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Benny
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Re: religion  
« Reply #100 on: May 15th, 2009, 3:54pm »
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on May 15th, 2009, 1:34pm, rmsgrey wrote:

On that note, what would you consider to be a concrete proof of the existence of dark matter?

 
"dark matter" is beyond my understanding. I'm not a physicist.
 
What I know is: scientists believe that dark matter exists, that it has a mass, that it is something we cannot directly see, and that they, Physicists and cosmologists, study dark matter by looking at the effects it has on visible objects.
 
 
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Re: religion  
« Reply #101 on: Jul 24th, 2009, 11:23pm »
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Religion?
 
Is religion something that survived from man's primitive past ?
 
Are there rational explanations for the success of religions?
 
Or do you view religion as a category of behavior largely immune to the rational calculus?
 
True or False?  
Religion is doomed to disappear in era of science and general enlightment?
 
Religion may be defined, in a broad sense, as something that provides a framework for one's values or some purpose to one's life
 
It appears that no one can live entirely free from a framework of meaning.
 
But it is a fact that not all religions require a God, as Judaism, Islam or Christianity do.
 
Philosophy provides a framework for one's values or some purpose to one's life ... so does Psychology
 
What about Economics? Economics does it, too!
 
So we have at least 3 competing intellectual disciplines: Philosophy, Psychology and Economics.
 
Any other discipline?
 
Would you vote for economics?
 
I'd vote for economics.
 
Many economists explain the nature of the world in economic terms ... economists could be the new priests
 
Is this outrageous?
 
Have your say.
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Re: religion  
« Reply #102 on: Jul 25th, 2009, 5:08am »
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on Jul 24th, 2009, 11:23pm, BenVitale wrote:
Is religion something that survived from man's primitive past ?
Many religions are the result of a cultural evolution that has gone on for thousands, if not tens or hundreds of thousands, of years. If that's what you mean.
But new one's keep popping up; like Scientology. One can't call that one a remnant of the primitive past.
 
Quote:
Are there rational explanations for the success of religions?
There are numerous scientific explanation for why religion might exist, and is probably unavoidable in the human species.  
For example, neurological research has shown that stimulating the brain in certain ways with magnetic fields produces religious experiences (e.g. a sense of presence and out of body experience). And, furthermore, people are natural pattern recognizers; even if there is no actual pattern they'll find one (this is known to Discordians as the aneristic illusion). So it's easy to think why they might sense the influence of something greater, an all-encompassing pattern.
 
Quote:
Or do you view religion as a category of behavior largely immune to the rational calculus?
Life is largely immune to rational calculus. Irrationality is a much faster and efficient method, provided the heuristics are in tune with the environment. Calculation is for organisms and (other) machines that have time to waste.
 
Quote:
True or False?  
Religion is doomed to disappear in era of science and general enlightment?
Considering that the "era of science and enlightenment" started almost 400 years ago, I'd have to say that all signs indicate "NO". Our brain hasn't change significantly in a hundred thousand years; and as I've said before, neuroscience indicates our brain may by it's very nature incline us to religious/spiritual ideas. So unless our brain changes, we cannot expect religious and spiritual ideas to ever disappear.
However there is a trend away from organized religion to more individual spirituality. ... And belief in UFO's.
 
Quote:
Religion may be defined, in a broad sense, as something that provides a framework for one's values or some purpose to one's life
 
It appears that no one can live entirely free from a framework of meaning.
That's not just appearance. It's an inevitable consequence of being a planning (i.e. not purely reactive) agent. You cannot make plans about a world that is meaningless to you; you need to know, to a sufficiently accurate extent, how things work and affect each other. How would you ever pass through a door if you don't even know that that rectangular object with the handle implies, with great certainty, a space beyond it?
 
Quote:
But it is a fact that not all religions require a God, as Judaism, Islam or Christianity do.
 
Philosophy provides a framework for one's values or some purpose to one's life ...
No, it doesn't. It provides a framework for thinking. Which may include thinking about value and purpose. However, it cannot provide either values or purpose; that will need to be drawn from somewhere else.  
 
Quote:
so does Psychology
Psychology is descriptive, it merely purports to provide a framework for making sense of actual behaviour and thought. It does not make any judgment about what is right, or wrong, or valuable, or worthwhile to pursue. It only tries to tell you what is.
 
Quote:
What about Economics? Economics does it, too!
No, really, it doesn't. Economics merely studies the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. It doesn't tell you what would be worthwhile to produce, or even whether you should. At most what it does is, given a purpose you already have and means you have at your disposal, tell you how you can make the most of reaching your pre-existing goal. But it tells you nothing about what your goal in life should be or what things you should value (except as a means to your goals).
 
