General Question

Fyrius's avatar

On beliefs (discussion)

Asked by Fyrius (14501 points ) April 29th, 2009

In order to avoid derailing another thread, I’m starting this one.

I’d like to discuss what justifies belief in anything, and what does not.

I’m going to assume at the outset that objective reality exists, and that we can find out – either through reason or through empirical investigation or through both – what the real world is like. If you disagree with either of these fundamental assumptions, please raise your hand.

With that said, it is my point of view as a sceptic that while one should always be open-minded to what others have to say, one does need a good reason to believe anything. If you believe things for no good reason, you will more often than not end up believing things that are not true, and that is detrimental to you and everyone around you.

Furthermore when someone questions your beliefs, you should be able to defend them, and use your reasons for belief as arguments to convince others that your belief can be trusted not to be false.

In my perception of an ideal world, everything is open to debate, and only the beliefs that repeatedly exit the ring victorious are given any credibility. This is why I oppose the mind-set that says one is not allowed to criticise other people’s beliefs. On the contrary – question any belief you come across, and respect only the ones that can hold their ground against sceptical inquiry. Those that are crushed under the heel of reason or factual truth are not worthy of anyone’s belief.

(Tl;dr: Don’t believe anything unless you have a reason to.)

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224 Answers

fireside's avatar

Umm, so what was the question?

Fyrius's avatar

@fireside: I’m kind of abusing the system to invite discussion of something that’s a statement rather than a question. I thought the fact that the title ends in (discussion) rather than a question mark would clarify my unorthodoxy.
If you will, my question is whether I’m making sense or not, and why.

RedPowerLady's avatar

With that said, it is my point of view as a skeptic that while one should always be open-minded to what others have to say, one does need a good reason to believe anything. If you believe things for no good reason, you will more often than not end up believing things that are not true, and that is detrimental to you and everyone around you.

I would say that we would all have a different reason as to what a “good reason” to believe anything is.

Furthermore when someone questions your beliefs, you should be able to defend them, and use your reasons for belief as arguments to convince others that your belief can be trusted not to be false.

I disagree. This argument has been used to persecute people time and again. If someone’s belief is not causing harm why should they have to explain it to you Especially if they are using it for their own personal benefit and it therefor affects you in no way whatsoever. It does no harm. It doesn’t affect you.

This is a cute, a bit off the point, example: I was in a College class where we were assigned groups. One of the group members had a strong accent. So another group member asked her where her accent was from. She said “It’s none of your business”. Enough said. That is a prime example. If you see me pulling flower petals apart and lining them up down the sidewalk and then twirling in circles it is none of your business why I am doing that. I don’t have to defend my belief to you. If I was infringing on laws then maybe I would. What makes you think I should have to defend my belief system?

SpatzieLover's avatar

@Fyrius Then maybe more concise thought would have made that clearer to me.

Les's avatar

I completely disagree with your notion that beliefs have to be based on “a good reason”. You say that if one does not believe something for a good reason, “you will more often than not end up believing things that are not true, and that is detrimental to you and everyone around you.”

You are blurring the lines between “knowledge” and “belief”. For you to say that by not believing in something “for a good reason”, you may believe something that isn’t true implies that one view is right, while the other is wrong. Additionally, who is to decide what the “good reason” is? You may not agree with my “good reason” for a belief in a higher power, just as I may disagree with your good reason for not (hypothetically). I think a belief is just that: a belief. With knowledge comes reason, beliefs do not have to based upon reason to be valid.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

A man has to believe in something. I believe I’ll have another beer.

wundayatta's avatar

I was reading “objective reality” to mean that there is an objective normative way of life, something I totally disagree with. However, it seems that you really mean that there are thing we can find out and all agree on. I still question this idea, but I do think we make an effort to collectively understand what we consider to be an objective reality.

You then suggest the idea of a marketplace of ideas. The ideas that have the highest sales win in the race to define objective reality. I have to quarrel with this, too. Maybe in the long term, science beats out popularity, but in the short term, a number of very ridiculous and harmful ideas can be ascendant. Even now, there are important ideas that are competing for supremacy, and many people think those ideas have no basis in reality. The idea of a deity, for example.

So, yeah. I’m not sure I’ve understood what you meant, at all. However, I think it is possible to have both a subjective reality, and a way to debunk spurious ideas.

Fyrius's avatar

@SpatzieLover: Yeah, sorry about the wall of text. It’s hard to be clear without being verbose though. (I revised the whole thing twice.)

@RedPowerLady: “I would say that we would all have a different reason as to what a “good reason” to believe anything is.”
In my books, evidence is a good reason, and so are considerations of probability. The kind of thing that objectively indicates it has a good chance of actually being true.
What would your kind of reason be?

“I disagree. This argument has been used to persecute people time and again.
I’m not talking about a legal ban on believing things that are not true. I’m all for freedom of beliefs. I also acknowledge your right to tell me to shut up when I ask things you don’t want to tell.
I’m talking about a purely cultural pressure that merely discourages people to believe things that are probably not true. In much the same way that people are being discouraged to litter or play loud music at night.

oratio's avatar

Well, everyone has a good reason to believe what they believe. It’s another observer that decides that it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

I think that the reason I obsess with christianity is that the more I learn about it, the less I can believe in it, and find it ridiculous in every aspect. I think that makes me angry at some level since the reason I searched into christianity was that I wanted to believe. I think there is some envy involved when I discuss religion with someone and I want to say “Look at this, how can you believe in this crap!” I miss my lost naivety. Innocence is a lovely thing.

Mostly I don’t mind people believing whatever they want. When they try to make other people live according to their set of beliefs, then I mind. I kind of think it should be the same both ways. Maybe christians should get the same respect non-christians want from them.

Shuttle128's avatar

@daloon See, Karl Popper’s epistemology of deduction cures the popularity contest problem. In science only inter-subjective evidence and the logic behind the hypothesis is weighed to determine if a theory is false or worth using. We sift through all possibilities by removing the false ones and determine which theory of the sifted ones is most likely by analysis of it’s explanation. We can accept things without reason….we do this all the time, but what Fyrius suggests is that we discourage this, and I think that’s a stupendous idea.

Fyrius's avatar

I should clarify I’m only talking about assertions about the real world, like the existence of bacteria, ghosts or worldwide conspiracies. With that said, it should be uncontroversial that there does exist an objective standard for what constitutes a good reason. It’s what all science is based on.

fireside's avatar

Isn’t everything a part of the real world?

I don’t think you have made a strong enough case for what “a good reason” means universally. Evidence is tangible, but probability is still vague to me.

crisw's avatar

I am in agreement with you. If you hold a belief, and your actions in regard to that belief influence other sentient beings, then that belief is not only open to questioning, but I think that questioning should be mandatory. I believe that ethics are extensions of logic, not a popularity contest. It pains me greatly to read some of the illogical nonsense that is presented as “reason to believe” many things. When you critically examine almost any practice that causes harm to sentient beings, at its roots will almost always be some type of “blind faith” or illogical thinking. This is not, by the way, true of only religious beliefs, but any type of belief- for example, anti-vaccination hysterics or the people who believe that sewing machines contain valuable ‘red mercury.’

Fyrius's avatar

@fireside: By considerations of probability, I mainly meant Ockham’s Razor, and parsimony in explanations in general. This means that when you find you’ve run out of milk, the explanation that your roommate drank the last of it is superior to the explanation that aliens opened a portal to another dimension that sucked all the milk into another world.
The last thing may seem a bit overly far-fetched, but that’s exactly what I’m talking about: the least far-fetched is the most likely to be true. When two explanations account for the data equally well, the one involving the least assumptions is the more probable one.
Because each separate assumption introduces the risk of that part of the explanation being wrong. The strength of a chain is determined by the weakest link; therefore, the more links, the weaker the chain.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Fyrius First I will say I agree with @daloon about the objective reality which I neglected to mention previously.

What would I say is a “good reason” to believe something?
Well I would say there are thousands of “good reasons” and I couldn’t attempt to list them all. But many of them are not based on empirical data I will tell you that.

I’m not talking about a legal ban on believing things that are not true. I’m all for freedom of beliefs. I also acknowledge your right to tell me to shut up when I ask things you don’t want to tell. I’m talking about a purely cultural pressure that merely discourages people to believe things that are probably not true

I don’t see how this is any different from persecution. It doesn’t matter how you stomp out someones culture. If you do it because you don’t agree with their beliefs then it is persecution.

Persecution: “a program or campaign to exterminate, drive away, or subjugate a people because of their religion, race, or beliefs

You would essentially be driving away people or their beliefs because they cannot defend them or because you dont’ believe in them.

Perhaps a clear example would further this conversation along if you have one.

crisw's avatar

@RedPowerLady

“What would I say is a “good reason” to believe something?
Well I would say there are thousands of “good reasons” and I couldn’t attempt to list them all. But many of them are not based on empirical data I will tell you that.”

Could you list at least a few of those “thousands of reasons” to believe something for which you have no empirical evidence?

“You would essentially be driving away people or their beliefs because they cannot defend them or because you dont’ believe in them.”

Can you give an example of a belief that is legitimate to hold despite the fact that you cannot defend it? What, exactly, is the logic behind that?

Fyrius's avatar

@RedPowerLady: The difference is that this is not against people, just against beliefs. Demonstrably false beliefs are detrimental to the people who hold them and expunging them does the holder a favour.
And demonstrably false beliefs have every reason to be persecuted.

And sure, I have plenty of clear examples. I’ll pick one.
Let’s talk about astrology.

A horoscope is a prediction of the near future of presumably one twelfth of the world’s population, that is allegedly tied to the way the stars looked from our arbitrary vantage point on the day they were born, but that is actually completely made up. This is demonstrated by the fact that different horoscopes of the same sign for the same day can give completely different predictions.
Besides the fact that it makes no sense to think that the apparent relative position of huge furnaces of nuclear fusion unimaginable distances away has any influences on whether or not you’ll get a promotion today, it has been shown time and time again that any horoscope statistically applies to any sign equally well.

Now, this is the kind of thing that I would like its believers to be confronted about in debate.

fireside's avatar

Here’s one example of how your theory would fail to produce a positive result:

I know someone who spent 5 years in a wheelchair with complications from MS and he was basically about to die. The doctors had done everything they could think of to correct the problems and hadn’t been able to help him. He had been in enormous pain and it was only when he finally gave up and, according to him, ” submitted his will to God” that the pain went away. He still couldn’t walk, but at least the pain had subsided.

Right before he went into hospice care they asked him if he would be willing to let them apply stem cells to his lower spine in an attempt to study their effects. He was basically content with his readiness to die anyway so he agreed even though little was expected to happen and the evidence was non-existent to make assumptions.

Well, not only did the stem cells help, they actually rebuilt his Mylar sheathing all the way up his spine and parts of his brain that were dead from scarring are now showing signs of activity. The doctors were baffled because the results went beyond anything they had ever expected. Within six months of the surgery, he was out of the wheelchair and walking, he got his driver’s license and is now planning a cross country trip to share his new found faith in God and science.

Are you going to say that you would have helped him by challenging his belief that God took away his pain? Are you going to say that the doctor’s beliefs that this wouldn’t do much good were wrong? What benefit would come from that?

If something helps a person to find the strength to carry on, why would you want to take that away? Whether it be astrology, religion, philosophy or psychology?

crisw's avatar

@fireside

Do you have any independent links to this story? It doesn’t quite fit in with what I know about the use of stem cells for myelin repair in multiple sclerosis, which, as far as I know, has only succeeded in Britain and only in patients who did not have extremely impaired mobility. I am sure that a success such as you report would have been documented in medical journals as it would be groundbreaking.

Edited- I did find a similar study in the U.S. but it still involved relatively modest improvement in patients with only moderate impairments. Note that this article states that this is the first time improvement from such therapy was noted.

fireside's avatar

Are you suggesting that I am lying?

crisw's avatar

@fireside

No, I am only suggesting that (as fits with the topic of this conversation) more evidence is needed to show that what you believe to be true actually is. As I said, what you report would be a huge medical breakthrough, and it surely was reported in medical journals.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@crisw

I will @Fyrius too because I think you will be interested in these answers.

Could you list at least a few of those “thousands of reasons” to believe something for which you have no empirical evidence?

How about because it makes you happy and harms no one?

Seriously though. I have a lot of cultural beliefs that do not harm anyone and are very important to me. I believe in them because they have been done for thousands of years by my people and hold cultural, spiritual, and community value for my people. Some of these practices have been found to be empirically valid. Some haven’t. I’m okay with that. As a matter of fact science has been used against us many times and therefore I do not value it as strongly as some people do. When I say against I don’t mean we were legitimately proven wrong. But rather science was manipulated to hurt us.

Can you give an example of a belief that is legitimate to hold despite the fact that you cannot defend it? What, exactly, is the logic behind that?

Well I will provide you with a cultural belief but try and be a bit sensitive will you.
I believe that smudging (the act of burning sage or other similar herb) provides a release of negative energy and protection. My people (and many other cultures for that matter) have smudged for longer than I could even mention. It is age old. And it is multicultural. I think the fact that it is age old and it is multicultural is enough logic to form a belief about this thing. Also I have personal experience with it working (of course you could refute that but it is part of my personal logic). Also something like sage has been shown to help with certain beneficial health properties.

fireside's avatar

@crisw – Sorry, I didn’t say “hey congratulations on being able to walk, can you prove it?”
Next time I see him I’ll tell him that his doctors need to prove it to you.

But I did find this by doing a google search, don’t know if that answers your need for evidence but that’s as far as I am interested in going to prove what I have seen.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

@Fyrius Your definition of a “good reason to believe” might be different than mine or many others. Nothing is “wrong” with your statement if that is how you feel, but do not assume that your logic serves as a blanket statement for everyone.

crisw's avatar

@fireside
That is the same study I referred to above.

fireside's avatar

@crisw – sorry, i’m not a doctor. Don’t believe it if you don’t want to. Your disbelief won’t change the truth. You also didn’t have a link there when I was looking and I didn’t go back up to see if you had edited your post.

crisw's avatar

@RedPowerLady

Note that I stated that my concern is beliefs that affect others. I don’t have a real problem with beliefs that affect only you.

As far as something like smudging, I do believe that rituals are an important part of the human psyche. Where I would have a problem, as a hypothetical example, would be if parents believed that a ritual would cure their sick child and thus neglected to get their child medical care.

crisw's avatar

@fireside

I am not denying that it is true. I am only stating that the burden of proof is on you, as you brought up the point. I hope you understand why simply saying “It happened!” isn’t much proof. In this specific case, what you are describing is something that is so unusual that it should have independent verifiability.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Fyrius Demonstrably false beliefs are detrimental to the people who hold them and expunging them does the holder a favour.

I really don’t think it is your place to say so to be honest. I think adults are capable of making their own choices. And they can decide for themselves what is detrimental or not. Just because a group of people decide something is detrimental at one point doesn’t mean they aren’t biased in that decision and will be proven wrong later. So you eradicate a belief system (which in some cases can eradicate a people) only to later find out it wasn’t wrong. This has happened in history several times.

About astrology. How many times has a horoscope hurt someone? Yes some people spend money on it. Shame on them. But that is little hurt other than to their pocket.

fireside's avatar

@crisw – His doctors have verified it. Maybe they haven’t gotten to the journals yet seeing as it just happened in the last six months. I could care less if you believe me or not.

crisw's avatar

@RedPowerLady
“How many times has a horoscope hurt someone?”

Well, we had someone here a few weeks ago wondering if they should stop dating someone because their horoscopes were “not compatible.” And then we had Ronald Reagan who may have based some of his decisions on running the country on astrology!

fireside's avatar

Sorry, do you have evidence for the decisions that he made based on astrology?
Or evidence that their questioning of their relationship actually hurt them?

oratio's avatar

Thought I found a good link about a similar case but it wasn’t

Fyrius's avatar

@fireside: A touching anecdote. And this sort of thing is indeed what gives me pause in my conviction that false beliefs are inherently bad; sometimes they actually help people.
It is in this sort of situation that I can tolerate people being unsceptical. It’s a good excuse to believe. Not a reason, but still a good excuse.
But of course, this does not extend to people who are not in any kind of terrible situation where belief is the only thing that keeps them going.

@RedPowerLady: How about because it makes you happy and harms no one?
Surely you don’t think that’s a reason to believe the ideas that make you feel good are actually true. It’s not rational at all.
I know what you’re really trying to say; being irrational sometimes doesn’t have any negative influence on the real world. Still, I think superstition is a serious flaw in its own right. Compare it to being fat; even though nobody is really harmed by one’s high body fat percentage, it would be in one’s own best interest to eat healthy and work out occasionally, just to cultivate a strong and healthy body. Likewise, being rational is in one’s own best interest to cultivate a strong and healthy mind.
As a side note, although science may have been used against you, I can tell just from the fact that you’re posting here that you too are reaping the enormous benefits the scientific method has blessed us with. If the scientists of the last few centuries would have settled for beliefs that made them happy, we wouldn’t have made it out of the Dark Ages.
What culture are you part of, by the way? I’m curious.

