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BNC
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Re: religion  
« Reply #25 on: Feb 24th, 2007, 11:31pm »
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A note about the Hebrew name:
 
El means God. Eli means "My god", but I don't think it's used as the name of god, but rather as a way to approach him in prayer.
 
The common names used are Elohim (another way of saying Gods), and Adonay (My Lords). Interesting both names are plural...
 
The holliest of names we have has no way of being spoken: YHWH (that's the origin of the English Jehowah -- if that's how it's spelled). AFAIK, it's used only to obscure the real names.
 
Kaballa says it has many true names of God, in variying degrees of holliness. If I recall correctly, it has about 70 names. What you make of these claims is up to you.
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Re: religion  
« Reply #26 on: Feb 25th, 2007, 4:52am »
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on Feb 24th, 2007, 11:31pm, BNC wrote:
What you make of these claims is up to you.

Oh Eli, what's in a name?
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Re: religion  
« Reply #27 on: Mar 23rd, 2007, 2:55am »
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One of the most interesting paragraphs about religion from Richard Dawkins' essay "viruses of the mind".
 
http://brainyard.blogspot.com/
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Re: religion  
« Reply #28 on: Mar 23rd, 2007, 8:33pm »
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If you want to find "viral memes", a concept I find questionable but will go along with for now, you can spot a number of them right in that blog. First and foremost is the idea that people who believe in a religion do so against evidence. Of course, those who think so don't see their own religion this way, but this doesn't stop them, because they define everyone else's beliefs as "religion", but consider their own to not be "religion". What they refuse to realize is that this is exactly the same bigotry they like to condemn the "religious" for.
 
It is amusing to note that this idea that religion is "belief against the evidence" is itself held against the evidence, because one does not have to look far to find people for whom it is not true. But of course, one does have to actually look instead of assuming it must be "because everybody knows it". And why bother to look, when you get to feel so smug and superior without looking.
 
The real reason that people don't believe the same way you do is not that they are "believing against the evidence", but rather that they have experienced different evidence than you. This even applies when you show them your evidence and they reject it. They do this not because they "believe against the evidence", but rather because your evidence conflicts with their own, and they choose to believe that yours is the evidence that is flawed (just like you choose to believe their evidence is flawed).
 
Whenever you look down your nose at someone, it's your perspective that gets screwed up.
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Re: religion  
« Reply #29 on: Mar 23rd, 2007, 9:02pm »
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Well said Icarus. Belief is a trickery slope and so is evidence.
 
Let us say you are an intelligent piscean species living in deep deep sea and have never had even a remote possibility of considering (let alone considering and then rejecting) the concept of land based animals, every evidence you would have would reinforce that the world you see around you is the only wold possible.
 
The only statement that can be made would be along the lines " I do not know what I do not know". What I know I know and what I know I do not know are both way more limited than what I do not know I do not know.
 
For example, there is no way of knowing that the universe as all of us are "experiencing" is not a dream being dreamt by a dreamer in a dimension which we cannot even contemplate about contemplating. Every "scientific" and "religious" belief/evidence we have would be consistent with such a thing occuring right now without us being aware.
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Re: religion  
« Reply #30 on: Apr 9th, 2007, 2:48pm »
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on Mar 23rd, 2007, 8:33pm, Icarus wrote:
If you want to find "viral memes", a concept I find questionable but will go along with for now, you can spot a number of them right in that blog. First and foremost is the idea that people who believe in a religion do so against evidence. Of course, those who think so don't see their own religion this way, but this doesn't stop them, because they define everyone else's beliefs as "religion", but consider their own to not be "religion". What they refuse to realize is that this is exactly the same bigotry they like to condemn the "religious" for.
 
It is amusing to note that this idea that religion is "belief against the evidence" is itself held against the evidence, because one does not have to look far to find people for whom it is not true. But of course, one does have to actually look instead of assuming it must be "because everybody knows it". And why bother to look, when you get to feel so smug and superior without looking.
 
The real reason that people don't believe the same way you do is not that they are "believing against the evidence", but rather that they have experienced different evidence than you. This even applies when you show them your evidence and they reject it. They do this not because they "believe against the evidence", but rather because your evidence conflicts with their own, and they choose to believe that yours is the evidence that is flawed (just like you choose to believe their evidence is flawed).
 