Quote:
So we have at least 3 competing intellectual disciplines: Philosophy, Psychology and Economics.
In what sense do they compete? Without sound reasoning and an understanding of actual behavior you cannot be an effective economist. There is no competition there.
Philosophy is the mother of all sciences. The only sense in which it competes with other disciplines is at an institutional level, for resources like money and students. But every science aims at the truth and sound principles; none of them can, ultimately, compete.
 
Quote:
Any other discipline?
 
Would you vote for economics?
 
I'd vote for economics.
What does that even mean?  
 
Quote:
Many economists explain the nature of the world in economic terms ... economists could be the new priests
 
Is this outrageous?
No, it's just utterly ridiculous, since economists have no values or purpose to offer, or at least not from their discipline.
Economics doesn't tell you that, say, "making money is good"; it tells you "if you want to make money, you can best do it so and so". It doesn't presume to claim it is in any way good or bad to make money, or that it's worse to aim instead for happiness and well-being, or for a better environment. It is, in principle, entirely devoid of opinion on value and purpose, as all science is.
 
Suppose one were to argue that people should be moral and cooperative because this will result in the highest economic benefit to all. Is this a claim of value? No. Only if we already value economic benefit will this be an argument to also value moral and cooperative behaviour. The statement itself is empty of judgment.  
Rational arguments can only lead to conclusion of value and purpose if those were already included in the premise. Because there is no answer to why we should value something or hold some purpose, other than that it supports some other value and/or purpose. And when we get down to the final level, there is no reason to want anything; we just do.  
Why should we want to live? To accomplish something? But why should we wish that?
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Re: religion  
« Reply #103 on: Jul 25th, 2009, 8:26am »
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Thank you for answering.
 
My intention was to generate a philosophical debate.
I see that my post was poorly constructed ... it didn't come out right, I need to rethink about this and I'll come back in this forum.
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Re: religion  
« Reply #104 on: Nov 1st, 2009, 11:56am »
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I came across a hilarious article: The Economics of Jesus
 
which begins with this excellent line: “Jesus probably didn’t know much about macroeconomics,  
even though he was God...

 
One fundamental assumption about human nature: people respond to incentives: postive incentives and negative incentives.
 
Which is another way of saying that people's behaviors are consistent with self-interest.
 
What was Jesus' “incentive” to go on the cross?
 
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Re: religion  
« Reply #105 on: Nov 1st, 2009, 1:43pm »
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on Nov 1st, 2009, 11:56am, BenVitale wrote:
I came across a hilarious article: The Economics of Jesus
I don't think his reasoning is really up to scratch.
Nothing in the "economics of Jesus" as he lays it out would necessarily lead to the conclusions of world-wide poverty he expects.
 
Quote:
One fundamental assumption about human nature: people respond to incentives: postive incentives and negative incentives.

 
in-cen-tive
–noun
1. something that incites or tends to incite to action or greater effort, as a reward offered for increased productivity.
 
 
Sounds more like you spelled out a tautology than an assumption. If people did not respond to them, they would not be incentives.
 
Quote:
Which is another way of saying that people's behaviors are consistent with self-interest.
That depends on your definition of self-interest. It also assumes people have a greater understanding of the consequences of their behaviour than they in fact do.  
Nor, for that matter, are people's behaviours always that consistent; even with themselves, let alone with their goals (which themselves, again, can be conflicting).
 
Quote:
What was Jesus' “incentive” to go on the cross?
The salvation of humanity?
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Re: religion  
« Reply #106 on: Nov 2nd, 2009, 10:13am »
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I'll address to the issues you've raised one post at a time.
 
on Nov 1st, 2009, 1:43pm, towr wrote:

That depends on your definition of self-interest. It also assumes people have a greater understanding of the consequences of their behaviour than they in fact do.  
Nor, for that matter, are people's behaviours always that consistent; even with themselves, let alone with their goals (which themselves, again, can be conflicting).

 
Self-interest does not necessarily mean selfish.
 
The lay person's definition is different from the economist's definition.  
 
I was surprised and amused to find out that even expert economists themselves may end up misusing the term and reverting to the normal definition without noticing.
 
So I went to check on the definition in my book.
 
