[FoRK] Open Question: Earth vs. ______?

Lion Kimbro <lionkimbro at gmail.com> on Sun Jun 24 15:50:21 PDT 2007

On 6/24/07, Stephen D. Williams <sdw at lig.net> wrote:
> >  You're not- you think you've got a clenching, all pervading "proof."
> Lack of proof proof.

  Your "lack of proof proof" is not a proof;  It's something more akin
  to a limerick, like, "I'm rubber, and you're glue, anything you say bounces
  off of me, and sticks on you."


> >  But you can't actually do it.
> Dawkins...

  Here's the thing:  Dawkin's is a dude, not a counter-argument.

  There's simply no good proof that the totality of the universe, seen and
  studied by science, is even "the real universe."  Questions of realism
  are not scientific questions, but that doesn't mean that they aren't questions
  that people find important.

  You say, "Those questions aren't USEFUL," but that implies that you know
  what the person wants:  Something is useful if it helps you get to something
  that you want.

  If what you want to know is, "What is real?", which, in my book, is one of
  the fundamental questions of humanity, than inquiries towards answering
  that question are useful.

  Answering such is probably not done with science (rather, philosophy,
  epistemology, etc., etc.,) and, as Jeff says, may leave you "on your own,"
  but this hardly invalidates the question itself.


  You feel bold, answering "Dawkins," without being able to actually recount
  his arguments for challenge.

  The simple fact is, you hold no cards here.

  We do not have a way of evaluating a "probability" of the reality of this
  universe or another.


  You could argue, "Well, science shows us that the universe is 13.7 billion
  years old."  I could respond, "What's 13.7 billion, to a trillion
trillion?  Stick
  on a few trillion more of those, for good measure.  Now your 13.7 billion
  years are just a passing daydream."

  You say, "Well, it doesn't matter, then, if it's real or not."  And
I say, "Not
  to you, but I have some questions I like to consider, whether they meet
  *your* fancy, or no."


  If you want to go around saying, "I know, for a certainty, that there's no
  God, or, at least, mathematically, that it's highly improbable."  You won't
  mind me going around saying, "No, you don't.  You're just saying that, to
  puff up big."


> >  If you can't get from "There's no evidence of God" to "Therefore,
> >  it's very likely that there's no God," then all that effort in pointing
> >  out "There's no evidence of God" is basically pointless.
> It follows directly.  Things that have no evidence are unlikely to be
> true, and are false as far as we know.  It's a simple rule.
> What's the problem?

  It does *NOT* follow directly.  Not to be dense, but you're going to
  have to explain your algebra for me, presenting me with some sort
  of way of evaluating the probabilities of such things.


  But you can't do it, so you just recite, "Dawkins, Dawkins, Dawkins."

  "Bible, bible, bible."


> >  Can you do it in *time* to be relevant?
> How does time related to a "messed up context".
> You're trying to misdirect here.

  Not at all, though this is a completely different discussion.

  Intelligence takes time.
  This is the crucial fact.

  If intelligence cannot answer the question in time enough to
  be relevant, but keeps plowing along anyways, then it has
  the answer to the question in a fundamentally different context.

  A different question may be more important at the future
  context.

  This isn't rocket science.


> Plenty of scientists have hard numbers
> one way or the other on those questions, so apparently it can be in
> time, unless that time has passed.

  No, it's nothing so simple.  Evaluating global warming has required
  the conjunction of at least several thousands of scientists worth of
  data.

  Furthermore, there is a lot of defeasible reasoning that has to be undertaken:
  Challenges to interpretations of data, and so on.

  Then there is the work of proving that the process is fair, in such a way
  that people will accept the results, and so on.

  If you cannot do the work within time, you find yourself in "a different
  context."


  Reasoning is not something that happens instantaneously, not within
  an individual, and certainly not within a society.

  And so, any given inquiry can find itself "out of context" by the time
  it's completed.

  Nick Bostrom's website has a good explanation of this idea on his
  front page:  http://www.nickbostrom.com/


> >  So, what do you do in the meantime?  Do people just put all
> >  their dreams on hold, because some scientists think this "might"
> >  be an issue?
> What are you talking about?

  I hope you're not just being intentionally dense:

  Global warming.  People don't want regulations at the foot of legislation
  to combat global warming, if they're not convinced that it's real, because
  it gets in the way of what they want to do.

  In India, there's a company making $4,000 cars, perhaps $2,600 cars.
  Imagine if they were told to stop, because of Global Warming, or something?
  Then that would get in the way of the dreams of the auto manufacturer,
  would it not?


> >  And that's not even possible:  People are not so easily controlled
> >  by a single government or movie.
> >
> >  So we live in tension between dreams and ideals and trusts and
> >  other "soft" stuff.
> >
> >  The "hard" stuff is expensive, and doesn't always work, because
> >  the soft context it lives in can render it meaningless, irrelevant,
> >  and so on.
> Huh?

  Maybe we can go over this slowly:

  Let's start with:  "The Hard stuff is expensive."

  That is, performing science, research, taking measurements, the
  process of rationalizing some thing to some end:  It is an expense,
  is it not?

  "Logic" doesn't come for free;  You have to test ideas and so on,
  no?


  Or, as Nick Bostrom said (I hope you can hold him in some trust,)

  "As things stand, one is left to make a half-hearted compromise
   between recklessness and paralysis."

  THAT is what is to live "in tension between dreams and ideals
  and trusts and other "soft" stuff."


> >   There are pockets of rationality, but they live in a sea of reason.
> Rationality == the systematic employment of evidentiary and scientific
> reason.

  What I'm challenging you to understand, is that scientific rationality is
  not a solid rock, save for answering "What's out there?  How does the
  natural world work?"

  It doesn't answer questions of ethics for us.
    (And remember your Hume: Is Ain't Ought.)
  It doesn't tell us what the future will be.
  It doesn't tell us what's real (ultimately,) and what's not.
  It doesn't even do mathematics for us.
  It doesn't tell us I should relate to other people.
  It doesn't tell us what humanity is.
  It doesn't tell us what's important, and what's not.

  People struggle with these questions.

  (You might not;  Should that not be the case, I suppose there's
   nothing I can do to cure you of your inhumanity.)

  Science and technology can help us map out these questions.
  More broadly, thinking can help us map out these questions, and
  figure things out.

  ---


  Your problem is that you're overreaching.

  You could have, for example, just gone through arguments to say,
  "Look, there's no good evidence that this Jesus stuff happened;
   Science has looked, but hasn't found any evidence of angels or
   reincarnation and so on;  ...  blah blah blah...  Besides, the God you're
   talking about is a bit of a dick, anyways, throwing people into eternal
   hell just for not believing in him.  Ergo:  I don't believe."

  No, instead, you have to go into territories totally unfamiliar to you,
  and then say, "I KNOW for certain, that any God does not exist;  Or at
  least, I have divined the method of calculating the probability of there
  being ANY God, and that number is... Low."

  Yah right.  Yah right!

  You're full of it!

  I'm calling you on it!

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