Whenever you look down your nose at someone, it's your perspective that gets screwed up.

 
Further to our discussion of 2 or so years ago...
 
I completely agree with what you say--his attitude does come across as snobbish. However, from what I know of Dawkins he doesn't particularly care what people think of his work--he is convinced that he is correct beyond all doubt and sees no need to go into particular details of how his conclusions are correct. I find his ideas interesting, but see that he will convince few skeptics.
 
Personally, I see most of his ideas as making a lot of sense. He does confuse the issue a little though (probably with the intention of being provocative). For example, I know a number of religious people who believe due to evidence. A friend of mine converted to Christianity due to the prophecies of David (aomong other things). Apparently there are carbon-dated documents predicting the birth of Jesus (and a lot of related facts), made many hundreds of years before his birth. I find this intriguing, but the effort I'd have to put in to convince myself one way or the other would make me an accomplished historian. My current belief is that there's a lot of room for error when looking at 2-3 thousand-year-old documents, but I have to concede that without doing the research this debate reaches a dead-end.
 
Addressing your final paragraph, Icarus, you seem to be looking at things on a fairly pragmatic, human level. Although it's impossible to remove human ego from the equation, I like to think of having my point countered as a learning experience rather than a lost argument (easier said than done!)
 
I do believe that belief from faith is belief against the evidence, but I suppose that's true by definition. I mean 'faith' here in the philisopical sense--belief that goes beyond the realm of reason, or believing it to be true because you want it to be. It's clear that people gain a lot from a belief in God, so even if they do believe due to upbringing and haven't questioned their beliefs, why rock the boat (as long as they don't rock mine first)? In the end, though (apart from the possiblility of looking at the historical evidence avenue), my discussions and research have simply not swayed me to believing in the existence of a God or gods.
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Re: religion  
« Reply #31 on: Apr 9th, 2007, 5:43pm »
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on Apr 9th, 2007, 2:48pm, Ulkesh wrote:
However, from what I know of Dawkins he doesn't particularly care what people think of his work--he is convinced that he is correct beyond all doubt and sees no need to go into particular details of how his conclusions are correct.

 
I.e., his approach is dogmatic, not scientific or academic. I can think of only one reason why he would not care to go into details. His ideas, while sounding interesting at high-level, are either untestable (which means that they are also useless) or else upon close examination, all sorts of problems crop up that he would rather ignore.
 
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Personally, I see most of his ideas as making a lot of sense.

 
Ideas that don't "make a lot of sense" quickly die out. On the other hand, successful liars know that to tell a lie and have it believed, you need to wrap it up in truths. At first, all people hear are things that they know are true, or can readily verify. This builds trust, and people stop checking after a while. When the lies finally come in, the victims believe them by habit.
 
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He does confuse the issue a little though (probably with the intention of being provocative).

 
Provocation is a proven way of getting attention for your ideas with little verification. Another trick for liars is to tell people things they want to believe anyway. By "supplying ammo" to one side of a disagreement, people on that side are likely to accept it without even an attempt at questioning its accuracy. This happens all the time in the political arena. It even got Dan Rather fired.
 
At this stage, though, I'd better stop and say that I am not accusing Dawkins of lying, or even of being wrong in his "viral memes" idea. My purpose is to express why I find his approach untrustworthy. Of the man himself, I can think of few greater condemnations than that first quote:
 
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Dawkins ... doesn't particularly care what people think of his work--he is convinced that he is correct beyond all doubt and sees no need to go into particular details of how his conclusions are correct.
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Re: religion  
« Reply #32 on: Apr 9th, 2007, 5:46pm »
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on Apr 9th, 2007, 2:48pm, Ulkesh wrote:
Apparently there are carbon-dated documents predicting the birth of Jesus (and a lot of related facts), made many hundreds of years before his birth.