I really don’t think it is your place to say so to be honest. I think adults are capable of making their own choices. And they can decide for themselves what is detrimental or not.
You should realize that plenty of adults are actually spectacularly bad at making their own choices, often exactly because they’ve never learned critical thinking and subscribe to rationally unjustified beliefs.
There are more sinister examples than people spending money on astrology. Think of people who fall for cults like Scientology, and have their wallet depleted by their expensive and useless auditions and their family torn apart by its disconnection policy. (And those are the less sinister Scientology anecdotes.)
Think of people like Sylvia Millecam, a Dutch celebrity who died of cancer after the “psychic medium” Jomanda told her she didn’t have cancer and shouldn’t bother getting a treatment.
Think of people who spend a fortune on gambling in the mistaken belief that the more often you lose, the more likely you are to win something next time.
The list goes on.

crisw's avatar

@fireside
Here’s a good quote that sums up my feelings on the harm astrology does:

“So what’s the harm? Sure, astrology doesn’t work, but it’s all in fun, right?

Wrong.

For one thing, it’s estimated that hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on astrology every year in the United States alone. That’s real money, folks, wasted on something that doesn’t work.

For another, astrology promotes the worst thing in the world: uncritical thinking. The more we teach people to simply accept anecdotal stories, hearsay, cherry-picked data (picking out what supports your claims but ignoring what doesn’t), and, frankly, out-and-out lies, the harder it gets for people to think clearly. If you cannot think clearly, you cannot function as a human being. I cannot stress this enough. Uncritical thinking is tearing this world to pieces, and while astrology may not be at the heart of that, it has its role.

For a third, and this one irritates me personally, astrology takes away from the real grandeur of the Universe. We live in an amazing place, this Universe of ours, and it’s quite fantastic enough without needing people to make up things about it. Astrology dims the beauty of nature, cheapens it.

Hey, you might say, sure it’s in the newspapers, but they put it next to comics, right? How seriously do newspapers take it then? My answer is, if newspapers don’t take horoscopes seriously, then they shouldn’t publish them in the first place. People know that comics aren’t real, but not everyone understands astrology has as much legitimacy as “Blondie and Dagwood”. Saying their location indicates their rationality is a cop out. Most newspapers in this country don’t even have a science section, and science is critical to our daily lives (you’re reading this on a computer, right? Do you wear glasses, or clothes, do you brush your teeth, take medicine, invest in tech stocks, drive a car? Thank science for all of those things then). They don’t have a science section, but they’ll publish horoscopes.

Also, back in the 1980s, Nancy Reagan, President Reagan’s wife, consulted an astrologer to make sure that meetings and such were planned on auspicious dates astrologically. Her husband—the President of the United States—went along with it. Still don’t think this is harmful? Arguably the most powerful man in the world, and he based his calendar on the random and unsubstantiated claims of an anti-scientific nonsense peddler.

I hope I’ve made my stance clear. ”

fireside's avatar

Oh, ok, so anecdotal evidence is enough for you to form your beliefs?
Hearsay from People magazine and a blog are your evidence of harmful behavior?

RedPowerLady's avatar

@fireside Great answer

If something helps a person to find the strength to carry on, why would you want to take that away? Whether it be astrology, religion, philosophy or psychology?

crisw's avatar

@fireside
Here’s some more specific information on astrology and the Reagans. There’s plenty more if you want more.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@Fyrius Adults have to make choices. It is up to each individual to decide what is personally right or wrong for them. Sure, what they believe and the things they choose to do can be questioned by others. If they choose to try and justify their actions and are open to debate, by all means, debate with them. However, regarding people who choose to believe something for no good reason at all (as stupid as I personally think it is) they should still be allowed to do so, as long as it harms no one but themselves.

You’re getting into the territory of policing freedom of speech and expression. That is not something I’m willing to have taken away from me, simply because people might make some decisions that I believe, personally, to be silly. If someone wants to harm themselves, in whatever way that might be, they have the right to do so – as long as it doesn’t directly interfere with another individual.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@crisw

A lot of rituals affect more than one person but those rituals typically are engaged in by a community who chooses to engage in them. So my argument that is if they choose to engage in it, even though it affects more than one person, then so be it.

Where I would have a problem, as a hypothetical example, would be if parents believed that a ritual would cure their sick child and thus neglected to get their child medical care.

I would say this is where education comes in. Also equal access to medical care. I know this won’t work for all belief systems but for some people it is really helpful.

Fyrius's avatar

@DrasticDreamer: You’re getting into the territory of policing freedom of speech and expression.
This is the opposite of my intention. Actually I am in favour of a more extreme kind of freedom of speech than is attested today – that is, not inhibited even by the fear of hurting people’s feelings – coupled with a natural-selection-like system to filter the baloney from the sense. Do let people make up their own minds, but inform them properly first.
That’s some more detail on my perception of an ideal world. I don’t think I worded that properly the first time.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Fyrius

It’s not rational at all.

Yes but many people believe in things that aren’t rational. Like ghosts. It’s Okay.

Of course science has benefited me. AND it is equally true that my people were fine and dandy before science. I could take either life. We aren’t arguing that. My point is that I don’t have to use science to back-up my beliefs. Science isn’t always beneficial.

it would be in one’s own best interest to eat healthy and work out occasionally, just to cultivate a strong and healthy body. Likewise, being rational is in one’s own best interest to cultivate a strong and healthy mind.

Again that means you are determing what is in someones best interest. Ever heard of self-determination?? One way people colonize another nation is take away their self determination.

So even if some adults are bad at making their own decisions we should advocate for education not eradicating their beliefs or pressuring them out of their beliefs. And equal education, not simply educating your belief system. Freewill is about being able to make your own poor choices. So people do die from poor choice but people also die when they make all the right choices.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@Fyrius But what is proper for you may not be proper for other people. Your way of thinking, of “properly informing” them, has the potential to wipe out entire cultures.

I don’t know about you, but I have the desire to travel the entire world, specifically to see, learn and enjoy the many differences in people. Variety is the spice of life. Without it, life becomes extremely boring and hardly at all worth living. The differences are what make life interesting.

oratio's avatar

I think respect of someones belief is key to have a sensible discussion. Sometimes people take decisions based on belief though, that is damaging. Recently, a swedish woman was scammed of everything she owned to a psychic that helped her talk to her dead daughter. The death of Lisa McPherson in Scientology could have been avoided. People who refuse medicare or vaccines based on belief. If they take decisions that hurt themselves it is their choice, but if it is taken on other peoples behalf I think it’s it’s much worse.

This is a current aspect of how belief can do some damage.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Fyrius Native American

RedPowerLady's avatar

@DrasticDreamer But what is proper for you may not be proper for other people. Your way of thinking, of “properly informing” them, has the potential to wipe out entire cultures.

I am arguing the same thing :) Just wanted to say great answer.

ninjacolin's avatar

no one chooses their beliefs so your question doesn’t really matter. :)

for example, GREEN. see? now, you can’t choose to believe that I said PINK instead of GREEN before the “see?” question. In fact, you can’t even choose to believe that I typed the word “green” more than twice. Just now. Evidence determines your beliefs. Not you.

Fyrius's avatar

@RedPowerLady: Yes but many people believe in things that aren’t rational. Like ghosts. It’s Okay.
It’s okay? I’ve spent this entire thread arguing why this is not okay at all. And you’re casually contradicting the very point I’m trying to make as if it’s a trivial side note.

Science isn’t always beneficial.
I think it actually is always beneficial to know more about the world, and that’s the only thing science is about.
Of course there’s industrialisation taking its toll, not to mention nuclear warheads and whatnot. But technology is parasitic on science, not a part of it. I think the ways non-scientists abuse what science teaches are not something science can be blamed for.

So even if some adults are bad at making their own decisions we should advocate for education not eradicating their beliefs or pressuring them out of their beliefs.
Exactly. I’m glad we agree.
This is what I do advocate, education. Losing a debate will not force anyone out of their beliefs, but it will show them just how weak these beliefs are and what arguments there exist against it.

And equal education, not simply educating your belief system.
Provided the other belief systems are equally valid, sure. However, given that my belief system would be that of the meticulous investigation of science, I don’t think there really are any serious competitors that stand a chance, except those that are part of science too. (I’m reminded of the whole Creationism thing, actually. That’s another spectacular example of demonstrably false and very harmful baloney.)

@DrasticDreamer: I think you’re putting it a bit overly dramatical.
First of all, cultural beliefs cannot be wiped out by convincing people to stop believing them. We still all know about how less meteorologically informed cultures believes lightning was forged by a god with a hammer on an anvil. That bit of culture hasn’t faded into oblivion despite having lost presumably all of its believers. Even if it only lives on in the books.
Secondly, there’s absolutely no chance that language, cuisine, music, art or any other aspect of culture besides beliefs is going to be threatened by the force of rational arguments. Wiping out entire cultures this way is not going to happen.

@oratio: Respect is earned, not given. I think you meant tolerance of someone’s belief.
But yeah, bigotry is bad, on whichever side it is. I also mentioned open-mindedness in the opening post; it’s important to this kind of system to actually listen to the arguments people have to tell you. This requires willingness to objectively consider beliefs you believe to be false.

Fyrius's avatar

@ninjacolin: If only it were that simple.
In the most interesting situations, the truth isn’t nearly as obvious as in your example, and evidence isn’t nearly as easy to find. It then becomes a matter of arguments, and people’s willingness to listen to them.
This would be an awesome world if arguments entirely determined everyone’s beliefs. But there are forces at work in the human mind that keep people from being that rational. Bigotry. Wishful thinking. Selective perception, subconscious cherry picking. Ignorance of the arguments in the first place, or misunderstanding or ascribing exaggerated or belittled significance to them.

ninjacolin's avatar

nope. it IS that simple in principal.
it’s just that beliefs can be compounded and can grow complex.
but they are never chosen.

think about your own beliefs and you’ll see that you don’t choose them.
they happen to you just like the answers to mathematical questions happen to you.

oratio's avatar

@Fyrius I don’t believe that. I believe you start with respect, and you can earn more of it or lose it. But I don’t believe in that people don’t deserve respect from the start.

I think you mean tolerance of what they believe. I mean respect of the individual having his/her belief, whatever I feel about what they believe.

crisw's avatar

@RedPowerLady

I think one crucial difference here may be between the concept of science (what people do in laboratories:>) ) vs. scientific thought ( a way of thinking that might not directly be associated with anything you’d call “science.”)

As far as group rituals, the same restrictions apply as to individuals. If it’s a ritual where all the members of the group are free participants, no one is coerced, and no one is harmed, I’m not going to object. I won’t actually believe the ritual does anything other than satisfy the human need for ritual, but I won’t get any more bent out of shape by it than I would by a birthday party or a wedding, which serve the same function of cohesiveness and belonging.

Fyrius's avatar

@oratio: I guess I’m using the word “respect” in the (I believe original) sense akin to status and reverence, rather than a base level of non-contempt.
You know what? Let’s not squabble over terminology. It gets so tiresome.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Fyrius While it can be tiresome to constantly have to define terms, it is still necessary, due to the uncertain meanings. When I say it’s hot in the house, and Sonny walks in and says it cold in here, who’s right? To me hot means over 75 degrees, and to him cold means anything less than 80. With interesting discussions like this one is turning out to be, there will be a lot of fuzzy meanings that need qualifying.

wundayatta's avatar

There seems to be the assumption floating around that rationality is the most rational approach to take, and that, conversely, irrationality is irrational. Let’s say rationality is a scientific approach to life, and irrationality is an intuitive approach to life.

Clearly, rationality has provided many benefits to mankind. Yet, many people still hew to irrationality. Why? One theory is that they are stupid, or uneducated. Perhaps that explains some irrationality, but certainly not all of it. Many highly educated, intelligent people believe things that rationalists consider to be irrational.

So, we need to refine our theory that explains the persistence of “irrationality.” I can think of any number of theories, although I do have one I like a lot, which I have written about elsewhere. In short, though, I think irrationality exists because it is helpful to human survival. It helps people make intuitive leaps when there is no time to analyze things scientifically. I think it’s most important benefit is that it protects us from the pain of not-knowing.

We are driven to understand our world scientifically, because it helps us survive. That drive, I believe, is very powerful, which means, that if we can’t find knowledge, or a good model to explain some feature of behavior in our universe, it can be very painful, and perhaps debilitating. I believe that irrationality is a salve for this pain. It helps us fake ourselves into believing we understand something sufficiently well, so that it is not a threat, and we can relax a bit.

When we speak of “good” reason, we are speaking normatively. Normativity is relative, of course. Relative “shoulds” have foundations built on shifting sands. Personally, I don’t think it’s scientific to sort reasons into piles labeled “good” and “bad.” I think the scientific method is to look at what we sense, describe it, categorize it, and seek to relate it to other behavior, and possibly try to identify a causal relationship. I think these are extremely difficult things to accomplish. Of course, social scientists already know this. In fact, physicists probably know this, too. The word, though, has yet to be propagated amongst the general public, or even the educated public.

From what I understand, quantum physical theories suggest that causality is more difficult to establish than we like to believe. Just as an example, there are some who wonder if we are here because the universe exists, or if the universe exists because we are here to perceive it. If nothing is true until we perceive it; if it is stuck in quantum probability until an observor observes, then, it seems to me that that brings new meaning to the idea that “perception is reality.”

So, I think we all should stick to observing behavior, and seeking to explain it; not prejudging it. There may be reasons for things, but we can’t say those reasons are “good” unless we own up to a perspective on reality. The problem is, there are a gazillion perspectives to consider, and humans simply can’t do that. I’d rather just observe, and try to explain, when I have my scientist hat on. Even then, I am aware, that when I have my human hat on, I do things that I can’t easily explain—things that could be characterized as irrational. I’d prefer to try to explain irrationality, than to say it is “bad.”

BBSDTfamily's avatar

@ninjacolin Wrong. I thought about my beliefs, and some of them I do choose.

Shuttle128's avatar

@daloon I think you’ve hit a very important point. Our brains tend to do this very thing whether we like it or not. The repetitive observation of patterns are ingrained in our brains and consequences tend to be correlated to them, regardless of if there is a logical reason. This is not to say that it is bad or good, it simply happens as a product of our hardware. However, correlations based on reason and logic will be much better predictors of future behavior and are closer to the truth.

I don’t agree that perceiving reality causes it to exist. The underlying mathematical model of the phenomena exists whether we perceive it or not. If reality was purely subjective, science could not exist.

@BBSDTfamily Your brain is a product of your experience with outside influence, and your brain comes to a conclusion about what you believe. Even if you say you’ve chosen, really what you’ve done is consider the implications of your choices and your brain takes the path that it has been caused to take by it’s configuration and the choice it was presented with. It’s all physics.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

@Shuttle128 Are you saying that we do not have free will?

Shuttle128's avatar

Precisely.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Fyrius _I think it actually is always beneficial to know more about the world, and that’s the only thing science is about. _

So you chose to ignore all the times it has been used for persecution?
What about phrenology? LOL

This is what I do advocate, education. Losing a debate will not force anyone out of their beliefs, but it will show them just how weak these beliefs are and what arguments there exist against it.

I am not against debates at all. I am against forcing others to see your point of view. I think there has to be a line between education and conversion. Because often when people in power try to educate or debate with people from less power there is not equality. This forces people out of their belief systems. So what I am saying is that you should not force someone to debate their belief systems. They should not have to back it up. But providing education-by-choice is a great idea.

However, given that my belief system would be that of the meticulous investigation of science, I don’t think there really are any serious competitors that stand a chance, except those that are part of science too.

And here lies our problem. As many very valid beliefs aren’t based in science. And that is okay. I believe and many other believe that is okay. What you are saying is that only beliefs based in science stand a chance. I disagree.

First of all, cultural beliefs cannot be wiped out by convincing people to stop believing them. & Secondly, there’s absolutely no chance that language, cuisine, music, art or any other aspect of culture besides beliefs is going to be threatened by the force of rational arguments.

This is simply not true. It has happened before and can happen again. What about forced assimilation? Basically that is what you are arguing for.

Shuttle128's avatar

@RedPowerLady Phrenology was pseudoscience based on no objective evidence, which is exactly what this question is about preventing.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@crisw As far as group rituals, the same restrictions apply as to individuals. If it’s a ritual where all the members of the group are free participants, no one is coerced, and no one is harmed, I’m not going to object.

I can pretty much agree with that. But what about this example?

A group of Native people want to practice a hundred/thousand etc.. year old ceremony. BUT the ceremonial grounds is not owned by the Natives anymore. It comes at a inconvenience to the government or state who now owns the land. NOW it is posing a problem for other people. So how do you solve this dilemma? Is it only okay if you can prove it is beneficial scientifically?? (of course I think in many cases we can and do but just for arguments sake)

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Shuttle128 At the time it was still used against certain groups of people. But you are right that was a poor example. I was humoring myself.

RedPowerLady's avatar

Better examples of science being used for persecution:
Persecution of women by labeling them as medically hysterical.
Persecution of Christians because of their belief in Creation.

augustlan's avatar

@RedPowerLady I don’t think Christians who believe in Creationism are persecuted because of their beliefs (though they may be ridiculed by some)... they are defended against when they try to teach those beliefs as equal to or instead of evolution in public schools.

crisw's avatar

@RedPowerLady
“Better examples of science being used for persecution:”
As I mentioned earlier, there’s a difference between what is called “science” and scientific thought. Those practices were not truly the products of logical scientific thought and are thus not justifiable.

Shuttle128's avatar

@RedPowerLady The application of scientific thinking and the application of scientific theories are very different. The application of scientific theories (or warped versions of them) to people can involve value judgments that science itself cannot make.