It is often alleged that altruism is inconsistent with economic rationality, which assumes that people behave selfishly. Certainly, much economic analysis is concerned with how individuals behave, and homo economicus is usually assumed to act in his or her self-interest. However, self-interest does not necessarily mean selfish. Some economic models in the field of behavioral economics assume that self-interested individuals behave altruistically because they get some benefit, or utility, from doing so.
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Re: religion  
« Reply #107 on: Nov 2nd, 2009, 10:18am »
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For those who are interested to find out more about Economics:
 
HISTORY OF ECONOMIC THOUGHT
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Re: religion  
« Reply #108 on: Nov 2nd, 2009, 11:30am »
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on Nov 2nd, 2009, 10:13am, BenVitale wrote:
[...] However, self-interest does not necessarily mean selfish. Some economic models in the field of behavioral economics assume that self-interested individuals behave altruistically because they get some benefit, or utility, from doing so.
If they get some benefit, or utility, from it; then you're right back to the presumption they do it for a selfish reason.  
If altruism itself is an agents goal, then any behaviour towards that goal is self-interest, even when it is not to their own benefit. It is self-interested because it furthers their interests (goals), which in this case aren't a selfish interests, but nevertheless still their own.
 
Quote:
I was surprised and amused to find out that even expert economists themselves may end up misusing the term and reverting to the normal definition without noticing.
Perhaps it is a term that would be better abandoned.
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Re: religion  
« Reply #109 on: Nov 2nd, 2009, 11:43am »
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on Nov 2nd, 2009, 11:30am, towr wrote:

 
Perhaps it is a term that would be better abandoned.

 
If we abandon the term 'self-interest' as you suggest, how are we then going to define rational behavior?
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Re: religion  
« Reply #110 on: Nov 2nd, 2009, 12:28pm »
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on Nov 2nd, 2009, 11:43am, BenVitale wrote:
If we abandon the term 'self-interest' as you suggest, how are we then going to define rational behavior?
You could use and/or invent terms that are not ambiguous.
 
You could, for example, say that rational behaviour is behaviour aimed at, and plausibly bringing you closer to, achieving your goals.
It would remove a bias towards selfishness in the goals and it makes intentionality a component of rational behaviour.
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Re: religion  
« Reply #111 on: Nov 2nd, 2009, 5:19pm »
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How about:
 
In economics:  
Rational behavior is a key assumption.
People make choices in pursuit of satisfaction.
 
Basic premise:
 
Given the choice, people prefer more to less and would rather be better off than worse off.
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Re: religion  
« Reply #112 on: Nov 3rd, 2009, 12:53am »
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on Nov 2nd, 2009, 5:19pm, BenVitale wrote:
How about:
 
In economics:  
Rational behavior is a key assumption.
People make choices in pursuit of satisfaction.
That implies selfish interests again. People make choices for many reasons other than satisfaction.
 
Quote:
Basic premise:
 
Given the choice, people prefer more to less and would rather be better off than worse off.
I don't think people in general prefer more to less. They prefer "enough" to "too little" and "too much". I suppose you could say they do prefer to be better off, but then, if they didn't, it wouldn't be "better" according to their standards. If you try to insert an objective measure for "better" (such as wealthier) then I doubt it is true.
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Re: religion  
« Reply #113 on: Nov 5th, 2009, 12:56pm »
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What was Jesus' “incentive” to go on the cross?
 
on Nov 1st, 2009, 1:43pm, towr wrote:

 
The salvation of humanity?

 
It depends on your belief system, it depends on whether you're a believer or not.
 
If you’re a Christian then you may say that Jesus was an incarnation of an all-loving, benevolent God.
 
But if you're not a Christian, you might say ...
(a) it's a myth, a fabricated story -- a good story, nevertheless.
(b) his incentive was a chance at being loved and worshipped into eternity. Ego is an incentive too, although an intangible one.
(c) other
 
But, imagine if Jesus didn’t die on the cross. Then what?
The Church would have voided the whole (John 3:16) line
 
(John 3:16):
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."
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Re: religion  
« Reply #114 on: Nov 6th, 2009, 5:31am »
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This is the kind of things that make make the whole concept of God look suspiscious to me.
 
If God could solve the problem, whatever it was, without letting his son die, but didn't, then he wanted him to die and that makes him bad.
 
If God could not solve the problem in another way, then he is not an omnipotent being, and as such, isn't really a god.
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Re: religion  
« Reply #115 on: Nov 6th, 2009, 5:36am »
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It depends on what your definition of omnipotent entails. I wouldn't expect God to be able to make round squares.  
And if for whatever reason one solution to a problem is best, I wouldn't expect him to invent a better one. It's simply contrary to logic.
 