 
Prophecies relating to Jesus are found scattered throughout the Old Testament. Before the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls, we had few if any document fragments predating Jesus. In fact, our oldest substantial document evidence for the O.T. in Hebrew mostly dated to about 1000 AD (there are older translations extant).  However, there were a number of factors that offset this late date and gave us good reason to feel that the versions we have today are fairly accurate to the originals. And there is no doubt that the originals predated Jesus (though there is debate on how far). One quick example: Archeologists have uncovered cultural behaviors of the time of the patriarchs that were not longer practiced or even written about as little as 300 years later. Yet examples of these practices are found in Genesis - particularly in the story of Abraham and Sarah. This is strong evidence that at least this portion of Genesis was written prior to about 1700 BC.
 
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I find this intriguing, but the effort I'd have to put in to convince myself one way or the other would make me an accomplished historian. My current belief is that there's a lot of room for error when looking at 2-3 thousand-year-old documents, but I have to concede that without doing the research this debate reaches a dead-end.

 
A good scholarly source for this is Josh McDowell's Evidence that Demands a Verdict, which outlines evidence that he originally researched while attempting to discredit christianity. It's about 40 years old now, but still a good source.
 
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Addressing your final paragraph, Icarus, you seem to be looking at things on a fairly pragmatic, human level. Although it's impossible to remove human ego from the equation, I like to think of having my point countered as a learning experience rather than a lost argument (easier said than done!)

 
Well said - including the final comment!
 
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I do believe that belief from faith is belief against the evidence, but I suppose that's true by definition. I mean 'faith' here in the philisopical sense--belief that goes beyond the realm of reason, or believing it to be true because you want it to be.

 
Here I disagree. Faith is believing beyond the evidence - not against it. Paul calls it "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1 - NAS) Believing against the evidence is believing that when I let go of a ball, this time it's going to just hover there, instead falling like it did every time before. Believing beyond the evidence is believing that inside the center of the ball is a diamond. The first belief is unreasoning. The second may seem unreasonable, but may in fact be based on a preponderance of evidence. If you have found diamonds in the center of similar balls in the past, it would appear a very reasonable belief. But until you rip the ball open and look, your belief is beyond evidence.
 
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It's clear that people gain a lot from a belief in God, so even if they do believe due to upbringing and haven't questioned their beliefs, why rock the boat (as long as they don't rock mine first)?

 
Then why are you rocking people's boats now? Or even more in your earlier posts in this thread? You cannot exchange ideas without rocking boats. And unless your boat is rocked a little, you will never grow. People may gain something simply from "a belief in God", but they also lose something more if they believe in things that are actually false.
 
I always liked Star Trek, but the "Prime Directive" seemed to me to be nothing more than moral cowardice, and a supreme disdain for other life. It amazed me how the writers kept returning to this theme, writing scripts that clearly demonstrated the moral bankruptness of this idea, and yet still attempted to defend it in the same show. (The best example is one where the sun of a planet with a primative culture is about to nova - if I recall correctly. Picard refuses to rescue any of the people because the Prime Directive considers this "interference with their cultural development". They are only rescued because Warf's adopted brother is willing to set the Prime Directive aside.)
 
The concept that "if someone believes something, I shouldn't challenge it" seems to me to be a sort of intellectual "Prime Directive". If you accept this idea, then you will stunt both the intellectual development of others, and of yourself. I prefer to grow. Note though that "challenging" does not mean "disparaging". It means demanding "why do you believe that", not "what an idiot you are to believe that".
 
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In the end, though (apart from the possiblility of looking at the historical evidence avenue), my discussions and research have simply not swayed me to believing in the existence of a God or gods.

 
I wouldn't expect it to. Go talk to your friend about those "other things", if you want to truly find out why people like (s)he and I have abandoned disbelief to become christians.
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Re: religion  
« Reply #33 on: Apr 10th, 2007, 1:17am »
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on Apr 9th, 2007, 5:43pm, Icarus wrote:
I.e., his approach is dogmatic, not scientific or academic. I can think of only one reason why he would not care to go into details. His ideas, while sounding interesting at high-level, are either untestable (which means that they are also useless) or else upon close examination, all sorts of problems crop up that he would rather ignore.
A third option is that details don't sell books. As far as I know he isn't publishing these ideas in any scientific journals, but rather he writes popular science books. I don't think this aspect of his work is a scientific pursuit, but just meant to convince ordinary people of his point of view and/or sell books.  
 
on Apr 9th, 2007, 5:46pm, Icarus wrote:
Prophecies relating to Jesus are found scattered throughout the Old Testament.
Wouldn't it be more accurate to say "Prophecies that can be related to Jesus are found scattered throughout the Old Testament"?  
It's a bit like the prophecies of Nostradamus, you can always find someone or something to associate prophecies with later on (and otherwise you tend to forget about them anyway). They're certainly consistent with certain beliefs about Jesus, but well, the rest goes beyond evidence.
 