Ha, ninja’d.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@augustlan And i think many Christians would disagree. Although I am not Christian myself. But you are also demonstrating my point. That Creationism is now inherently thought of as less than evolution.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@crisw I’d have to say your statement is false. Because at the time it was scientific thought. Now we can look back and say it was not. Of course. You cannot, now, discredit every bit of scientific persecution because we know now it was wrong. At the time many of these things were thought of as science and as using proper scientific thought. AND my point is that what you come to using science or scientific thought today may be later regarded in the same manner. You cannot assume that all scientific thought is good. We all have biases. Sometimes these biases lead to persecution. Persecution in the name of science is still persecution.

crisw's avatar

@RedPowerLady
“But what about this example?”
You would have to take into account who was being harmed, how they were being harmed, who was suffering the most harm, how those harms could be ameliorated. There wouldn’t be a cut and dried answer.

crisw's avatar

@RedPowerLady
“Creationism is now inherently thought of as less than evolution.”

Well, that is because, at least in the realm of possible explanations for the way that living things came to be what they are, it is a lesser explanation, because so many of its tenets are absolutely falsifiable. If we are choosing what to teach our children about in school, for example, teaching them the creationist viewpoint would do them a disservice.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@crisw That is your viewpoint. Millions of people would disagree. We need not get into a religious debate of course. My point is that persecution of Creationism does exist.

crisw's avatar

@RedPowerLady
“You cannot assume that all scientific thought is good. ”

Maybe we need some clarification.

When I speak of “scientific thought,” I am speaking of creating arguments that follow the rules of logic (there must be no logical fallacies) and evidence (there must be measurable, repeatable evidence for the proposition.) An argument either does this or does not. Such a judgment, in and of itself, is value-neutral.

augustlan's avatar

Now, I have no problem with teaching about creationism within the realm of a social studies or comparative religions class… but not as if it is a valid scientific theory of how the Earth came to be.

RedPowerLady's avatar

Or how about this as an example of science leading to persecution: “The Cartesian bifurcation of nature was the more fatal because it encouraged succeeding generations of scientists to treat an obviously living universe as if it were an inert object. Eventually this idea meant useless experimentation on other forms of life as if they had no sentient capabilities at all. When the Western slaveowners and military encountered darker-skinned people, this doctrine enabled atrocities of unimagined proportions to be administered without accumulating much guilt along the way.” This is just one quote. There has been tons of research on this topic alone. If you are part of the academia of ethnic studies you would know there is much science to this point.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@augustlan Okay I never argued that Creationism was scientific. I’m cool with that.
I might argue that at some point but really I don’t know enough science myself, at this point, to get into that…

crisw's avatar

@RedPowerLady
“That is your viewpoint. Millions of people would disagree. ”

But they would be disagreeing based on emotion, not on the basis of scientific thought- we are again back to the whole topic of this thread :>)

Let’s put it this way- there is as much factual evidence for creationism as there is for me saying that I formed the earth in my backyard from a ball of clay and some Legos. If I stated that I made the earth from a ball of clay, and believe it sincerely, is my belief as valid as the well-researched, well-supported, logical arguments for biological evolution?

RedPowerLady's avatar

@crisw So just to clarify. Do you believe that science was never used for purposes of persecution? Because I think any academic could clearly state that it has been. Or are you just arguing with my specific examples. I don’t claim to be able to provide perfect examples. I am just trying to get a simple point across. Science is not always the best choice.

RedPowerLady's avatar

But they would be disagreeing based on emotion, not on the basis of scientific thought- we are again back to the whole topic of this thread :>)

Ahh… Yes! :)

And I would argue that beliefs based on emotion are just as valid (in some circumstances) as beliefs based on science.

crisw's avatar

@RedPowerLady

But Cartesianism isn’t scientifically or logically valid. It violates Occam’s razor, as a start. So, if we are looking at things from a perspective of scientific thought, it isn’t justifiable.

How, under a belief system not based on scientific/logical thought, would you invalidate Cartesianism? How would you show it to be an untenable belief system? Or would i be just as valid as any other?

crisw's avatar

@RedPowerLady
“Do you believe that science was never used for purposes of persecution? ”

Yet again, we are running up against the fact that there is a huge difference between just calling something “science” and real scientific/logical thought.

Some truly atrocious things have been called “science.” In every case, if we examine these cases for errors in logical thinking or paucity of actual scientific evidence, we find them- and thus, the practices were invalid to begin with.

Shuttle128's avatar

@crisw I wish you would stop saying every damn thing I wanna say! ;-)

crisw's avatar

@RedPowerLady

And again, I am interested in how you, in your daily life, determine whether a belief is valid or not, if you use something other than scientific/logical thinking. Or, do you truly believe that all beliefs are equally valid? It doesn’t seem so from what you have said.

crisw's avatar

@Shuttle128

ok, I’ll shut up for a little while :>)

RedPowerLady's avatar

@crisw Yes. That is my point exactly. If we examine them at a later time we can find they weren’t using scientific thought. But at the time it is used as science. And we don’t know until later that it wasn’t being used the right way….. So therefore science is used to hurt people in some circumstances…. So therefore science isn’t always the best choice because we cannot always assume that scientific thought was being used.
(not that I agree that scientific thought is the only or the best way but just to go with your line of thinking)

Shuttle128's avatar

Naw, it’s cool….you put it much more concisely than I usually could. I’d spend a page saying the same things…..

RedPowerLady's avatar

@crisw I don’t know how I determine if a belief is valid or not. I just do.
I know I don’t hold science or scientific thought in such a high regard as you do. So I am sure I do not use that as my basis for my belief systems in every circumstance. Perhaps in some. What are you looking for exactly in this response?? It seems like you are prompting me to say something so you can refute it. So I gave the truth. I don’t know how I choose. It would depend on the belief. I gave an example of a non-scientific belief above and why I think it is real (ex: smudging).

Shuttle128's avatar

@RedPowerLady The scientific method was not fully established and understood in those times.

Karl Popper’s insight into the nature of disproof of theories and the requirement that you analyze the logic behind the theory is highly different from the methods of induction that were rampant in times past. Induction often leads to false conclusions, while deduction will disprove false theories.

It is a very good idea to study how you and others come to conclusions. Philosophy is a great thing, especially when it comes to the nature of knowledge and how we acquire it.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Shuttle128 So are you saying that science was used for bad purposes in the past but that is just never done today?

Do you both not feel that you are blindly following science??
Science is full of bias as much as anything else is. Even with the scientific method. I have a B.S. in psychology. You know how many classes I had to take on understanding the scientific method? You know how many times I was told that even using the scientific method you can make results come out in your favor. And that science almost always follows the popular mode of thought at the time and paths veering off it are rarely published. So, for example, we ignore archeology found in North American that dates previous to the “land bridge” because popular scientific belief is that the “land bridge” was used for people to “come to” America. Although there is a book full of evidence to the contrary.

RedPowerLady's avatar

I understand that you are stating there is a difference between science and scientific thought. But first I want to establish the fact that science is not always beneficial. Then take into account scientific thought because I prefer to move one point at a time. My point right now is that we cannot say that only beliefs based in science are “good” or that beliefs based in science are “better” because science has inherent biases and is used on occasion to persecute people and cultures. We simply must take these things into consideration.

Now about scientific thought. The logical and scientific mind is not always better than the irrational mind. If you look at mental health for example. If we believed only in the rational and scientific many of us would go insane. We would have no time to take a break fro the rationality of life. Lets take a patient sick with a fatal illness for example. Emerging science dictates that the more positive you are about your prognosis the better your outcome (in many circumstances). But if you are a logical person and a scientific person you will likely focus on the fact that you aren’t going to make it. The “irrational” person will focus on their Faith in God or whatever it is. That there is a chance for a miracle. Thus improving their prognosis. Or maybe there is No possibility of a better prognosis. Then we are simply talking about quality of life. The rational person will likely be depressed while the irrational patient, believing in a miracle, will have better peace of mind and thus a higher quality of life.

crisw's avatar

@RedPowerLady
“Do you both not feel that you are blindly following science??”

No, not at all.

If there is one point I have tried to make, over and over again, in this conversation, it’s that valid beliefs, to me, must be logical and must have evidence. Blind faith is believing in things that are neither.

Shuttle128's avatar

@RedPowerLady
No, I’m saying that science is reasoned with deduction and logic, and what was labeled as science that was not based in deduction and logic can be applied for bad purposes. If the individual that applies a scientific theory has applied the theory in such a was as to be for “bad purposes” then it is not the fault of the theory, but the application. Theory based on objective facts are not prone to “evil.” The application of scientific theories is entirely different from the development of said theory.

I don’t blindly follow anything. I determine through reason and logic what the most likely explanation of a phenomenon is by applying deduction (removing theories that are false) and by Ockham’s Razor (removing theories that make too many assumptions). I decide if the theory is sound by examining the logic behind it (determining if the theory makes logical sense). Only then do I use a theory…..but still I understand that the acceptance is tentative because theories cannot be proved and evidence may come to light that requires alteration of the theory.

Positive thinking is statistically proven to be helpful in these situations. There is no doubt about this. However, it does not require belief in something that is irrational. I am quite at peace with how the world works even though I seek to understand things in only rational terms.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@crisw And my point is that science is not always logical but often biased.
But I do see your point. One can recognize that bias and still believe in science. I hope you do recognize that bias and realize that it exists.

crisw's avatar

@RedPowerLady

Actually- and surprisingly- recent research shows that for cancer patients, having a positive attitude really doesn’t affect survival time.

This is an example where unscientific thinking can actually do harm. If you are convinced that having a positive attitude prolongs survival time, your response to someone who (quite rightfully) responds to his diagnosis with rage and anger may be to try and convince that person to “be happy!” even though that is the last thing that he wants to do.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Shuttle128 I definitely understand your logic. Scientific theory and the application of that theory are different objects. But some scientific theory is inherently biased. Of course you both discredit those sciences now but we do not know what, in the future, will be discredited. We have to understand that as a possibility. Science isn’t simply true because if follows logic and has evidence at this time. We don’t know what will come up in the future to disprove these “truths”. Didn’t science dictate at one point that the world was flat and the sun revolved around the Earth?

Positive thinking may not require belief in something irrational. But for many it does. And it isn’t harmful. It is helpful to them. So you would say to them: you should only think positive in my rational way, you should not think positive in your irrational way? In this circumstance logical thought is not better than illogical thought. We could say they are equally successful (or in some cases logical thought could be detrimental).

RedPowerLady's avatar

@crisw And once again you are proving my point. If science says it does work and science says it doesn’t work then what do you believe?? What is most logical to you?

Anyhow I don’t think anyone would suggest a cancer patient be happy because of an article they read. That is a bit of a dramatization and underestimation of the individual.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@crisw Oh and also who cares if it improves the diagnosis. Lets look at my second point in that. It improves quality of life in that example.

RedPowerLady's avatar

hey guys i’m going to bed, happy to continue conversation tomorrow, got to work early, have a good one

RedPowerLady's avatar

I would also ask you both to consider this point.

Why is it that the scientific minded feel so deeply that others need to be scientific minded as well? If the rest of us are content living our lives happily and unscientificly? We don’t need you to tell us what is right or wrong. We are happy living in our illogical world with our illogical beliefs. They help us get along. They are fun. They are ceremonial. And we rarely tell you to convert to our system. You have science to back you up. We have life, and a happy one at that, to back us up. It just urks my bones. It is like people who try and convert you to their religion. That is how it feels when people try and convert me to the purely scientific and logical. I’m okay not knowing how everything works. I’m okay believing in odd and illogical things. It makes my life that much richer. I would appreciate it if the science minded could respect our belief system for what it is and not for what you believe it is lacking.

now goodnight, i look forward to reading your arguments and responses in the morning :)

YARNLADY's avatar

When it comes to holding a belief because it works for some people, and then using that as evidence that it is true, is dangerous, because what works for one person, or one group of people, doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. For instance, my sister swears that taking excess vitamin C cures her cold. That works only if you don’t have enough vitamin C and that is why you got the cold (simplified, I know).

Shuttle128's avatar

@RedPowerLady
Yeah, I should sleep as well.

I have no problem with things that are all in fun. It is human nature to adhere to rituals. We correlate things that aren’t physically linked all the time. However, beliefs that can effect others should be firmly grounded in reason for the exact reason you’ve been arguing about science. Unjustified beliefs can be used to persecute others. In fact, I’d venture a guess that every instance of persecuting others can be linked to an unjustified belief.

One more point I want to put in. When I was speaking of positive attitudes I wasn’t talking about terminally ill patients. Mood does effect speed of recovery after orthopedic surgery. I’ve read a few articles on similar grounds. When it comes to terminally ill patients, they cannot effect the outcome in the same ways as surgical recovery.

Critter38's avatar

“Didn’t science dictate at one point that the world was flat and the sun revolved around the Earth?”

First, “science” is a process and “it” doesn’t argue for things. People argue for things, and people are fallible.

Scientists have refined and honed the scientific method over centuries and with each century we build upon, challenge, refine, our current understanding of the world around us and each other using the scientific method while in turn improving the scientific method.

People once believed that the Earth was flat and that the sun revolved around the Earth. It is the scientific process that enabled us to move from this false belief to our current understanding. To look back in time and say “hey, didn’t people use to believe this silly thing and at the time many of those people were scientists and some of those scientists made scientific arguments for it.” is actually to point out that societies have advanced massively in our understanding of the nature of the universe and our understanding of each other….for better or worse those advances in our understanding were made through science, not by believing in things because they felt right.

Let’s just remind ourselves of something. The racism of the past was not a product of science, it was a natural outcome from fearing neighbouring and (even more so) distant groups in a time when resources were often in shortage. As each group adopted their own worldviews, rituals, language, religion, etc…and natural selection shifted the appearances of people to be more and more distinct the longer their populations had been isolated from each other ind ifferent environments…the more fearful we became of the “other”, because there were so many ways of identifying their otherness.

Our quest for conquest and the power and resources that provided gave all too mundane justification for thinking less of the other. Did people once try to justify this inferiority of the other using science. Absolutely. Did people try to justify all sorts of popular myths using science. Absolutely. Did science enable them to instantly discard thousands of years of ingroup/outgroup cultural heritage of racist tendencies.. of course not. Did they end up succeeding in justifying their racist views using science. No.

That’s the point. There is context of discovery and a context of justification in science. Our cultural biases and the biases of our era will bias the scientific questions we ask and the answers we seek. This is the context of discovery. The scientific process is built upon failed hypotheses, poorly conducted studies, biased researchers, biased funding bodies, outright falsification of results, etc..

But, the context of justification means that with time, with multiple independent researchers (of every race colour and creed I might add…science is not “white”) challenging the same ideas and each other to justify through evidence and logic our claims and counterclaims…gradually we approximate truth. Racism and many other biases are not sustainable under this scrutiny, because there isno factual justification for it. Does this imply that racism is gone, of course not. But the scientific method has given us concrete evidence which challenges the basis of racist claims.

We now understand the reasons for differences in the appearance of each other, that there is more genetic difference within a racial group than between racial groups, the fact that in the evolutionary history of hominids the differences between a Native American and a European are a mere blink of the eye, etc..etc.. etc…Science has simply provided evidence for the unity of humanity.

To argue that “once we thought” is actually to make the strongest argument for the power of science.

now if you’ll excuse me I’m starting to tear up and need to step down off my soap box

YARNLADY's avatar

@Critter38 One point you have made above is invalid. It was not ‘science’ that said the world was flat, it was religion. The scientists have known for most of history that the world was round, but it wasn’t very safe to say so.

Critter38's avatar

I was quoting RedPowerLady

YARNLADY's avatar

@Critter38 Oh, sorry, I’ve been reading, but it’s hard to follow after the fact.

Critter38's avatar

No worries…I should have been clearer

Critter38's avatar

With regards to the central theme…

I think there is a fundamental difference between respecting people’s right to believe what they will (which I think can be the default position…), and respecting those beliefs, or the reasons given for those beliefs.

I don’t think respect for the beliefs themselves should be the default starting point…frankly I think this kind of takes the wind out of the meaning of respect. Respect is earned from a starting point of neutrality. For me that is earned by having sound evidence, reason, justification for one’s views (and this does not rule out believing something because it makes you happy and harms no one…if this is true, then that seems a completely reasonable justification).

But I guess the question is how far do we take this. I never challenge people’s beliefs unless the settings and circumstances openly invite such challenge (eg. the person wants to discuss their views), and frankly I don’t enjoy conflict.

That said I wish society in general questioned more often what they believe and why the believe it. Our beliefs influence our actions, and as our societies are built on the actions of each other, it does in fact matter to all of us what we all believe to be true.

So it’s a weird case of tentative respect for diversity of belief…but once it enters the public arena (or is known to be doing harm in the private arena…eg. the belief leads to actual damage..eg. circumcision, prevention of medical care to children, profiteering through the provision of false hope, etc.), then we all owe it to each other to challenge each other vigorously. We can only benefit as a result.

charis23's avatar

I can’t be bothered to read alllll of what has come before, so I apologise if any of what I’m about to say has already been said.

This is what I believe.

POINT 1: Nature is ruthless. Just think ‘Survival of the fittest’.

POINT 2: Full acceptance of this would lead to dispair.

POINT 3: A despairing human is less likely to survive/care for their offspring, and therefore be a ‘successful’ human in terms of succeeding to propegate their genes.

