise. A general feature of superstition is an irrational belief in relationships between our actions and responses from the outside world. We can see that this happens quite a lot.

This, as I see it, is the problem with letting intuition tell us whether God exists. Our predilection for perceiving purpose and pattern would naturally point us that way. In modern times we have explanations for why the moon lights up the night or why fruit exists. Darwin has revealed why all living things exhibit apparent purpose, but still the purpose-oriented questions don't go away. Why are we here? What is the meaning of life? Why does the universe exist? We are virtually hard-wired to think that way!

Then there is religion to consider. Thousands of years of general acceptance have given religion an authority, a ubiquity, and an influence that won't go away in a hurry. A mind geared for survival might assign credibility to authoritative or commonly held beliefs as a short-cut measure, or even a good social strategy. Appeals to authority or popularity are clearly logical fallacies, but how do we know the subconscious is above making them? The reason why we can identify such common fallacies is because these are short-cuts in reasoning which we are naturally inclined to make. It seems very unlikely that intuition would not be swayed by the various appeals that religions put forth, which are themselves fine tuned to influence you.

So I would say in this particular case, intuition is far too naturally biased and heavily influenced to be taken at face value. Depending on the kind of intuitive response you have, it might be worthy of some consideration, but you'd have to view it critically.

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I get your overall gist but I have a bone to pick with the specific analogy you used:

On Induction [bertrand Russell]

It can't be proven but via induction we can (subjectively?) place the probability as very very high :unsure:

:lol:

My brother was just talking to me about this exact subject and I was about to bring it up since it hearkens back to one of octopuppy's original quibbles:

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:

Octopuppy thought that there should be a way to take reason as an underlying fact and I think that Russell's argument is along those lines. It's not completely analogous, but it's a step in the right direction.

I have to agree with you unreality, that was my bone with phillip's post as well.

As for octopuppy's new post, that's a response for another time... :blink:

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