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I always liked Star Trek, but the "Prime Directive" seemed to me to be nothing more than moral cowardice, and a supreme disdain for other life.
Well, there's something to be said for not (accidentally) forcing your point of view on people that haven't develloped enough to resist any idea coming from apparantly superior people or near-gods. However there are some options between that and not interacting with them at all. It simply means you have to tred carefully. But it's hard not to give the wrong idea about some things you might do.
If you remember the show about where they're observing a vulcan-like society develloping, and suddenly they get mixed up and mistaken for gods. Well, that's the sort of problem they want to avoid. It took them some explaining how they're just using technology beyond the natives' comprehension to do those magical feats.
So yes, it is moral cowardice when taken as gospel, but it does have a point if you take it as "something to think about". Kirk was a lot more relaxed about it (hence why he ended up sleeping with nearly every female, alien or otherwise).
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Re: religion  
« Reply #34 on: Apr 10th, 2007, 4:53am »
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on Apr 9th, 2007, 5:46pm, Icarus wrote:
Here I disagree. Faith is believing beyond the evidence - not against it. Paul calls it "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1 - NAS) Believing against the evidence is believing that when I let go of a ball, this time it's going to just hover there, instead falling like it did every time before. Believing beyond the evidence is believing that inside the center of the ball is a diamond. The first belief is unreasoning. The second may seem unreasonable, but may in fact be based on a preponderance of evidence. If you have found diamonds in the center of similar balls in the past, it would appear a very reasonable belief. But until you rip the ball open and look, your belief is beyond evidence.

I don't see how these examples differ with respect to the point you're trying to make. I believe the ball will fall based upon past experience, and I believe there is/isn't a diamond in the middle through reason, also. There may be a diamond, but my knowledge of the world economy and the value of diamonds, of the lack of reports of diamonds in balls, of the pointlessness of the ball-maker putting a diamond there, leads me, when questioned, to say 'I believe there is no diamond in the middle of that ball'. I don't have to tear open a number of other balls to have evidence that there is no diamond inside this particular ball. Of course, the fact I'm asked the question will make my assertion a little more cautious (what a strange thing to ask!), but it all adds to the weight of evidence. I'd say that in the first case the evidence is direct, in the second it is more incidental, but it's evidence nonetheless.
 
I think I understand your point, but if we have no incidental evidence from which to make inferrences, we have an arbitrary choice. And when that choice is either belief or not, the proof of burden is on the believer to convince me. My default position is no belief.
 
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Then why are you rocking people's boats now? Or even more in your earlier posts in this thread? You cannot exchange ideas without rocking boats. And unless your boat is rocked a little, you will never grow. People may gain something simply from "a belief in God", but they also lose something more if they believe in things that are actually false.

When I mentioned rocking people's boats, I was referring to those who believe in God through upbringing without questioning their beliefs, and don't like to have their beliefs questioned. I disagree that they're necessarily worse-off having never questioned their beliefs.
 
Edit: Explicitly, I've spoken to one or two people who've been brought up as Christians and love their religion. They admit they may be wrong about the whole idea, but a belief in things such as life after death gives them comfort. They don't like being drawn into a debate about precisely why they believe because they're not sure their 'faith' will survive it.
 
And I don't mind people questioning what I believe whatsoever. Like I said, I want to learn. However, boat-rocking needs to be separated from being open-minded. A rocked boat can lead to an illogical defence of your point of view and a desire to win an argument beyond a desire to share points of view. Needless to say, if I were trying to be provocative in this discussion I'd be a hypocrite.
 