POINT 4: Faith (by which I mean a willingness to believe in something ‘good’, without direct experience of the thing) is a useful psychological attribute, as far as evolution is concerned.

POINT 5: Useful attributes are propagated by natural selection.

POINT 6: Each living human is the product of natural selection.

CONCLUSION: Modern human is bred to believe.

Note: Between points 3 and 4, there is the question of where this ‘faith’ came from in the first place. I believe it is explainable as a certain chemical balance, but I realise this is a little vague. Maybe someone can help me out here?

Note: I am not claiming there is no mystery to life!

QUESTION: If humans lived eternally, therefore without the most fundamental fear (and of course, without evolution), do you think that faith/belief/religion would still exist?

Critter38's avatar

“If humans lived eternally, therefore without the most fundamental fear (and of course, without evolution), do you think that faith/belief/religion would still exist?”

I think that is far too interesting a question to leave at the bottom of a post…may I encourage you to start this question as its own thread?

In regards to your other comments, you might be interested in the following talk…if you haven’t already seen it.

http://richarddawkins.net/article,3779,Why-We-Believe-in-Gods---American-Atheists-09,Andy-Thomson

The only thing I would caution on is the issue of us being bred to believe. At least some cultures seem to be moving well beyond this at least in the form of belief in god or the afterlife etc… Check out the book “Society without God” by Zuckerman. Fantastic read about Scandinavia which challenges some of our ideas regarding an innate need for supernatural belief.

P.S. Welcome to fluther!

charis23's avatar

Thanks Critter38, I willl start a new thread and check out the link. Thanks for the welcome :)

benseven's avatar

A lot of the time belief isn’t based on reason, as much as it is on knowing.

Critter38's avatar

Too true…but there are obvious problems with this…

Like “knowing” my neighbour is a witch and is responsible for the fact that my child is dying, and the only way to prevent this terrible occurrence is to turn her over to the inquisition.

Sorry to be blunt, but there are no limits to the scope of what can be “known” if it is completely disconnected from reason, or evidence.

Fyrius's avatar

Dang. You go to sleep, you wake up, you have fifty new responses to plough through…
I’m still working my way to the bottom, but I’m going to post my replies to the topmost half of the posts now.

@daloon: Clearly, rationality has provided many benefits to mankind. Yet, many people still hew to irrationality. Why?
My own point of view on why irrationality is still popular even among some intellectuals is because we have a natural tendency to be irrational. Irrationality is easy and it makes us feel good. This doesn’t grant irrationality any credibility at all.
The ways we naturally tend to think may once have been helpful to survival, but now that we have the luxury of safety and a stable food supply, some of them ended up only getting in the way.
As for the normativity of what makes a “good” or “bad” reason: maybe instead we should say one should believe something if one has better reasons to believe that than every logical alternative. And that’s very scientific.

@RedPowerLady: So you chose to ignore all the times it has been used for persecution?
No, I say science is not to be blamed for dicks who abuse it.
I’m curious by the way how science could have been used against your people, like you mentioned. Did you mean technology based on science?

So what I am saying is that you should not force someone to debate their belief systems. They should not have to back it up. But providing education-by-choice is a great idea.
I suppose I might be naively optimistic when I think of ideal worlds where who wins the debate is determined solely on the authority of the arguments themselves, and every debate is a fair fight. But that’s the sort of thing I envisage.
The ones in power could be proven wrong in a fair debate just as easily as those without power could.

As many very valid beliefs aren’t based in science.
I want examples.
Even common sense beliefs that always work out should be vindicated by science in order to be proven valid.

It has happened before and can happen again. What about forced assimilation? Basically that is what you are arguing for.
I’m arguing to culturally stimulated assimilation to the truth. Aspects of culture not concerned with the truth are irrelevant and quite safe.
Notice that no one group would benefit from the rules I propose; only the truth. Anyone can be equally wrong. The only way to stand a better chance than someone else in a fair debate is to do your homework and make sure you have strong arguments.

But you are also demonstrating my point. That Creationism is now inherently thought of as less than evolution.
Sorry, you’re striking a nerve. I have to reply.
Creationism is inherently less than evolution in every possible sense. It’s a less methodologically valid theory, the proof is overwhelmingly against it, it relies on nonsensical arguments and generally a complete lack of understanding what evolution really means, its proponents are more often than not demonstrably biased, intellectually dishonest and/or uneducated in biology, and the only reason it’s granted any credibility whatsoever is because of strong political lobbies and the deliberate spreading of misinformation among the less educated.
Creationism is in every sense not scientific at all, an immensely improbable but stubborn religious belief masquerading as a theory. This is not just “my viewpoint”. This is reality.
And believe me, I know what I’m talking about. You don’t want to know just how much time I’ve spent listening to promises for sensible arguments against evolution and being delivered crap that a first-years student of biology could easily debunk, how much time I’ve spent discussing this make-believe “scientific controversy” with sound logic and empirical proof against ignorant misrepresentations and people who got the facts completely backward. Added up it must amount to a few weeks by now, at least.
I’ve been open-minded to creationism for years, much more so in retrospect than it deserved. I’ve never heard a good argument for it.

@RedPowerLady: Do you both not feel that you are blindly following science??
At an advanced level, it’s not even possible to blindly follow science. There are so many different points of view in the specifics of science where you have to examine the arguments yourself and decide which side to be on. It involves a lot of reading up, listening to both sides and then joining either.

Science is full of bias as much as anything else is. Even with the scientific method.
That’s absolutely wrong. The scientific method is crafted to be objective and unaffected by the biases of the researcher, and is the most bias-proof system humanity has ever come up with to find objective truth. Double blind experiments are a good example of this at work.
Individual scientists can be biased, and in rare tragic cases the dominant views of an entire field can be affected by bias, but scientific facts are guaranteed to be bias-proof.

Fyrius's avatar

Wew. I’m done reading up.

@RedPowerLady: If science says it does work and science says it doesn’t work then what do you believe??
Firstly, science isn’t governed by one central authority that decides “what science says”. It’s the combined work of thousands of individuals. They disagree about things all the time, and it is through their need to justify their views in debate that our species advances.
So what should you believe? Well, the point of view that is best supported, of course. Read up on the discussions and make up your mind.

We are happy living in our illogical world with our illogical beliefs. (...) And we rarely tell you to convert to our system.
That’s only because you know full well you’d intellectually get your asses handed to you in bite-sized pieces if you would. If such illogical views would actually compete with the scientifically valid ones, they would be blown out of the water like there’s no tomorrow.
Creationism tried, and got its ass handed to it in bite-sized pieces. It’s now resorting to guerilla tactics and breaking the rules in a desperate attempt to get one punch in without being beaten to a pulp.

@charis23: POINT 1: Nature is ruthless. Just think ‘Survival of the fittest’.
POINT 2: Full acceptance of this would lead to dispair.
What.
It would lead to despair? I’m sure it’s a very depressing fact, but there are plenty of marvellous and comforting facts about the world to counterbalance it.
Not to mention simply having some perspective. There is suffering in life, sure, but that’s not all there is.

POINT 4: Faith (by which I mean a willingness to believe in something ‘good’, without direct experience of the thing) is a useful psychological attribute, as far as evolution is concerned.
Well, the only thing evolution teaches us in this regard is that it once was a useful psychological attribute. Probably.

QUESTION: If humans lived eternally, therefore without the most fundamental fear (and of course, without evolution), do you think that faith/belief/religion would still exist?
Afraid so. This tendency to irrational belief has ended up being hard-wired into our brains, and it takes education and intellectual effort to expunge it.

charis23's avatar

Points 1 and 2. I am talking here about when the modern human brain was formed. It will have been prodominantly an uncomfortable time when only the strongest survived. People would have struggled day to day, and seen their loved ones die far more often than we see now. When I talk about suffering I’m not referring to our westernised idea, I’m talking about prolonged, physical and psychological pain, which I think I’m right in saying would have been quite the norm for early man.

Point 4: Once was is irrelevant. Like I say, I am talking about when our brains became what they are today. You pointing out once was isn’t really out of step with my argument.

Response to your response about my question…Hard-wired? What do you mean by it? Something innate? What grounds do you have to believe that??

fireside's avatar

I’m still not clear on which beliefs are okay to have and which ones are wrong.

For instance, how about Jung?
His beliefs on the psyche say that everyone has an outer persona which is how we present ourselves to the world. We also have an inner conscience, the anima or animus, which is in touch with the higher truths and universal understanding. Then there is the Shadow which that part of ourselves which projects its imperfections on others. Is his belief wrong because there is no demonstrable proof? Should his theories be considered invalid despite the fact that they can help people?

What about Buddha and his theories on the unified oneness of all things? Is that something that should be shouted down because of the lack of verifiable proof or because this insight is not as accessible to everyone in some sort of empirical, verifiable manner? Are nearly half a billion Buddhists wrong for believing what they do?

How about the founder of AA, Bill W.? He believed that people could learn to avoid the temptations of alcohol, despite the scientific evidence of disease, not through medical means but through a spiritual program of companionship. Has this helped people? Should it be shut down because there is no tangible proof of a higher power?

What about Love? Is Love just a neurological response to stimuli? If so, then shouldn’t all couples be tested regularly for signs of this neurological response and then split up if they don’t exhibit the physical manifestations? Is the something more than just biochemistry going on with loving couples who share trusting long term committed relationships?

wundayatta's avatar

I believe that being able to model experience, and predict the consequences of actions is very useful in terms of increasing my chances of survival, and increasing the chances of my descendants’ survival. Science is a pretty good process for developing more accurate ways of modeling experience and making predictions. There is no model, short of the thing itself, that can be one hundred percent accurate in all it’s predictions concerning future behavior.

Models are shortcuts. They try to identify the most important information that will result in accurate predictions more often than any other information. Humans, I think, tend to build models of human behavior in their minds, and they use the models and adjust them all the time, based on observed “reality.” I think we do this automatically, and are not always aware that we are doing this. However, out of this practice, which probably was encouraged by evolution since it enhanced our survivability, arose science.

Models, however, are not perfect. Even the most cherished models of physicists are not perfect. We use models, anyway, even if they aren’t perfect. We “believe” in them. In any case, we call some models rational, because we can generate a lot of evidence for them. They are simple. They work. Other models are called irrational because there doesn’t seem to be any _objective_evidence for them. All the evidence is subjective.

There is evidence, however, for “irrational” models. Each individual has their own subjective evidence to support that model. It is difficult, and perhaps foolish for rationalists to try to impeach another individual’s experience. You can not be in my head. You can not tell me I didn’t experience something that I experienced. All you can do is try to show me that I am alone in this experience, or offer me another model that explains it.

Ultimately, each individual is the “scientist” evaluating their own models of their experience. I don’t believe we can be certain that another person’s model is wrong because we do not have access to anyone else’s subjective experience. All we can say is that their model does not work for us.

Many people are brought up with models based on other people’s subjective experience. They may not feel those subjective experience, so they abandon the model they grew up with for a model that fits their experience more closely. All scientists can do is to educate folks about the models that exist, and the evidence for those models, and let people find their own way to the models that work for them.

Inter-subjective reality? Could be. But I don’t think you can impeach someone else’s experience, no matter how odd it seems to you. I’ve never spoken to a Christian God (or any other kind), so the idea seems ludicrous to me. That doesn’t mean others have not experienced such a God. I can believe they are deluded, but there is no way to prove that.

I’m mentally ill. I’ve experienced being a different person from the way I am now, and was before I got ill. I have to wonder which person is the real me. Which one’s reality was the more real reality? There are people who have experienced what I’ve experienced. Some of them like it so much they won’t take their meds.

I heard a story on This American Life last night where a schizophrenic woman believed that a couple of Archangels visited her each night and fucked her crazy. When she took her meds, they disappeared. She went off her meds, because she was lonely, and wanted the angels back.

Some people value the consensus reality. Others prefer their own reality. Consensus reality is considered rational by many. Individual reality is irrational.

I believe in the model that science brings me. But as a scientist, I understand there are other methods to build models of the universe. There is a possibility that one of those competing models, or even more of them, do a better job than the scientific model. We may not have enough data to be able to know that. I believe the scientific model is the best model, but it is possible that it is not.

Personally, I don’t think a discussion about beliefs turns up very much, especially if it becomes an argument. I think the important thing is communication and understanding.

I think empathy is key. My mental illness taught me so much about empathy. I can feel what it’s like to be in other people’s shoes so much more strongly now. I use that knowledge to answer a lot of questions here, making guesses about people that are quite different from other people’s guesses, and yet, often turning out to reflect the questioner’s experience more accurately.

I believe that if we honestly try to understand each others’ models, instead of arguing with them about which is best, we will enhance our ability to communicate. I am not always able to do this, because some people’s models are so extremely different from mine that I think they cause unforgivable harm to a lot of people. I have found that often, when understanding the experiences that gave rise to a particular model, you can identify with it, because it matches your experience. They just built a different model from the same experience. The odd thing? Often times, their model leads them to the same behavior as your model. My personal morality is not so different from a religious person’s morality. Why? I have a theory about that, too, surprise, surprise. I shall spare you that for now.

I’ll leave you with this. In evaluating models, though, I think it’s important to ask, “in what ways do they work?” In that way, you can begin to understand “irrationality.”

Shuttle128's avatar

@daloon I have to say that I agree with just about every point you brought up. Very well written and thought out as usual.

Now…off to my last final. Wish me luck.

mattbrowne's avatar

There is no objective reality. The meaning of the world around is tied to individual human brains. How does green look like? We will never know.

fireside's avatar

Well said, daloon, if I may attempt to summarize:

One person’s pattern of behavior that leads them to develop a sense of inner peace and empathetic compassion for others may not work for others.

That doesn’t mean that they are wrong in holding their belief that their pattern of behavior is one that works.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Critter38 You only further justify my point. My point is that science is used for bad as well as good. You can attribute it to how people use science or whatever you want for that matter. The point is, in relation to this discussion, that science is not the end all when it comes to beliefs. Because science itself changes, science itself can be manipulated, science can be used for negative purposes. I’m not saying this is always the case but it is certainly possible. There really is no need to keep debating this. You said it yourself and you all have said it. Science has been used to further negative causes. Science can be biased. Later it may or may not be proved wrong. Okay. But what we are talking about here is how science is used to justify belief systems. And I am arguing that since science can be used in wrong ways it is not the ‘end-all’ of answers. Science can always change at a later date. It should not be our determining factor. Even for those of you who uphold science strongly you must agree that you can’t simply trust it for what it is. You have to think critically about it. What biases were inherent in this study? What were the limitations? What are the effect if this is later found out wrong? That last question is my main point. “What are the consequences if we use science to eliminate or pressure people out of a belief system and then later find out that science was wrong, limited, or biased?” We must acknowledge that possibility is all I am saying.

So to everyone please let’s stay on track. All these scientific rants have got my head spinning.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Fyrius _No, I say science is not to be blamed for dicks who abuse it. _
I understand this point and I agree it is a good one. My argument is that if you are using science to eliminate a belief system simply because they have yet to have science to back it up then you are one of those “dicks who abuse it”.

The ones in power could be proven wrong in a fair debate just as easily as those without power could.
I’d love to live in this society. Unfortunately it doesn’t exist right now.

Example of valid belief:
What about rituals?? Use the example I provided above about smudging. It doesn’t harm anyone. It is integral to the culture. It is valid in that it has worked for thousands of years. But it is not based in science. It is based in culture and spirituality. In fact if you look at it from a scientific perspective it is silly. If you look at it from a cultural perspective it is absolutely necessary.

I’m arguing to culturally stimulated assimilation to the truth. Aspects of culture not concerned with the truth are irrelevant and quite safe.

Quite frankly this scares me. Do you not love and appreciate cultural differences? You think we should be all one homogeneous group??? How fun and amazing and rich would life be in that world?

Let me give you an example on how this line of thought is quite scary. Native American Boarding Schools. The last one shut down in the 90s and they were very prevalent in the 60s (and before that). So this wasn’t long ago. They literally kidnapped Native children and put them in boarding schools. The boarding schools were designed to strip these children of their culture and assimilate them into the dominant culture. They did this because they really believed Native people had need to learn the truth. And with their science at the time and their beliefs at the time they really felt justified in doing so.

Creationism is in every sense not scientific at all.
I’m not arguing that it is scientific. I’m am arguing that this belief is just as important as your scientific belief in evolution because it affects and is part of the daily lives of so many people.

That’s absolutely wrong. The scientific method is crafted to be objective and unaffected by the biases of the researcher, and is the most bias-proof system humanity has ever come up with to find objective truth.

Not true. It is crafted to be that way but it doesn’t always work out that way. What if someone use the scientific method but with a limited research pool? There results may come out skewed. There are limitations. And there are ways to manipulate the scientific method. To say it is beyond manipulation is craziness.

Fyrius's avatar

@charis23: Hard-wired? What do you mean by it? Something innate? What grounds do you have to believe that??
Innate, yes.
We have natural mechanisms built into our brains that allow us to make inferences about the world, but these mechanisms have a nasty tendency to give false positives, resulting in people thinking it will rain sooner if they kill a goat or dance around a pole. We also have a tendency to believe the things that make us feel good. (I know I do – and keep that tendency on a strong leash at all times.)
The grounds I have to believe this are a few scientific sources. One is this lecture: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iMmvu9eMrg
Richard Dawkins tells of behavioural research leading to the same conclusions, among others in his documentary Enemies of Reason or his book Unweaving the Rainbow.
(It’s too bad that being thorough in one’s scepticism tends to involve having to read or watch a lot.)