There are much better reasons to be suspicious of the concept of a god. Roll Eyes
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Re: religion  
« Reply #116 on: Nov 6th, 2009, 5:44am »
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Such as the question:
Can God create a rock so large that He himself cannot lift it?
Either way he/she isn't omnipotent.
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Re: religion  
« Reply #117 on: Nov 6th, 2009, 5:59am »
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Yes. If you define "omnipotent" as everything one can write down in a sentence (or an equivalent formulation), then it is easy to show it is an impossible concept.
But you can give it different meaning. For example, consider the universe as a computer simulation, and God as the programmer/technician that runs it. He can affect and effect anything that is possible in the simulation. Of all possible things, he can do it; and in that sense he is omnipotent. He cannot do the impossible things, of course, but they don't need to be included in the concept of "omnipotent".
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Re: religion  
« Reply #118 on: Nov 6th, 2009, 12:39pm »
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The logical conclusion is that the concept of omnipotence (in the definition that involves being able to lift a rock you can't lift) is complete nonsense - like the concept of a square prime number...
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Re: religion  
« Reply #119 on: Nov 7th, 2009, 6:03pm »
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on Nov 6th, 2009, 5:59am, towr wrote:
Yes. If you define "omnipotent" as everything one can write down in a sentence (or an equivalent formulation), then it is easy to show it is an impossible concept.
But you can give it different meaning. For example, consider the universe as a computer simulation, and God as the programmer/technician that runs it. He can affect and effect anything that is possible in the simulation. Of all possible things, he can do it; and in that sense he is omnipotent. He cannot do the impossible things, of course, but they don't need to be included in the concept of "omnipotent".

But who says what is "possible"?  What if the only possible course of event is the one defined by the strict application of the rules of physics.  Would God still be omnipotent?
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Re: religion  
« Reply #120 on: Nov 8th, 2009, 7:08am »
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on Nov 7th, 2009, 6:03pm, Grimbal wrote:
But who says what is "possible"?  What if the only possible course of event is the one defined by the strict application of the rules of physics.  Would God still be omnipotent?
Well, just consider what you can do merely by "quantum tunneling". Quite a lot is actually possible by the known laws of physics, it is just incredibly improbable. But since it is possible, a truly omnipotent being ought to be able to effect it, I'd say. And I think that is probably enough as well.
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Re: religion  
« Reply #121 on: Nov 8th, 2009, 1:00pm »
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That would be hyperpotent, not omnipotent.
 
Almighty God would still have to comply to the physical rules that supposedly she herself created?
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Re: religion  
« Reply #122 on: Nov 8th, 2009, 2:06pm »
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on Nov 8th, 2009, 1:00pm, Grimbal wrote:
That would be hyperpotent, not omnipotent.
Potato, potato (hmm, doesn't work well in writing, does it). If he can do everything that is possible, by whatever means or rules, then he can do (potent) all (omni).
But if the only definition of omnipotent you'll accept is one that is utterly meaningless, then by all means call this something else.
 
For reference, http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/omnipotent
om-nip-o-tent
–adjective
1. almighty or infinite in power, as God.
2. having very great or unlimited authority or power.
 
Definition 2 does seem to allow for some room to exclude impossible things. The dictionary may not have heard of hyperpotent, but if it did, I expect it would say something like "having very great authority or power"; which is merely omnipotent2 with "or unlimited" scrapped, making it a subset of that property. Roll Eyes
 
Quote:
Almighty God would still have to comply to the physical rules that supposedly she herself created?
Well, that was the assumption you gave to work with. But again, if we look at the programmer metaphor, than obviously that needn't be the case. If, say, I run a simulation of a planetary system, I could still modify the variables and teleport the planets around, ignoring the rules I programmed into the simulation. Even if I hadn't built a back-door into the simulation software, I could just run Cheat Engine, break into the process, and cheat (it's a great program for cheating at computer games, btw).
Of course, doing so would invalidate the simulation. One might imagine that if there is some purpose to this universe, that likewise (grossly) "cheating" might invalidate it. God might need to follow the rules she set up, for that reason. There must certainly be limitations in place as to what she can do if we are to have free will in any meaningful way.  
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Re: religion  
« Reply #123 on: Nov 8th, 2009, 3:21pm »
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Actually, I thought of giving ultrapotent and megapotent as alternatives.  Roll Eyes
 
OK, omnipotent can mean that there is no greater authority, or at least not subject to a higher authority.
 
But your definition #1
1. almighty or infinite in power, as God.  
is exactly the point.  People describe God's might as infinite.  Not just very great, but infinite.  Which doesn't make sense.
 
But maybe it is just a metaphor.  God is just supposed to be more powerful that any one of us can imagine, so an absolute, definitive, unlimited power is a good approximation and puts aside the question of what exactly God can do or not.
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Re: religion  
« Reply #124 on: Nov 8th, 2009, 3:41pm »
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This is the Omnipotence paradox
 
Some see this paradox as a reason to reject the concept of absolute omnipotence, but Descartes argued that God is absolutely omnipotent, despite the problem.
 
The problem is similar to another classic paradox, the irresistible force paradox:  
 
What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?
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