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I always liked Star Trek, but the "Prime Directive" seemed to me to be nothing more than moral cowardice, and a supreme disdain for other life. It amazed me how the writers kept returning to this theme, writing scripts that clearly demonstrated the moral bankruptness of this idea, and yet still attempted to defend it in the same show. (The best example is one where the sun of a planet with a primative culture is about to nova - if I recall correctly. Picard refuses to rescue any of the people because the Prime Directive considers this "interference with their cultural development". They are only rescued because Warf's adopted brother is willing to set the Prime Directive aside.)
 
The concept that "if someone believes something, I shouldn't challenge it" seems to me to be a sort of intellectual "Prime Directive". If you accept this idea, then you will stunt both the intellectual development of others, and of yourself. I prefer to grow. Note though that "challenging" does not mean "disparaging". It means demanding "why do you believe that", not "what an idiot you are to believe that".

I think the point they make with the Prime Directive is that interference can lead to a slippery slope. If you start trading with less advanced life, it's easy for less scrupulous captains and races to take advantage of the situation. It's not clear the less advanced race will be better-off due to interference so they set up a law prohibiting it.
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Re: religion  
« Reply #35 on: Apr 10th, 2007, 3:40pm »
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on Apr 10th, 2007, 1:17am, towr wrote:
I don't think this aspect of his work is a scientific pursuit, but just meant to convince ordinary people of his point of view and/or sell books.

 
Well, if he isn't offering it as scientific, that is more acceptable. However, if he is presenting it as being scientific to a non-scientific audience, without any attempt to actually approach it from science, then I would call that fraudulent. What little I have read seems to suggest this. But that may be because of the third party I read, not Mr. Dawkins himself.
 
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Wouldn't it be more accurate to say "Prophecies that can be related to Jesus are found scattered throughout the Old Testament"?  
It's a bit like the prophecies of Nostradamus

I didn't mean to suggest that the prophecies had no other interpretation. However, I think a number of them are significantly more specific than anything you will find in Nostradamus.
 
on Apr 10th, 2007, 4:53am, Ulkesh wrote:
I don't see how these examples differ with respect to the point you're trying to make. I believe the ball will fall based upon past experience, and I believe there is/isn't a diamond in the middle through reason, also.

 
YOU may believe this, but your definition of faith is to believe that the ball will NOT fall. My definition of faith considers that belief to be ridiculous, but allows you to believe that there may be a diamond inside the ball, until you have enough evidence to say otherwise. The point is: faith is belief that goes beyond what you already have evidence for. It is not belief that goes against what you already have evidence for. That was my point.
 
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When I mentioned rocking people's boats, I was referring to those who believe in God through upbringing without questioning their beliefs, and don't like to have their beliefs questioned. I disagree that they're necessarily worse-off having never questioned their beliefs.
 
Edit: Explicitly, I've spoken to one or two people who've been brought up as Christians and love their religion. They admit they may be wrong about the whole idea, but a belief in things such as life after death gives them comfort. They don't like being drawn into a debate about precisely why they believe because they're not sure their 'faith' will survive it.

 
And I continue to disagree with you. They are definitely worse off for never questioning their beliefs. This is even more evident by the fact that they do not like it when people do question their beliefs. This tells me that they are insecure in those beliefs. From the perspective of my own religious beliefs, I would say that these people do not even have a real faith. Faith and self-delusion are two different things.
 
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And I don't mind people questioning what I believe whatsoever. Like I said, I want to learn. However, boat-rocking needs to be separated from being open-minded. A rocked boat can lead to an illogical defence of your point of view and a desire to win an argument beyond a desire to share points of view. Needless to say, if I were trying to be provocative in this discussion I'd be a hypocrite.

 
A little provocation can be a good thing, but usually when people are being "provocative", what they are really doing is being insulting. I like provocation that leads to debates and real exchange of views such as is happening here.  
 
-----
 
Concerning the "Prime Directive", yes, there are a whole host of ethical issues that need to be addressed when two widely different cultures interact. However, the Prime Directive chooses to avoid those issues rather than address them. It does this by ignoring another whole host of moral issues. If I see someone who is suffering or in danger, and it is well within my power to alleviate the problem, then I think it is abominable to stand aside and let them suffer or be damaged. The Prime Directive, on the other hand, requires exactly this, even when the potential damage from interfering is dwarfed by that of standing by.
 