@fireside: For each of those things, that depends. If there is no proof, are there any non-proof reasons to believe these views?
As for shutting down places like AA, I once again point out I’m not advocating anti-bogus laws, I’m advocating a cultural mind-set that discourages bogus.

What about Love? Is Love just a neurological response to stimuli? If so, then shouldn’t all couples be tested regularly for signs of this neurological response and then split up if they don’t exhibit the physical manifestations?
Now you’re just getting silly.
For the record, yes, love is just a biochemical response to stimuli, as is pretty much everything that goes on in the brain. But to extend my argument that beliefs about the world should be justified and defendable to include the bizarre policy that couples should regularly biologically prove they love each other is a colossal reductio ad absurdum.

@Shuttle128: Good luck! :)

@mattbrowne: It’s a huge leap from “we perceive reality through fallible senses” to “there is no objective reality”. Our perception is inherently subjective, that’s true, but that doesn’t mean the world is subjective. It’s not a reason to conclude the world we perceive doesn’t have an existence outside our minds.
If you’re going to be an agnostic, be a proper one, and admit you can’t know anything about the existence of objective reality either.

Coming back to the scientific mind-set: admittedly, the burden of proof is on the side that believes there is an objective reality, but all of us necessarily base our entire lives on this one assumption that the stimuli we receive have a coherence that works like this and that. For example, you can question the existence of food and your body needing it, but you’ll starve to death unless you take your chances.

@RedPowerLady: My point is that science is used for bad as well as good. You can attribute it to how people use science or whatever you want for that matter. The point is, in relation to this discussion, that science is not the end all when it comes to beliefs.
That’s a non sequitur. If science can be used for “bad”, that doesn’t make it any less the best way to determine truth.

And I am arguing that since science can be used in wrong ways it is not the ‘end-all’ of answers.
And I am telling you this train of thought does not make sense.

Science can always change at a later date.
Only the findings of science are that ephemeral; the scientific method is a lot less prone to changes. On top of that, even if scientific findings are not completely absolutely certainly true, they’re still a lot more reliable than the unscientific alternatives.

“What are the consequences if we use science to eliminate or pressure people out of a belief system and then later find out that science was wrong, limited, or biased?” We must acknowledge that possibility is all I am saying.
You continue to confuse the findings of science and the scientific method. Nobody is saying beliefs should be expunged for contradicting scientific findings – or at least I’m not saying that. The point is not whether the current scientific points of view are compatible with a belief, the issue is whether that belief has anything to go for it.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Fyrius If such illogical views would actually compete with the scientifically valid ones, they would be blown out of the water like there’s no tomorrow.

I disagree 100%. Become part of a cultural heritage or a spiritual belief system and you will understand the error in this thinking. Not everything needs to be proved logically. Some things are simply proved by life experience. That is the great mystery of life. Science does not have the capacity to prove everything. And don’t you even argue that it does. Because there was time when we couldn’t see atoms.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@daloon Great answer. You are very well spoken :)

benseven's avatar

@Critter38 – Not really what I meant. I mean knowing on a personal level, instead of relying on reason alone to justify belief. Of course I am applying that to personal belief / faith rather than situations like the one you portray. I was answering the question, not suggesting this same thought could be applied to accusations / justice / whatever else you meant with your analogy. I mean in terms of why I believe in God? I Know, rather than requiring that to be founded in reason.

Not very good at articulating absract thought.

charis23's avatar

@Fyrius I agree with what you are saying in the last comment, again though, I don’t think it refutes my argument.

RedPowerLady's avatar

Nobody is saying beliefs should be expunged for contradicting scientific findings – or at least I’m not saying that. The point is not whether the current scientific points of view are compatible with a belief, the issue is whether that belief has anything to go for it.

I think you are using two different arguments. You just told me quite simply that your scientific arguments could “blow out of the water” those that aren’t scientific.
You also told me you think everyone should assimilate to the truth.

Both of those arguments fall along the lines of getting rid of someones belief systems because of lack of science. Or because science proves them wrong.
I’m saying even if science proves them wrong they still may be right….

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Fyrius You also told me at one point that we should culturally pressure people out of untruthful or unscientific beliefs.

Nobody is saying beliefs should be expunged for contradicting scientific findings

Isn’t that saying exactly that we should expunge belief systems because they aren’t scientific?

Fyrius's avatar

@RedPowerLady: Use the example I provided above about smudging. (...) It is valid in that it has worked for thousands of years.
This last sentence caught me by surprise. It has worked for thousands of years? Don’t you mean it has been used for all that time and been believed to do anything?

Quite frankly this scares me. Do you not love and appreciate cultural differences? You think we should be all one homogeneous group??? How fun and amazing and rich would life be in that world?
I have no problem with cultural differences at all, besides the delusions. And I’m sure there would be plenty of them left without those.

I’m not arguing that it is scientific. I’m am arguing that this belief is just as important as your scientific belief in evolution because it affects and is part of the daily lives of so many people.
But it’s not true. Doesn’t it worry you that a belief that is demonstrably not true has such a profound influence on so many people?
I’m about as worried about the influence of superstition on politics as you are about people taking away your rituals.

Not true. It is crafted to be that way but it doesn’t always work out that way. What if someone use the scientific method but with a limited research pool? There results may come out skewed.
The results will still be the most accurate results one can get from these limited data.

And there are ways to manipulate the scientific method.
How?

I’m going to have dinner now.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Fyrius What I mean by worked is that it has worked for the purposes intended for ceremony and by the community. We may argue that it works for getting rid of negative energy etc… I see how that is up for argument. But it does work to bring together community. It does work as part of the culture and part of ceremony.

And I’m sure there would be plenty of them left without those.
But many many many cultural beliefs will not hold up to the scientific method.

Doesn’t it worry you that a belief that is demonstrably not true has such a profound influence on so many people?
No because I think adults are capable of making their own decisions. If people choose to believe in Creation then good for them. But I think this is an argument for another thread (and it probably has already been argued a thousand times over).

The results will still be the most accurate results one can get from these limited data.
And they still could be completely wrong. And have drastic consequences.

How?
Messing with the amount of people in your research pool is one way to manipulate the scientific method as stated previously.

fireside's avatar

@FyriusAs for shutting down places like AA, I once again point out I’m not advocating anti-bogus laws, I’m advocating a cultural mind-set that discourages bogus.

If you take your proposal to its logical ends, that is exactly what you are saying. You feel that beliefs should be thrown into a ring and that anyone who cannot sustain their belief to the logical pattern you prescribe will wind up the loser. That type of culture is exactly the type that would then attempt to legislate the presumed truth based on the logical winner.

If you don’t start with an assumption of respect for others, then you are promoting the opposite.

Fyrius's avatar

@RedPowerLady: I disagree 100%. Become part of a cultural heritage or a spiritual belief system and you will understand the error in this thinking. Not everything needs to be proved logically. Some things are simply proved by life experience. That is the great mystery of life. Science does not have the capacity to prove everything.
Oh, well, I’ll just take your word for it, then. I guess I was wrong all this time and fuzzy belly feelings are just as reliable a basis for beliefs about the world as solid evidence. Somehow.

And don’t you even argue that it does. Because there was time when we couldn’t see atoms.
But don’t you see that this is exactly an example of what science CAN do? We can see atoms NOW. BECAUSE OF SCIENCE.

I’m saying even if science proves them wrong they still may be right….
But why bother still giving them the benefit of that last little grain of doubt? Isn’t that just wishful thinking?

But many many many cultural beliefs will not hold up to the scientific method.
And good riddance. Like I said, there’s so much more to culture than beliefs.

No because I think adults are capable of making their own decisions.
I already pointed out that plenty of them suck at it. Heck, how widespread Creationism has managed to become goes to show this.

And they still could be completely wrong.
And it would still be most reasonable to believe these rather than any others.

And have drastic consequences.
Scientists know better than to rely too much on a non-certain finding that would have drastic consequences if it were wrong.

Messing with the amount of people in your research pool is one way to manipulate the scientific method as stated previously.
That’s not messing with the scientific method, that’s just lying with statistics.

@fireside: Not necessarily at all. There are still no laws against being fat.

If you don’t start with an assumption of respect for others, then you are promoting the opposite.
That’s just black-and-white thinking. There is stuff in between the extremes too.

fireside's avatar

@Fyruis

There are still no laws against being fat.

Talk about absurd arguments…

I have no problem with cultural differences at all, besides the delusions.
That’s just black-and-white thinking.

I’m done here, you just want to argue semantics but think squabbling over terminology is tiresome. According to my logic, you lose.

RedPowerLady's avatar

I guess I was wrong all this time and fuzzy belly feelings are just as reliable a basis for beliefs about the world as solid evidence

I would say they are. Life is all about those fuzzy belly feelings. That is what makes it enjoyable.

We can see atoms NOW. BECAUSE OF SCIENCE.

I believe you are completely missing my point. You can’t jump back and forth in time as if it were nothing. My point is that you shouldn’t eradicate a belief or a belief system because science proves it wrong. Science can change in time.

But why bother still giving them the benefit of that last little grain of doubt? Isn’t that just wishful thinking?

Because it wards of persecution.

I already pointed out that plenty of them suck at it.

But it is our right as human beings to make sucky choices.

Scientists know better than to rely too much on a non-certain finding that would have drastic consequences if it were wrong.

Not true as history has proved.

That’s not messing with the scientific method, that’s just lying with statistics.

Actually it is messing with the scientific method…

crisw's avatar

@RedPowerLady

You still haven’t given us any method by which, using your way of thinking, one could reliably determine whether a certain belief was an unfounded “persecution” or not.

I think racial persecution is wrong. I can use logic to make a sound argument that racial persecution is wrong. I still don’t see how you can make any such assumptions without using logic. You’ve never really answered the query as to why, in your belief system, someone wth persecutory beliefs would be wrong, or how you would show their beliefs to be less valid than your own. How can you do this without using logic?

crisw's avatar

@RedPowerLady

“Actually it is messing with the scientific method…”

Doesn’t “messing with” mean using it incorrectly?

mattbrowne's avatar

@RedPowerLady

Yes, science can change in time. But so can belief systems and they should. This is why we had people like Martin Luther. Creationism takes the opposite direction. It goes back to the Dark Ages when intelligent and knowledgeable women were called witches. Creationism is what I like to call a Dark Ages belief system. It might remain harmless as long as a few confused folks keep spreading it in Sunday school. It gets dangerous when there’s a political agenda to change the science curriculum of public schools. We have to fight this.

fireside's avatar

@mattbrowne – agreed. but in the case of creationism, it is the actions that are offensive, not the beliefs. the question about disabusing others of their beliefs is far different from the question about protecting the political process, which is set up to allow for respect of all, not just the logical.

Fyrius's avatar

@fireside: Talk about absurd arguments…
It’s an analogy. Everybody thinks being fat is bad, but nobody feels the need to turn that social norm into a law. The same could apply to believing things for no good reason.

I’m done here, you just want to argue semantics but think squabbling over terminology is tiresome.
What makes you think I want to argue semantics?

@RedPowerLady: I would say they are. Life is all about those fuzzy belly feelings. That is what makes it enjoyable.
You won’t hear me saying fuzzy belly feelings can’t be nice and all. But they’re absolutely no solid basis for assertions about the real world.
I could have a belly feeling right now that my garage is on fire, but that’s hardly a good reason to call the fire department.
I don’t even have a garage, either.

My point is that you shouldn’t eradicate a belief or a belief system because science proves it wrong. Science can change in time.
But science never “proved” atoms don’t exist, and what was really proven wrong centuries ago is still wrong.
If you want to contradict that, I’d like an example of something that was “proven wrong” but turned out to be true after all. Preferrably based on a mistake that we still haven’t learned to avoid.

Because it wards of persecution.
I wish you could stop saying “persecution”. It’s cowardly to seek refuge from the critics in the sympathy of the majority by portraying yourself as the victim.
When the fact is that the odds for a belief are astronomically close to zero but not quite on it, that means the belief is almost certainly wrong. To call upon the fact that there is still a microscopic possibility of it being right after all as an excuse to continue believing it is wishful thinking against reason. That’s being dishonest to the truth and to yourself.

But it is our right as human beings to make sucky choices.
I’ll grant that. Well said.
However, I think we can agree that one’s right to do stupid things ends where it starts affecting others. This is why I would very much like to keep politics superstition-free.

Not true as history has proved.
You’ll have to give an example of that too.

Actually it is messing with the scientific method…
I persist in not believing it is. When you deliberately mess with your results, you abandon the scientific method.

@mattbrowne: I wouldn’t call Creationism a Dark Ages belief system. I’d call it a Bronze Age belief system. That’s when it was first dreamed up.

fireside's avatar

Who enforces your idealized world of correct application of the scientific method?

Shuttle128's avatar

Peer pressure? Like in his previous analogy?

Fyrius's avatar

@fireside: Why would it need to be enforced? I’d just like it to become a consensus. Just like, again, there’s a consensus that being fat is a bad thing you should avoid if you can.

Edit: So yeah, peer pressure.

Critter38's avatar

@RedPowerLady We are talking at cross purposes.

My point was merely that science is the best system we have for taking us outside of our biases in the pursuit of approximating truth and you can’t use the fact that people used to believe such and such to suggest that science doesn’t work (in fact, just the opposite).

Factual knowledge, not normative. Enlightenment, not forced mind control.

I think there are far too many straw men being built around here… probably needed to defend all the shifting goal posts

fireside's avatar

ok, enjoy your dreams of an idealized world.
@Critter38 – agreed about the straw men

wundayatta's avatar

Before I got sick, I believed that I could talk with and understand delusional people. I believed (and believe) that there is a logic to every belief and every perception. If a person suffering from schizophrenia is hearing voices telling him that there is blood on his hands and he must kill someone to get clean, or if a woman is seeing and sleeping with archangels, there is a reasonable reason for these things.

Most people will look at these folks, and say they are completely deluded, and there’s no way to relate to them. They are unpredictable and dangerous. I believed that if I were a psychiatrist or psychologist, I could enter into their world, and see things their way, and be able to help them. In other words, I could become a part of their delusion.

That may be a delusion on my part, since I never made any effort to test it. However, to some degree, I have become one of those people. I don’t have schizophrenia, but I do have a disorder that gives some people delusions and hallucinations. I hang out with a lot of those people. All of us are medicated, and that enables us to see the world in a more functional way. I’m happy about that. I really don’t want to be thinking about how to die all the time.

I like the crazy people I hang out with. And believe me, if you saw us, you would know we are crazy. Some of us are completely silent, and have no social skills. Some of us talk overly loudly. Some of us are inappropriately acting out in one way or another. Some of us just look weird. Many of us are on disability and poor. Some of us have been homeless. Some of us scare me and make me uncomfortable, but when I talk to them, they have real stories the same as I do. But we also joke and laugh, and sometimes we can’t stop laughing. (Reminds me of the “funny farm.”) We can take advantage of the perception of crazy people, and let ourselves bend the rules just a bit more. We get excused because we’re not all there.

When I was sick, I was feeling things that I knew had no basis in my experienced reality. I couldn’t justify those feelings, yet I still felt them, and I felt powerless before them. Those feelings made me say things that I am still reluctant to say are not true (I’m worthless; I don’t deserve any love; I’m no good; nothing I do is good; I deserve the gutter). I lashed out at many people, to try to get them to see how bad I was, and how they should stop talking to me. I insulted my wife and told her horrible things to try to make her get rid of me.

Fortunately, I had enough control that I didn’t go far enough to make her do that, but it was hard not to push things farther. As much as I wanted to be destroyed, I knew I shouldn’t want that, and that it would be really bad if I let that happen.

I’m not sure if I would call what I went through a delusion. Maybe my feeling now that I am worth something is a delusion. I still think the feelings I felt weren’t based on anything. They had no cause I could understand. But they felt real. Oh so real. And when I took the drugs, my thoughts were changed. I could no longer think the things about myself that I had been thinking weeks before. I was grateful for that. And confused.

How could these chemicals change my thoughts so dramatically? Which me was me? Was I just so hard on myself because I desperately needed love, yet could not allow myself to have it? Was I playing some kind of manipulative game to get people to be kind to me? I know that if I give into these ideas, I will get depressed, and I know that it is easy for me to go that way. I am sad as I write, and I will have to stop this vein of thought soon. There is only so much I can take, before it gets out of hand.

I guess my point is that deciding what is delusional is hard for me. I don’t know who the real me is. I believe they are both me, but it’s hard to hold onto that. I’m sure people who are not me will say that the competent me is the real me. That is the me that doesn’t try to hurt people. That is the me they like. That is the me they can understand and relate to.

Yet, I go around, and I question other people’s views of reality, and I think some people don’t see it as well as I do. Some are even so out of it that they are delusional. Now, I have to question that. Maybe I’m not trying hard enough to empathize. Maybe their views do make sense, in some modular construction of life. Maybe fundies and Republicans, and others I put in that camp are more like me than I think. When I look at how they live, not at what they say, I find it hard to distinguish us.

Consensual reality? Objective reality? Maybe the problem is not that the underlying world is any different for any of us; maybe it’s that the language we use to describe it, or the experiences we have had; make us explain the world in ways that appear to be vastly different. Delusions? Well, I now have a very difficult time claiming that someone else is delusional. I know that the same world can be two very different things. In one of those worlds, I live. In the other, my life will be cut short. Both, seem to me to be real objective facts, whatever that means.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@crisw

How can you do this without using logic?