Kids are also easily taken advantage of. The Prime Directive approach to parenting is to lock the kid in a room, and not interact with him until he figures out the concept of reading and writing on his own. I prefer to send the little bugger to school.
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Re: religion  
« Reply #36 on: Apr 11th, 2007, 1:33am »
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on Apr 10th, 2007, 3:40pm, Icarus wrote:
Concerning the "Prime Directive", yes, there are a whole host of ethical issues that need to be addressed when two widely different cultures interact. However, the Prime Directive chooses to avoid those issues rather than address them. It does this by ignoring another whole host of moral issues.
I'm not sure the prime directive is meant to be adhered to so dogmatically. Of course in the history of star trek the position on that may have shifted. As a guideline it's not that bad; "when in doubt, mind your own business". And of course people have the right to their own culture. Nor is there any telling where that will bring them. A 'little' suffering now, utopia tomorrow. Or a little alleviation now and hell for eternity. Which I suppose is also a morally corrupt way of looking at things if taken dogmatically (because it invites perpetual inaction).
 
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If I see someone who is suffering or in danger, and it is well within my power to alleviate the problem, then I think it is abominable to stand aside and let them suffer or be damaged.
It depends. It is of course a wellknown indictment against God for not magically relieving us of all suffering. However, considering the opposite (which I'm sure you're not advocating) -- i.e. what would be the case if we never had to suffer anything. If everything went our way all the time; I'm rather inclined to think we'd be rather pitiful, weakwilled, impotent beings.
So it's always a matter of degrees. Letting people blow themselves up will of course cut short any potential they have, letting them (figuratively or literally) cut themselves in the finger, however -- well, they need to take some personal responsibility. People may in many cases be better off if they end up saving themselves, rather than getting help from above (be it god or benevolent aliens).
 
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The Prime Directive, on the other hand, requires exactly this, even when the potential damage from interfering is dwarfed by that of standing by.
Short of the planet blowing up, it's hard to be sure what the consequences will be. Although, admittedly, they could time-travel to find out (which however would be going against the temporal prime directive, or some such thing).
 
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Kids are also easily taken advantage of. The Prime Directive approach to parenting is to lock the kid in a room, and not interact with him until he figures out the concept of reading and writing on his own. I prefer to send the little bugger to school.
I think the condition for first contact is that they discover warp drive; so in the analogy it would be the kid breaking out of his room Wink
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Re: religion  
« Reply #37 on: Apr 11th, 2007, 6:29am »
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on Apr 10th, 2007, 3:40pm, Icarus wrote:
YOU may believe this, but your definition of faith is to believe that the ball will NOT fall. My definition of faith considers that belief to be ridiculous, but allows you to believe that there may be a diamond inside the ball, until you have enough evidence to say otherwise. The point is: faith is belief that goes beyond what you already have evidence for. It is not belief that goes against what you already have evidence for. That was my point.

But I believe there may be a diamond inside the ball, just as I believe the ball may not fall when released. You can never be sure in either case. It seems that you're dismissing the incidental evidence I described in my last reply as no evidence at all. I'm sure if you bought a solid ball from a toy shop and I asked you whether you  thought there were a diamond inside, you'd say 'probably not'. Essentially, I disagree with your last sentence: your definition of faith and your example do go against what you already have evidence for. It's simply a different kind of evidence from the gravity-acting-on-ball example.
 
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And I continue to disagree with you. They are definitely worse off for never questioning their beliefs. This is even more evident by the fact that they do not like it when people do question their beliefs. This tells me that they are insecure in those beliefs. From the perspective of my own religious beliefs, I would say that these people do not even have a real faith. Faith and self-delusion are two different things.

I suppose this depends on how you define 'worse-off'. From a utilitarian point of view it certainly isn't clear whether interference or not is for the best, much like with the Prime Directive. I'd advocate a case-by-case judgement--there certainly isn't a blanket answer.
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Re: religion  
« Reply #38 on: Apr 11th, 2007, 7:36pm »
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on Apr 11th, 2007, 1:33am, towr wrote:

I'm not sure the prime directive is meant to be adhered to so dogmatically.