I’m not arguing against logic. I’m arguing against scientific logic as a means to determining what beliefs are acceptable.

You still haven’t given us any method by which, using your way of thinking, one could reliably determine whether a certain belief was an unfounded “persecution” or not.

What I am saying is that we do not need to prove our beliefs to anyone no matter how ridiculous they are unless they are causing someone or a culture violent harm.

So I don’t want to give you a way to prove that something is unfounded persecution. What I am saying is that you should not use science to justify the end of someone else’s belief system.

Doesn’t “messing with” mean using it incorrectly?

Yes. That was my point by the way. That it can be manipulated. I’m not, at this point, arguing against the scientific method. What I am saying is that it can be manipulated and is thus subject to bias.

crisw's avatar

@RedPowerLady

“I’m not arguing against logic. I’m arguing against scientific logic as a means to determining what beliefs are acceptable.”

What’s the difference between logic and scientific logic?

“What I am saying is that we do not need to prove our beliefs to anyone no matter how ridiculous they are unless they are causing someone or a culture violent harm.”

So, does this mean that someone who thinks you are a lesser being because you are Native American, but doesn’t act violently, is correct in his beliefs, because they do not have to be proven?

“Doesn’t “messing with” mean using it incorrectly?
Yes”

Okay, then. If it’s being used incorrectly, it’s the method used, not the scientific thought process itself that is in error. I know that several of us have repeatedly pointed out that there is a difference between the scientific method itself and the results that we call “science.”. I don’t mean to be rude, but I really don’t see that you’re comprehending the difference, as you keep repeating the same thing.

crisw's avatar

@RedPowerLady

OK, let’s try this. Here, in a nutshell, is the scientific method. Can you point out, specifically, if the method is being used correctly, which step you have a problem with?

1. Use your experience to gather data about a problem or question.
2. Form a conjecture or hypothesis in regards to the question.
3. Make a prediction based on the deduction.
4. Test your prediction.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Fyrius If you want to contradict that, I’d like an example of something that was “proven wrong” but turned out to be true after all.

Seriously I don’t want to go on a Google hunt right now. Perhaps I should rephrase. My point is that you shouldn’t eradicate a culture because there is no science to back it up. Better? (of course I don’t think you should eradicate something just because science proves it “wrong” either, see below).

To stay on the “proven wrong” path let’s talk about astrology since you brought it up previously. Now I know nothing of the science “proving” or “disproving” astrology. By why eradicate such a harmless belief system? (and the it takes money away from people argument does not affect me in the least for several reasons).

I wish you could stop saying “persecution”. It’s cowardly to seek refuge from the critics in the sympathy of the majority by portraying yourself as the victim.

Quite frankly I think this statement is offensive. You are obviously not part of a culture that has been persecuted. If you were then you would understand how important it is to make sure it doesn’t continue. My entire argument is about not wanting people to be persecuted because of their beliefs. And not wanting belief systems eradicated or gently pushed away.

I think we can agree that one’s right to do stupid things ends where it starts affecting others.

But I think we disagree on where the line is at affecting others. Of course if it harms others physically then it’s not okay. But what if it merely inconveniences others? That is sticky business.

You’ll have to give an example of that too.

I thought I already did with the hysteria example.

You said The scientific method is crafted to be objective and unaffected by the biases of the researcher

My point was that the scientific method can be manipulated and affected by biases. It may cease to become the scientific method at that point but it still was affected by bias.

Anyhow this is beyond the point. Again I am not arguing against the scientific method. I am arguing that we shouldn’t pressure anyone out of their belief system simply because they cannot back it up using science.

Why would it need to be enforced?
Because it is subject to bias…

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Critter38

taking us outside of our biases in the pursuit of approximating truth

But science itself is inherent with biases.

you can’t use the fact that people used to believe such and such to suggest that science doesn’t work

Again. I will say it again. I am not arguing against science itself or the scientific method. I am arguing that just because someone cannot prove their belief system using science does not mean it is invalid. Because there is validity and importance in belief systems that cannot be backed up by science. AND because science itself is flawed and is not the end-all of arguments. Sometimes happiness and quality of life or ritual and ceremony are more important and even more valid than science.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@crisw
What’s the difference between logic and scientific logic?

Well above I believe I provide logic for the use of smudging although it certainly was not scientific logic.

So, does this mean that someone who thinks you are a lesser being because you are Native American, but doesn’t act violently is correct in his beliefs, because they do not have to be proven?”

isn’t that causing an entire culture harm?

as you keep repeating the same thing.

I keep repeating the same thing because I am not trying to convince you that scientific thought or otherwise is wrong. (although I would like to establish that just because something is science doesn’t mean it is without bias, i purposely have said little about scientific thought because as I stated above I prefer to move one point at a time and I was attempting to work on an agreement that science itself has bias and flaws, each time I come close to that someone switches on me: Well science may be flawed by the scientific method isn’t, well the scientific method may be open to bias but not scientific thought, it is tedious). What I’m trying to say that it is wrong to use that as justification for getting rid of entire belief systems (in some circumstances).

Why is scientific thought so much better than say those who think in the pursuit of happiness for all but without science?

RedPowerLady's avatar

@crisw

This is fun:

1. Use your experience to gather data about a problem or question.
One’s experience is subjective so they are starting out with a bias. Sometimes, hopefull most of the time, this bias is eliminated in further steps but not always.

2. Form a conjecture or hypothesis in regards to the question.
Okay seemingly harmless :)

3. Make a prediction based on the deduction.
Mostly harmless.

4. Test your prediction.
This is where most of the flaws come in besides the inherent biases in step 1 of course.

crisw's avatar

Maybe this will help clarify.

You can believe whatever you want. That doesn’t mean that I have to think that your beliefs are either accurate or true. For a rather trite example, I think walnuts are delicious. That doesn’t mean that you have to agree, or that it’s true that walnuts are delicious. My belief isn’t hurting anyone and doesn’t impact my ability to make logical decisions, therefore there’s no real need for anyone to disabuse me of that belief. You even have the right to think I am silly for liking those yucky walnuts, but not to stop me from liking them.

However, as soon as your beliefs affect others in any negative way, they do require justification. Yes, that includes “inconvenience” as well as “violent harm.” I think the issue here is just what that justification can be. I will maintain that it must be logical.

Critter38's avatar

@RedPowerLady You said at one stage.
“What I am saying is that we do not need to prove our beliefs to anyone no matter how ridiculous they are unless they are causing someone or a culture violent harm.”

I said at one stage

“So it’s a weird case of tentative respect for diversity of belief…but once it enters the public arena (or is known to be doing harm in the private arena…eg. the belief leads to actual damage..eg. circumcision, prevention of medical care to children, profiteering through the provision of false hope, etc.), then we all owe it to each other to challenge each other vigorously.”

I don’t see anything more than minor differences in these two positions.

People can believe what they wish to unless those beliefs cause harm to individuals or society. Those beliefs may be false and if they are subject to debate may have little going for them (belief does not confer validity unless you are using the term to mean something other than being factually true). But I sincerely hope no one here would want to live in a society where some arbitrary authority challenged people’s right to believe things, no matter how harmless, just for the sake of ensuring rational thought.

crisw's avatar

@RedPowerLady

You don’t seem to be pointing out ptoblems with the method itself, but with misuses of the method.

fireside's avatar

If the method is so prone to bias and misuse, then it is not a valid approach for the use suggested.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@crisw I’m Great with everything that you said.

I think the issue here is just what that justification can be.
And I agree that this is the issue.

I will maintain that it must be logical.
I’m even okay with this compromise as long as logical does mean the need for science.

Fyrius's avatar

@fireside: ok, enjoy your dreams of an idealized world.
Thanks, I will.
In the meantime, I hope you enjoy resorting to the position that the whole premise of this thread was useless, after having partaken in it extensively. I take this to mean you’ve run out of more sensible objections.

@RedPowerLady: I’m seriously getting sick of your overly dramatical choice of words. Nobody is talking about eradicating a culture. We’re just talking about peer pressure against the false beliefs of a culture.

Now I know nothing of the science “proving” or “disproving” astrology.
That’s curious, because I explained it earlier. The science disproving astrology is rather simple; for one thing, it has been shown that there is no correlation between accuracy of a horoscope and which sign they are applied to, and secondly there’s the methodological argument that if astrology worked, it would rely on an entirely unknown force of the universe and we’d have to revise most of physics. In other words, it pisses on Ockham’s Razor and makes weird faces at the principle of parsimony of explanations.
And then there’s the obvious fact that there are not twelve fixed fates that befall all of humanity according to their birthdates.

It has also already been pointed out why it’s not harmless. As an additional argument, it encourages stereotyping of people based on something that doesn’t affect their personality at all. Why would it be okay to say that all Tauruses are hard-working but stubborn and incompatible with non-Tauruses, while it’s widely considered wrong to say that all Africans are athletic but gullible and shouldn’t marry non-Africans?

Quite frankly I think this statement is offensive.
I’m sure you do.

You are obviously not part of a culture that has been persecuted. If you were then you would understand how important it is to make sure it doesn’t continue.
That would mean you’re arguing from personal emotions more than from logic and reason.

But I think we disagree on where the line is at affecting others. Of course if it harms others physically then it’s not okay. But what if it merely inconveniences others? That is sticky business.
Well, for a concrete example, I’d say that invading middle-eastern countries because you believe your gut feelings are actually god talking to you would be well over the line. That sort of thing would be superstition influencing politics, which was the locus of my point there.

I thought I already did with the hysteria example.
Could you repeat it please? I’m having trouble finding it.
Since I’ve had to repeat myself too, I think that minor indulgence would make us even.

My point was that the scientific method can be manipulated and affected by biases.
I’m aware. My point is that this point is a load of bunk.
I’m starting to wonder whether you actually know what the scientific method is. @crisw briefly explained it just now, see if that matches your definition.

But science itself is inherent with biases.
You keep saying that without giving any arguments, while ignoring our arguments to the contrary.

Because there is validity and importance in belief systems that cannot be backed up by science. AND because science itself is flawed and is not the end-all of arguments.
Another two points that you utterly fail to properly argue for.

4. Test your prediction.
This is where most of the flaws come in besides the inherent biases in step 1 of course.
Because…?

I’m sorry, but it seems your words are becoming increasingly hollow.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@crisw

You don’t seem to be pointing out ptoblems with the method itself, but with misuses of the method.

Because I don’t claim to be able to disprove the method or any of it itself. My point is that it can be manipulated for wrongdoing and often is. That’s it. That’s my entire point.
And because it can be manipulated or subject to bias it should not be the only valid criteria for determination.

fireside's avatar

@Fyrius – no i just don’t think you’re approaching the subject honestly. I gave you plenty of examples of how your premise could be misused and yet you seem to say, “oh well that belief may be okay, but other delusions are not.”

My point is that you are free to believe that the world will be a better place if everyone thought like you did, but that doesn’t make you any different than other types of believers. And you are free to believe what you wish. It is an idealized fantasy.

You’re talking in circles about something you believe in despite the lack of evidence.

Fyrius's avatar

@fireside: no i just don’t think you’re approaching the subject honestly. I gave you plenty of examples of how your premise could be misused and yet you seem to say, “oh well that belief may be okay, but other delusions are not.”
Really? I wasn’t aware. Darn, now I have to read all the way back again.

I see I admitted some beliefs help people to keep going in life. I also said this does not make these beliefs okay, but it’s a good excuse to believe.

Then you invoked Jung, Buddha and AA. I replied that whether these beliefs were okay or not hinges upon whether they can be argued for, and left it to that for not knowing enough about them to make the judgement myself.

…and then you told me to enjoy my dreams of an idealized world, and we ended up here.

Wait, where are the “plenty of examples of how my premise could be misused” and the instances of me saying one delusion is okay while another is not?
I must have missed it. Could you point it out to me?

You’re talking in circles about something you believe in despite the lack of evidence.
I don’t know what you’re talking about now. If you’re still talking about my hypothetical cultural peer pressure against superstition scenario, that’s neither a belief nor a scenario that can’t be argued for.

fireside's avatar

So, do you think that there is the potential for abuse of a system of peer pressure which subtly enforces beliefs derived at by means of a method which may or may not turn out to be correct in the future and which may or may not actually harm the person whose beliefs you have removed by means of logic?

Fyrius's avatar

@fireside: Hold it. Do you really think using arguments to back up a belief instead of just speculating your head off is “a method which may or may not turn out to be correct in the future”? I don’t think it’s an open question whether beliefs that are well supported by solid arguments have a higher probability of actually being true than those that have absolutely nothing to go for them.
[Edit: I realize you might have meant the scientific method instead. But for this method, it’s no more an open question. The findings of science are probably going to be disproved eventually; the scientific method is not.]
Other than that, I am operating on the assumption that knowing the truth is in general more beneficial than having false beliefs.

With that said, no, I don’t think that status quo could be abused very feasibly. In fact it would be a strong defence against well-known deliberate belief suppression tools. Try using propaganda on a society full of critical thinkers who demand rational arguments for everything you say.

fireside's avatar

Do you think that society would need to have a certain IQ level to be critical thinkers?
Is that a realistic possibility given today’s society?

Fyrius's avatar

@fireside: Do you think that society would need to have a certain IQ level to be critical thinkers?
Well… maybe. I hope not.
I think education, particularly of the scientific variety, helps a lot to turn someone into a critical thinker. But then I suppose that a less than stellar IQ would be a limit on how much education could do for someone.
Maybe if this sort of cultural consensus were in place, people would be more encouraged to be critical thinkers. That would be a lot of help either way, since there must be plenty of people with fine IQs who are still not critical thinkers.

fireside's avatar

Do you think that those with a lower IQ, less access to education or a lower ability to partake in critical thinking might become distrustful of those who are telling them what to believe based on their logical method of reasoning?

Fyrius's avatar

@fireside: I wouldn’t expect that kind of problems. Mainly because it wouldn’t be “their” logical method of reasoning, it would be that of everyone.

fireside's avatar

If someone doesn’t understand the method, do you think they would feel manipulated?
It’s “our government” and there is still plenty of distrust.

Fyrius's avatar

@fireside: Meh. So many uneducated people don’t know the first things about science and still trust its results.
So much in fact that toothpaste producers sell more toothpaste if the commercials feature random people standing by in white lab coats with their arms crossed. Bonus for glasses and Einsteinian hairdos. Oh, and clipboards too.

fireside's avatar

Do you think those people are just being manipulated by marketing?

RedPowerLady's avatar

We’re just talking about peer pressure against the false beliefs of a culture.

So you can assure me that it will always stop before the entire culture is eradicated?
And who determines which false beliefs are integral to a culture and which are not?
For example. You tell me that using Oral Tradition to pass on beliefs is no longer logical. You peer pressure me and everyone else to get rid of Oral Tradition. Seems simple enough. But then we realize that not only have we affected Oral Tradition but we have affected the moral and value structure of the community which relies on oral tradition. We have completely lost certain ceremonies and rituals which are only passed on through Oral Tradition. And our languages are dying because they aren’t being used as often.

That would mean you’re arguing from personal emotions more than from logic and reason.
And I believe that is valid. As well as logical.

_That’s curious, because I explained it earlier. _
And I don’t care is my point.
I think you are far-reatching when you say astrology encourages stereotyping. People who subscribe to astrology may stereotype each other but then again they are all part of the community and thus have accepted those labels and willing join them. That is there choice.

Well, for a concrete example, I’d say that invading middle-eastern countries because you believe your gut feelings are actually god talking to you would be well over the line.
Okay well invading another country obviously is along the lines of doing harm so it would need justified, no matter the reason.

Hysteria Example.
The medical and psychological community at one point decided upon what made a woman considered “hysterical”. Once diagnosed she was put into medical or psychological facilities. There she was often subject to nasty therapies like shock therapy and often times just plain abuse. After TONS of women were subject to this much later it was discovered that these women were not hysterical. Many actual had an STD causing there symptoms.

Your original statement was:

Scientists know better than to rely too much on a non-certain finding that would have drastic consequences if it were wrong.

In this circumstance women were deemed “medically hysterical”. Both the medical field and the psychological field are those of science. The women faced drastic consequences. We later found out they were unnecessary.

You keep saying that without giving any arguments, while ignoring our arguments to the contrary.
Actually I have provided a ton of examples. You, yourself, have accepted a few.

Another two points that you utterly fail to properly argue for.
Actually again I have proven them. Example: Smudging.

I’m sorry, but it seems your words are becoming increasingly hollow.
Actually every time I prove a point you move on to something else. I beg to differ that the “problem” is me.

If you wish to quit talking with me about this that is a-ok with me. I don’t want it to get to the point of being nasty.

Fyrius's avatar

@fireside: Quite so.
I often find myself getting worked up over the pseudoscientific nonsense displayed in commercials, like shampoo with vitamins in it, deodorants that are claimed to “eliminate the nasty smells instead of covering them up” without providing any explanation how on earth that would be possible, or the whole retarded “chemicals are bad, nature is good” bandwagon.

These tricksters would sell a lot less too if the population consisted of more critical thinkers.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Fyrius

If you wish to quit talking with me about this that is a-ok with me. I don’t want it to get to the point of being nasty.

fireside's avatar

So do you think this inability to distinguish truth from marketing is akin to delusion?
Is this type of delusion acceptable?

Fyrius's avatar

@RedPowerLady: So you can assure me that it will always stop before the entire culture is eradicated?
Absolutely. There would be no sense in arguing against Greek cuisine because there are no arguments why souflaki is delicious. It would be bizarre to even think about debating use of the French language because there are no rational argument why “abruti” means “retarded”. If someone would criticise African percussion because there are no arguments for beating on drums, they would rightly be considered mad.
In short, I do not see any way how this mind-set could possibly be extended to attack any aspect of culture besides its beliefs.

And who determines which false beliefs are integral to a culture and which are not?
Should anyone? I’m proposing a mind-set where all beliefs have to answer to scrutiny regardless of their background.

You tell me that using Oral Tradition to pass on beliefs is no longer logical. (...) But then we realize that not only have we affected Oral Tradition but we have affected the moral and value structure of the community which relies on oral tradition.
Oh, come on.
The only alternative that could be argued to be favourable to oral tradition would be the write the lot of it down instead. How would anything be lost through that? If anything it would help a lot to preserve culture.
On top of that, oral tradition is not a belief but a method, which renders it an irrelevant premise for reasons I’ve explained above.
Bad example.

And I believe that is valid. As well as logical.
And I believe that makes no sense.
You seem to use the word “bias” a lot, too, for someone who is admittedly biased herself.

And I don’t care is my point.
Well, that’s good to know. I might as well stop bothering to explain it then, if you’re not going to listen.

People who subscribe to astrology may stereotype each other but then again they are all part of the community and thus have accepted those labels and willing join them. That is there choice.
It’s also the choice of racists to accept the label of master race. Does that make it ethical?

Hysteria Example.
Ah. Thank you.
Okay, granted. That was reckless of the scientists of that age.

Actually I have provided a ton of examples. You, yourself, have accepted a few.
I accepted examples of science being inherently biased? I doubt it.

Actually again I have proven them. Example: Smudging.
Haha. No.
You believe smudging proves that there is validity in belief systems that cannot backed up by science, and that science is flawed and not the end-all of arguments? The former might be sensible if by “valid” you mean something that bears no relation whatsoever to factual accuracy, but to say this tradition shows science is flawed or inconclusive is a non sequitur.

Actually every time I prove a point you move on to something else.
I’ll admit I tend to stop talking when I stop having anything sensible to say on a subject. You may consider it a point I can’t pursue further at the moment when I do.

@fireside: I don’t think it’s delusion, it’s just gullibility from ignorance. And I’d love to help people outgrow it.

fireside's avatar

So your plan to help people outgrow their gullibility, due to ignorance, is to tell them that your method of thinking is right even though they don’t have the capacity to understand it for themselves?

Fyrius's avatar

@fireside: I refuse to be so pessimistic about their capacity to understand what it takes for a belief to make sense.
Heck, what I’m proposing in the opening post isn’t even that hard to understand. Just don’t believe stuff unless you have a reason to. A toddler could learn that.

It gets complicated as the arguments get complicated. I could forgive the less intellectual for losing interest when stuff gets technical.

fireside's avatar

What constitutes a reason to believe?
We seem to have come full circle now, haven’t we?

Fyrius's avatar

@fireside: Aaand we’re back where we started.
Arguments, dude. Arguments. Empirical evidence, probability considerations, methodological principles.

fireside's avatar

So, for those who lose interest or can’t grasp critical thinking, is it okay for them to believe what they want? What happens to them?

RedPowerLady's avatar

I do not see any way how this mind-set could possibly be extended to attack any aspect of culture besides its beliefs.

But a culture is its beliefs. You can’t simply say so French Cuisine is great I love that. But there is no basis for French lit. so i’ll get rid of that. If you rid a culture of it’s beliefs or even a few of its fundamental beliefs then all you are left with is cultural components and not the culture itself. You may be left with French Cuisine and no French Culture. Because how is a culture supposed to exist without its guiding beliefs? Take a culture and tell me which parts of the culture are okay and which are not. Where do you draw the line. Most rituals cannot be proven so are you saying that “cultures” could still exist without their rituals? What exactly is okay to get rid off? And don’t just say “false beliefs”. Lets have some examples that are part of a contemporary culture.

The belief is that Oral Tradition is a necessary component of the culture. AND that Oral Tradition can pass down ceremonies that are thousands of years old without much change. And what I am arguing is that having someone write things down is indeed altering their culture in an unjustifiable way and has consequences that you do not understand. For example speaking the language less. OR the fact that it is believed some ceremonies are not to be written down. They are only allowed to be passed on through Oral Tradition. I think this is a great example as you obviously disagree that in the*belief* that Oral Tradition is necessary component of the culture.

It’s also the choice of racists to accept the label of master race. Does that make it ethical?
Again you are attempting to use circular logic. I have already stated and agreed that if a belief does physical harm or mass cultural harm then it is subject to having to prove itself. Obviously this example harms people in that way. While followers of astrology subscribe and choose to be part of a circle that uses certain labels for one another. AND lets get real. Astrologists don’t go out killing non-astrologists just for that fact.

The former might be sensible if by “valid” you mean something that bears no relation whatsoever to factual accuracy, but to say this tradition shows science is flawed or inconclusive is a non sequitur.

I did not say at one time that smudging was scientific. I said that it proved my point because it was not scientific but still a “valid” belief because of reasons I explained previously. Of course my argument is that this act is a valid belief that does not hold up to the methods of science. And thus I have explained how something can be valid without holding up to science (as you said I have not done).

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Fyrius

Maybe this will help clarify.

@crisw did a great job of summarizing the argument and getting it back on track as we have taken way to many non-sequitors

You can believe whatever you want. That doesn’t mean that I have to think that your beliefs are either accurate or true. For a rather trite example, I think walnuts are delicious. That doesn’t mean that you have to agree, or that it’s true that walnuts are delicious. My belief isn’t hurting anyone and doesn’t impact my ability to make logical decisions, therefore there’s no real need for anyone to disabuse me of that belief. You even have the right to think I am silly for liking those yucky walnuts, but not to stop me from liking them.

However, as soon as your beliefs affect others in any negative way, they do require justification. Yes, that includes “inconvenience” as well as “violent harm.” I think the issue here is just what that justification can be. I will maintain that it must be logical.

My argument is that logical does not mean the need for science.
I believe your argument is that it does mean the need for science.

I also want to re-emphasize this as it has been brought up countless times and it re-establishes my point.

I don’t claim to be able to disprove the scientific method or any of that genre itself. My point is that it can be manipulated for wrongdoing and often is. That’s it. That’s my entire point. And because it can be manipulated or is subject to bias it should not be the only valid criteria for determination.

In addition to this I believe the example of smudging provides a good avenue for talking about a belief that is valid but does not hold up to scientific rigor.

I see no point in continuing any of the other side arguments unless we can relate it directly back to these points (or start the side argument in a different thread, haha).

Fyrius's avatar

@fireside: Well… they have a bit of a problem. I still don’t think it’s okay for them to believe anything they want.
I notice that when I myself get alienated into disinterest by technical texts, I tend to just take their word for it. This is a flaw, absolutely, I admit that. But it’s still preferable to disregarding the technobabble altogether and believing whatever tickles your fancy.

@RedPowerLady: So you’re saying a culture without its baloney is not a culture at all? Of course it’s just “cultural components”, but the whole thing just consists of components too. This way it would just be somewhat less components in the whole.

Take a culture and tell me which parts of the culture are okay and which are not. Where do you draw the line.
For any culture, unfounded beliefs are not okay, the rest is okay. And please stop bothering me with questions I’ve answered many times already.

Most rituals cannot be proven so are you saying that “cultures” could still exist without their rituals?
Rituals are not beliefs, they are only founded on beliefs. You can still practice rituals if you don’t believe they have the magical powers your ancestors ascribed to them.

And don’t just say “false beliefs”. Lets have some examples that are part of a contemporary culture.
So you did know the answer.
Examples? Well, sure. There’s astrology…
There’s also Creationism, psychics, channelers, homeopathy and most of other alternative medicine. All things that are believed to work despite not standing a chance against sceptical scrutiny.

The belief is that Oral Tradition is a necessary component of the culture. AND that Oral Tradition can pass down ceremonies that are thousands of years old without much change. And what I am arguing is that having someone write things down is indeed altering their culture in an unjustifiable way and has consequences that you do not understand. For example speaking the language less. OR the fact that it is believed some ceremonies are not to be written down. They are only allowed to be passed on through Oral Tradition. I think this is a great example as you obviously disagree that in the*belief* that Oral Tradition is necessary component of the culture.
Well, those are fine arguments in favour of oral tradition.
So that bit of culture wouldn’t have much to worry about.

I have already stated and agreed that if a belief does physical harm or mass cultural harm then it is subject to having to prove itself. Obviously this example harms people in that way.
Well, not necessarily. There could be racists who don’t physically harm people of “lesser” races but still look down on them.

AND lets get real. Astrologists don’t go out killing non-astrologists just for that fact.
No, that’s true, it doesn’t get that extreme. But you can find contact ads saying “Tauruses need not apply”.
Not going to turn that into a slippery slope argument, though, because that’s a fallacy.

I said that it proved my point because it was not scientific but still a “valid” belief because of reasons I explained previously.
Recapitulate what made it valid, please. And please include your definition of validity while you’re at it.

My argument is that logical does not mean the need for science.
I believe your argument is that it does mean the need for science.
Actually I have no idea how this thread ended up so hung up on science… I shouldn’t be arguing that all arguments must in principle come from science. Of course in practice scientific arguments are the strongest ones, because the very point of science is to find out the truth.
But my point is that people shouldn’t believe things without having good reasons to believe them. That’s it, that’s my entire point.

Heck, I don’t even care if they decide for themselves what good reasons are. It’s just this mind-set that falls for anything that sounds cool enough that makes me lose confidence in our species.

fireside's avatar

Is what you are proposing any different from what is already taking place slowly over centuries?

How long do you think it would take for all the critical thinkers in the world to discuss all of the cultural “baloney” and come to a consensus on what ideas should be disseminated to the masses who are not interested in following the method?

How long do you think it would take to disseminate that information to the masses and convince them that this was what should be believed because it had been arrived at by a logical process of peer review?

Is America’s motto “the land of the free and home of the brave” part of that cultural baloney?

What if I told you my religion stressed many of the same ideas that you are presenting?
———
“Furthermore, know ye that God has created in man the power of reason whereby man is enabled to investigate reality. God has not intended man to blindly imitate his fathers and ancestors. He has endowed him with mind or the faculty of reasoning by the exercise of which he is to investigate and discover the truth; and that which he finds real and true, he must accept. He must not be an imitator or blind follower of any soul. He must not rely implicitly upon the opinion of any man without investigation; nay, each soul must seek intelligently and independently, arriving at a real conclusion and bound only by that reality. The greatest cause of bereavement and disheartening in the world of humanity is ignorance based upon blind imitation. It is due to this that wars and battles prevail; from this cause hatred and animosity arise continually among mankind.”
Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity
———
Just more cultural baloney to wade through? Or would it make sense to disseminate that message while the critical thinkers of the world are getting geared up for the big think down?

Fyrius's avatar

@fireside: Is what you are proposing any different from what is already taking place slowly over centuries?
If any such thing is taking place, not really. But I’m afraid the people of our time are only becoming more superstitious and trust science less.

How long do you think it would take for all the critical thinkers in the world to discuss all of the cultural “baloney” and come to a consensus on what ideas should be disseminated to the masses who are not interested in following the method?
Critical thinkers coming to a consensus? Er…
Well, no time soon. But then this is not what I propose, an intellectual elite deliberately expunging false beliefs.

Is America’s motto “the land of the free and home of the brave” part of that cultural baloney?
Oh yes. Not to mention that its implication that the only or most free and brave people are Americans is insufferably arrogant to boot.
But then I’m European.

What if I told you my religion stressed many of the same ideas that you are presenting?
I’d commend your religion for these aspects.

[quote from Adu’l-Baha]
Hear, hear!
Oh, if only this were the dominant view among all the religious, what a great world this would be.

Just more cultural baloney to wade through?
Why would this be baloney? It’s not even making any assertions about the real world.
Well, except the parts that involve god. And yeah, those are more baloney. But that’s a subject for another time.
And there’s the statements it makes about what causes bereavement, disheartening, wars and hatred and whatnot. That could do with some citations.

fireside's avatar

But I’m afraid the people of our time are only becoming more superstitious and trust science less.
Really? We have space exploration, stem cells, clones…
That seems to be an advancement over flat earth, leeching and um, well…

Critical thinkers coming to a consensus? Er…
Hence my statement about your idealized fantasy world. But now that you have clarified…

an intellectual elite
Like TED?
Oh, the prophet of my religion says something about that too:

“If the learned and worldly-wise men of this age were to allow mankind to inhale the fragrance of fellowship and love, every understanding heart would apprehend the meaning of true liberty, and discover the secret of undisturbed peace and absolute composure.”
Bahá’u’lláh

Oh, if only this were the dominant view among all the religious, what a great world this would be.
I agree, but then that’s my idealized fantasy world.
One that I feel will help move humanity along the right path.
Hopefully, I won’t be disabused of my spiritual/cultural beliefs any time soon.

—————
“If religious beliefs and opinions are found contrary to the standards of science, they are mere superstitions and imaginations; for the antithesis of knowledge is ignorance, and the child of ignorance is superstition. Unquestionably there must be agreement between true religion and science. If a question be found contrary to reason, faith and belief in it are impossible, and there is no outcome but wavering and vacillation.”
`Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Fyrius

Okay I’m not even going to touch the rest of it because we obviously do not agree and frankly your ideas about getting rid of belief systems that don’t hold up to certain standards scares me because my people have been through this by many means and by many names and for many reasons and the results have been icky and often quite scary.

But my point is that people shouldn’t believe things without having good reasons to believe them

And we fundamentally disagree on what is a “good reason” and what is not a “good reason”. I also argue that it is not your place to say what one should or shouldn’t believe if it is not causing anyone or any culture serious harm. Emphasize the word serious. Because we are all capable of making our own choices and as humans we have the right to make stupid ones. And you know what we don’t have to agree. You just leave me alone and let me have my magic, and illogical thoughts, and beliefs. Dreamcatchers and all. And I’ll leave you alone and let you have your science and your beliefs. You can keep getting irritated at all of us phoney baloneys. I know I will likely keep getting irritated at all of the people who believe science is best and that I should have to prove my beliefs to them.

I just don’t see a point where we are going to come to an agreement here. I think the most we have agreed on is that if it causes someone serious harm then the belief should have to be proved. Of course we didn’t agree on what serious harm is or what proved should entail but there you have it. Two fundamentally different ways of looking at the world.

fireside's avatar

@RedPowerLady – I see nothing wrong with your beliefs. I normally smudge my apartments when I move in and have a small dreamcatcher in my bedroom. : )

RedPowerLady's avatar

@fireside Thank you very much :)

I want to say that I think your arguments/statements are very well worded and clear.

fireside's avatar

@RedPowerLady – Thanks, I thought you made a lot of good points too.

Fyrius's avatar

@fireside: Really? We have space exploration, stem cells, clones…
That seems to be an advancement over flat earth, leeching and um, well…
Yes. :) That’s true. And that sort of thing gives me confidence in the intellectual competence of our species again. The history of science teaches us there isn’t much we can’t eventually learn to understand, and not much we can’t eventually figure out a way to do.
But at the same time, where scientifically supported medicine was once without contest, it is now being abandoned in favour of methods that either have never been tested or have failed their tests. Some people don’t trust science any more.
And then there are once again the Creationists (sorry, they’re my greatest pet peeve), and specifically their followers who don’t know the first things about biology but nonetheless honestly believe they are qualified to judge a complicated but well-established scientific model that has stood its ground against professional criticism and dominated biology since before they were born.

Critical thinkers coming to a consensus? Er…
Hence my statement about your idealized fantasy world.
Lol, okay.

an intellectual elite
Like TED?
I don’t know, you’re the one who started talking about elites. I was saying this is not my proposal.

Oh, the prophet of my religion says something about that too
Which religion is that, by the way? I’m curious.

@RedPowerLady: You just leave me alone and let me have my magic, and illogical thoughts, and beliefs. Dreamcatchers and all. And I’ll leave you alone and let you have your science and your beliefs.
That would sound like a good deal if my scientific beliefs were nearly as vulnerable as your magical ones. But things being as they are, you can’t pretend avoiding the confrontation would make us even.

I just don’t see a point where we are going to come to an agreement here.
I’m afraid you have a point there. We’re moving around in circles, each restating our arguments over and over again without making any progress in the discussion any more.
I have half a mind to just give up, agree to disagree and go do something more productive.

(Man, I hate agreeing to disagree.)

As a side note… I have a small dreamcatcher in my bedroom too. :P It makes a nice ornament.
I persist in not believing it affects my dreams one iota though.

mattbrowne's avatar

@fireside and @RedPowerLady – The actions of some creationists are offensive, not the beliefs. Yes, that’s exactly what I meant, in particular the action trying to become part of science which is very offensive, foolish and dangerous. The belief as such remains relatively harmless.

@Fyrius: I picked the Dark Ages because they were preceded by people like Plato, Socrates, Aristotle and Eratosthenes. Did something similar happen before the Bronze Age? At least we haven’t found any evidence yet. Imagine the experiment by Eratosthenes using the casts of shadows in two different towns to calculate the circumference of the Earth. Now compare that to the alleged age of the Grand Canyon (6000 years of turbo-erosion). Progress is not guaranteed. Some humans obviously have the capability to reverse it.

Fyrius's avatar

@mattbrowne: I see what you mean. Even though it’s originally a Bronze Age belief, the Dark Ages illustrate better what kind of developmental harm it can do to cling to an obsolete world view while our understanding of the world develops in completely different directions.

fireside's avatar

@Fyrius & @mattbrowne -

Creationism
Does anyone know of statistics proving that there has been a rise in creationist belief? I did a quick search but all I found were atheistic websites that are using a few examples repeatedly. Without some statistics, I would wonder if this isn’t more manipulation through marketing.

Supposing there is an actual rise in Creationist beliefs, I say the only way to move the discussion forward is to offer a Comparative World Religions course in schools where a section of the curriculum can be dedicated to Creation. There is nothing to be gained by trying to ignore or shout down the argument, it can only be examined by side by side comparison with other religious beliefs. This is not to say that I would support it as curriculum in a science class.

But, much like my belief that ignoring dictators only gives them power, I think that people should be exposed to the discussion in a classroom setting, rather than on the internet which can be just as segmented as religion. Something that has been found to lead to discord on a global scale should surely be studied.

Which religion is that, by the way?
I found the Baha’i faith last year and was struck by the amount of writings that agreed with the inner truths I had come to believe in over the years, so I’ve been a Baha’i for almost a year now.

mattbrowne's avatar

@fireside – 15 minutes of Google search: nothing or little to answer the question. No statistics about how many creationists are out there. The only statistic available is the percentage of scientists (with a university degree) who believe in creationism. The numbers vary between 0.05% and 5%. I’d say 1% is realistic for the US. In Germany creationism is almost non-existent, same in France and the UK. There’s supposedly a small movement in Italy.

Yes, I’m in favor of discussions and classes especially for kids with creationist parents. It should not be done in biology classes, but any other classroom setting is fine (when discussing society and ethics and so forth). This is an interesting website:

http://www.religioustolerance.org

fireside's avatar

@mattbrowne – thanks for checking, I had found much of the same thing. I wonder if it isn’t just being trumped up to sell books against creationism.

I’ve seen that site before and agree that it has some good information. Disappointed to see that the Bahai’s aren’t on there, but not surprised since it is a pretty unknown religion still, despite the fact that there are around 7 million believers worldwide, according to http://adherents.com/Religions_By_Adherents.html

Not bad for a religion that is only 150 years old!

mattbrowne's avatar

@fireside – I read the ‘The Bahá’í Faith’ page and do like the message. There’s a lot of overlap with non-dogmatic interpretations of other religions. And I think it’s possible to create a universal spiritual civilization and keep the roots at the same time. It might take another couple of decades. A somewhat similar approach is Prof. Hans Kueng’s Global Ethic Foundation or ‘Weltethos’

http://www.weltethos.org/dat-english/index.htm

crisw's avatar

@fireside

“Disappointed to see that the Bahai’s aren’t on there, ”
Actually, they are.

fireside's avatar

@crisw – That’s funny, I somehow missed them on the list of world religions, even though they are at the top. Now that I see the Baha’i page, I have been to half the links on there, lol. thanks!

@mattbrowne – Thanks for the link, I’ll check it out. There’s also the Charter for Compassion from Karen Armstrong and TED which looks interesting.

crisw's avatar

@fireside
I’ve been visiting that site for years; they have an amazing amount of stuff- it’s just sometimes a pain to find it!

mattbrowne's avatar

Since we’re exchanging lots of interesting links, here’s another one:

http://www.amazon.com/Left-Hand-God-Country-Religious/dp/B000NNXX30/

A wonderful book I read about a year ago. I like Michael Lerner’s ambitious proposal called a “Spiritual Covenant with America.”

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Fyrius

you can’t pretend avoiding the confrontation would make us even

Well you shouldn’t pretend you are better than me because your beliefs are based in science. This statement is derogatory. And frankly that is the component that freaks me out. I hope you are never in a position to use your stance to affect the lives of others.

BTW I thought your ideal world was about equality not superiority?? Perhaps this is a need you should examine in yourself?

Anyhow I am perfectly happy with my beliefs. Even if they don’t meet your standards.
Thank you very much.

Fyrius's avatar

@RedPowerLady: Well you shouldn’t pretend you are better than me because your beliefs are based in science.
Oh, I’m not saying I’m better than you. I’m saying my beliefs are more reliable than yours. I think that might be something you’ve been doing wrong this entire thread; taking it personally.

People are equal in value. Beliefs are not.

Fyrius's avatar

In case there are still people wondering what constitute good and bad reasons for believing things, I remembered just now I once read an article that answered this question excellently, appropriately named “Good And Bad Reasons For Believing”.
Five pages. I’ve uploaded it here.

fireside's avatar

So, I’m still not clear on why you would want to disrespect someone’s beliefs if those beliefs have no effect on you? When you challenge someone’s beliefs, you challenge their persona and their image of themselves. It is not much different than someone telling you that you are ugly or stupid.

Do you think there is more to be gained by disagreeing with someone than there is by honoring where they are on their path through life?

I don’t think I got an answer to this either:
If something helps a person to find the strength to carry on, why would you want to take that away? Whether it be astrology, religion, philosophy or psychology?

crisw's avatar

@Fyrius

Your link doesn’t seem to work. I’ve read that essay before, but if anyone else wants to and the link doesn’t work for them, try here.

Fyrius's avatar

@fireside: For one thing, one’s belief always have some influence on things that matter. If only because people believing bizarre things and getting respected for it all the time create an atmosphere where not-yet-deluded people will not have any inhibitions towards falling for anything.
For another, it’s not a good sign of mental health if one’s entire self-image hinges on one proposition being true, let alone if that proposition would be seriously threatened by sceptical evaluation.

Do you think there is more to be gained by disagreeing with someone than there is by honoring where they are on their path through life?
It’s not disagreement for its own sake that I advocate, of course. I advocate scepticism, and if that leads to disagreement, so be it.
And yes, I do think there would be more to gain from confronting people about beliefs that don’t add up than there would be to gain from looking the other way.

I don’t think I got an answer to this either:
If something helps a person to find the strength to carry on, why would you want to take that away?
I did answer that. I granted that in the rare kind of situation where people really need their beliefs in order to stay alive, they are excused in my books.
But then, most people do have the luxury to doubt their beliefs. And they have no excuse.

@crisw: It works fine for me. :/ It’s a PDF you’d have to download first.
But your link is more convenient. Thanks.

fireside's avatar

So, I go back to something like AA, which is a spiritually based program.
Do you find that to be one of those times where their beliefs help them carry on, and even stay alive in some cases?

How do you draw the line between telling everyone who believes in “God”, regardless of what they envision when they say “God”, that they have no basis for their beliefs unless you analyze their specific conceptions and also analyze the impact of challenging those beliefs?

Where do you determine the point of “luxury to doubt their beliefs” starts?
Is it the same for everyone?

The link worked for me and I found the first part to directly reflect the Baha’i messages. The part I disagree about is the actual danger posed by people who find that faith in God and being part of a loving community helps them.

You also said earlier that you are okay with people falling for what you tell them, as long as what they fall for is in line with what you want them to believe. You also seem prone to believe what you hear from some perceived authority when you suggest the rise in Creationism without citing any statistics.

Also, I’m not questioning the premise that examined beliefs are important, I just don’t think that is something that all people have the same capacity for doing. I also think that starting from a position of looking at the differences is more productive towards building unity than looking at the commonalities.

fireside's avatar

Not to take away from my other questions, but on what do you base this statement:

“I do think there would be more to gain from confronting people about beliefs that don’t add up than there would be to gain from looking the other way.”

Fyrius's avatar

@fireside: So, I go back to something like AA, which is a spiritually based program.
Do you find that to be one of those times where their beliefs help them carry on, and even stay alive in some cases?
I don’t know, man.
I guess it is a positive cause, and an example of commendable constructive ambition amplified by “spiritual” beliefs. But I think it only shows that constructive ambition is compatible with any world view, be it a realistic one or not.
And truth be told, if the “spiritual” basis of this program is really what convinces its members to quit drinking, I think that’s a bit like tricking them into it with deceptive stories. Even if the cause is good, that’s a questionable way to get there.
Then again, if the founders actually believe the spirit stuff themselves, deception is not something you can blame them for. They’re not doing it on purpose anyway.
I should probably make some lame pun about the word “spirit” also being a term for alcoholic beverages, but I can’t find a good one.

How do you draw the line between telling everyone who believes in “God”, regardless of what they envision when they say “God”, that they have no basis for their beliefs unless you analyze their specific conceptions and also analyze the impact of challenging those beliefs?
(I’m still waiting for a second element, in order to have two things to draw the line between.)
Anyway, who’s talking about arguing against every definition of god with only one argument? Each definition would of course need to be sceptically evaluated separately.
Heck, i’ve come across plenty of definitions of “god” that are so vague you can’t even argue about them at all in either direction. It makes the statement “god exists” really easy to believe in if people keep shifting the goalposts in whatever direction suits them.

Where do you determine the point of “luxury to doubt their beliefs” starts?
Is it the same for everyone?
I was thinking of life-and-death situations.
I’d consider including situations of mortal fear that gullible beliefs might alleviate, but then, that’s actually the worst kind of situation in which to start speculating. (“I hear it helps against pig flu if you drink half a litre of ammonia daily.”)

The part I disagree about is the actual danger posed by people who find that faith in God and being part of a loving community helps them.
You think there’s no harm in large groups of people who collectively subscribe to completely unfounded assertions about the real world, and refuse to consider the possibility that they might be wrong?
How about Northern Ireland, where two religious groups have been killing each other for centuries on end because the other group believes the same things in slightly different ways? How about the Israel/Palestine issue, where two religious groups slaughter each other every day because one group believes god told them they could have the land the other group lives on? How about religious fundamentalists who fly airplanes into tall buildings, or blow themselves to what they are so sure is Kingdom Come in busy train stations?
And for that matter, how about crusades, witch hunts or the Spanish Inquisition?
In so many cases, unfounded belief plus unquestioning faith plus power is a recipe for disaster. And these things are all often found in organised religious groups.

I’m afraid not all religious groups are as peace-loving and constructive as yours.

You also said earlier that you are okay with people falling for what you tell them, as long as what they fall for is in line with what you want them to believe.
If I did, I’m pretty sure I didn’t phrase it like that… I think you were thinking of this:

Well… they have a bit of a problem. I still don’t think it’s okay for them to believe anything they want.
I notice that when I myself get alienated into disinterest by technical texts, I tend to just take their word for it. This is a flaw, absolutely, I admit that. But it’s still preferable to disregarding the technobabble altogether and believing whatever tickles your fancy.
That’s not the same as saying I’m okay with them believing whatever I want them to believe, even if for no good reason. That would be the polar opposite of the very point I’m trying to make in this thread.
And I resent that you would misrepresent my statements like that.

You also seem prone to believe what you hear from some perceived authority when you suggest the rise in Creationism without citing any statistics.
Touché.

Also, I’m not questioning the premise that examined beliefs are important, I just don’t think that is something that all people have the same capacity for doing.
Yes. And you may be right there. Or maybe not.
Either way I’m not going to be that pessimistic about it beforehand.

I also think that starting from a position of looking at the differences is more productive towards building unity than looking at the commonalities.
Spoken like a Baha’i.
But I have to ask, why bother trying to build unity from disparate cultural beliefs? In order to find the truth, I’m not convinced it would achieve a lot to merge all of mankind’s oldest guesses that some people still cleave to. They have no particular credibility individually, and their sum would not ipso facto have any more. I’d rather put my money on those who abandon cultural beliefs and turn to investigating the world for themselves.

“Truth, like gold, is to be obtained not by its growth, but by washing away from it all that is not gold.” – Leo Tolstoy

on what do you base this statement:
“I do think there would be more to gain from confronting people about beliefs that don’t add up than there would be to gain from looking the other way.”
On the optimistic hope that it’s not too late for these people to come to terms with reality.

Sorry for the long post.

fireside's avatar

I don’t buy that Israel/Palestine or Northern Ireland or even the Crusades were entirely about religious belief. I feel that those are also about by power and control. Take away the religious aspect and there is no reason to assume that the fight for territory would abate. Gangs kill people over the color of their hat, you can’t assume that religion is the only reason for aggression just because it is part of what is used to manipulate people’s emotions.

When you argue against belief and not action then you are essentially arguing about someone’s concept of God. As you said, it is hard to argue against the idea that God Exists because you are discussing concept.

So given Ockham’s razor, is the simpler explanation that God appears to all people differently or that God doesn’t exist?

Just like Tolstoy’s quotation, the Baha’i vision of God is one that washes away the parts that are not true because the aspect of progressive revelation tells us that we need to adhere to the common spiritual foundation but have an updated cultural vision of what is needed to bring mankind together.

God is defined in Merriam Webster’s dictionary as “the supreme or ultimate reality” so is your optimistic hope that people come to terms with reality any different than mine?

When considering the harm that religious beliefs cause and your desire to talk people out of them, do you consider the community aspect of their beliefs? Do you have a proposal for replacing that community or is that not important to your idea of people coming to terms with reality?

Fyrius's avatar

@fireside: I don’t buy that Israel/Palestine or Northern Ireland or even the Crusades were entirely about religious belief. (...) you can’t assume that religion is the only reason for aggression just because it is part of what is used to manipulate people’s emotions.
It’s certainly true that people will form tribes about anything. (Heck, gaming consoles do the trick.)
But it would be hard to deny that religious bigotry at least plays a major role in amplifying these conflicts. Wouldn’t most of the Palestinian issue be solved if the Jewish would acknowledge that a religious text their own ancestors wrote are not a valid IOU?(1) Would the Northern Irish vendetta even have gotten off the ground if Christianity hadn’t split into Catholics and Protestants?
And there are still the suicide bombers (take away heaven and you take away their motive), witch hunts (a direct result of superstition) and the Spanish Inquisition (without religion there’d be no heretics left to burn at the stake).
(1) Do correct me if my knowledge of this issue is too simplistic.

So given Ockham’s razor, is the simpler explanation that God appears to all people differently or that God doesn’t exist?
Combined with some elementary psychology, it would certainly be a simpler explanation to say people made him up.
All people have the same tendency to believe in higher powers hard-wired into their brains (verifiable scientific finding – see again this lecture), and being spread across the globe, they all came up with different speculations driven by this innate tendency. That all fits well.
Moreover, the statement “god exists” may sound simple, but by involving the word “god” it contains the immense amount of assumptions needed to define god. (I once wrote them all down. The core definition alone – omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, eternal, created the universe – consists of a minimum of eleven basic assumptions, and that’s not even counting what specific religions ascribe to him. I’ll copy-paste the lot if you’re interested.)

God is defined in Merriam Webster’s dictionary as “the supreme or ultimate reality” so is your optimistic hope that people come to terms with reality any different than mine?
Quite so, because I think Merriam Webster’s definition is full of shit.

When considering the harm that religious beliefs cause and your desire to talk people out of them, do you consider the community aspect of their beliefs? Do you have a proposal for replacing that community or is that not important to your idea of people coming to terms with reality?
Let me say again that I’m not arguing here for talking people out of their beliefs. I’m arguing for confronting them about their beliefs and making them defend those. If they can actually do this to a reasonable degree, so much the better.
With that said, surely there must be plenty of possible replacement memes that could see to community cohesion just like religion does. Perceived common personality (“can’t help it, us Dutch people are stingy”), principles and values (“we are the land of the free and the brave”) or even inside jokes (“longcat is looong”) do the trick nicely.
This goes to show from the fact that there are coherent atheist communities too, as well as coherent multi-religion communities.

fireside's avatar

Fair enough, you are free to hold to your belief that confronting people about their beliefs will lead to a better world.

I’ll continue to believe that this will only lead to more confrontation and just create one more divisive faction adding their voice to the tensions.

crisw's avatar

@fireside

The problem with the AA example is that AA is largely ineffective. I have a friend who is an addiction counselor, and she often rails against the establishment’s almost-automatic acceptance of AA, when most of the research that’s been conducted shows it doesn’t work. It’s a great example of a belief that is harmful because it isn’t backed up by evidence. Alcoholics are routinely assigbed to AA based n an unfounded belief that it works, rather than to programs that research has shown to actually be more effective.

For some of the documentation on the ineffectiveness of AA, you can start here.

fireside's avatar

@crisw – I really don’t know anything about AA except from ancedotal evidence that it has worked, but I know you’d want articles on their stories.

As I said above:
You are free to hold to your belief that confronting people about their beliefs will lead to a better world. I’ll continue to believe that this will only lead to more confrontation and just create one more divisive faction adding their voice to the tensions.

Honestly, I don’t see this discussion going anywhere. I say respect is more important than confrontation as long as respect is being given. You guys disagree and presume that without confrontation, respect may at some point not be given.

Fyrius's avatar

I say respect is for people, not beliefs.

fireside's avatar

You are free to hold to your belief that confronting people about their beliefs will lead to a better world.

Fyrius's avatar

And that kind of remark annoys the heck out of me.

(If you’re doing that on purpose, well played.)

ninjacolin's avatar

@BBSDTfamily ”@ninjacolin Wrong. I thought about my beliefs, and some of them I do choose.”

no, i doubt you are correct. give me an example.

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