 
Picard and Janeway both adhered to it dogmatically. Both had to be forced into doing the right thing even when it was obvious.
 
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Short of the planet blowing up, it's hard to be sure what the consequences will be.

 
I recall at least two shows (the Next Gen episode I mentioned originally, and a Voyager episode) where the Captain specifically demands that the race be left to certain complete annihilation in a catastrophic event in order to satisfy the Prime Directive.
 


 
on Apr 11th, 2007, 6:29am, Ulkesh wrote:
It seems that you're dismissing the incidental evidence I described in my last reply as no evidence at all. I'm sure if you bought a solid ball from a toy shop and I asked you whether you  thought there were a diamond inside, you'd say 'probably not'. Essentially, I disagree with your last sentence: your definition of faith and your example do go against what you already have evidence for. It's simply a different kind of evidence from the gravity-acting-on-ball example.

 
The problem here is that you have completely misunderstood my example by demanding things of it that had absolutely nothing to do with what I was trying to illustrate when I offered it. It was not a complete and perfect analogy. Yes, I know that balls do not generally have diamonds in them. Yes, I know that there is plenty of evidence to this. I'm sorry that I thought it would be okay to pick something that was ludicrous.
 
Forget the balls. Here are three real life examples:
 
Some educated people in western culture still believe that the earth is flat and that the sun orbits the earth. They believe this because they take the idea that the bible is literally true to ridiculous extremes. Their belief is not what I call faith. I consider it to be foolishness.
 
Many people are convinced there is life on other planets. Yet there is not one shred of validated evidence that this is so (except possibly that martian meteorite - and that is questionable). There is only evidence that it is possible. There is also no evidence that life does not exist on other planets outside our solar system. Those who believe that life is "out there" do not do so against the evidence, but they also don't do so on the basis of evidence. That is faith.
 
Every morning we see the sun rise (or at least, see the consequences of it). Yet all of this evidence, stretching back to the dawn of history, does not prove that the sun will rise tomorrow. When we make the claim that the sun will rise tomorrow, we move beyond evidence into theory. The belief that this theory is true, even though well-grounded in evidence, is also faith.
 
In my opinion, the reason why people get the idea that faith is "believing against the evidence" is that they people rejecting evidence because of their faith. But what this ignores that those who reject evidence on the basis of "real faith" (as opposed to the self-delusion we've also been discussing) do so because they have other evidence that conflicts with the evidence they reject. When you have conflicting evidence, obviously some or all of it is flawed (or misinterpreted). They choose - on the basis of their faith - to assume that their evidence is true and the evidence you seem them rejecting is false. This may be wrong, or it may be right, but either way, I do not think it counts as "believing against the evidence".
 
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I suppose this depends on how you define 'worse-off'. From a utilitarian point of view it certainly isn't clear whether interference or not is for the best, much like with the Prime Directive. I'd advocate a case-by-case judgement--there certainly isn't a blanket answer.

 
Sure, it is a judgment call. But in their case, I think the judgment is fairly easy to make. I believe that "the unexamined life is not worth living".
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Re: religion  
« Reply #39 on: Apr 12th, 2007, 12:13am »
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on Apr 11th, 2007, 7:36pm, Icarus wrote:
Many people are convinced there is life on other planets. Yet there is not one shred of validated evidence that this is so (except possibly that martian meteorite - and that is questionable). There is only evidence that it is possible. There is also no evidence that life does not exist on other planets outside our solar system. Those who believe that life is "out there" do not do so against the evidence, but they also don't do so on the basis of evidence. That is faith.
 
Every morning we see the sun rise (or at least, see the consequences of it). Yet all of this evidence, stretching back to the dawn of history, does not prove that the sun will rise tomorrow. When we make the claim that the sun will rise tomorrow, we move beyond evidence into theory. The belief that this theory is true, even though well-grounded in evidence, is also faith.
I'd call neither of those faith, but rather following evidence. Because the opposite is terribly unlikely due to all the evidence. There isn't really a leap between the evidence and the conclusion, it's a matter of putting a step or two on the path it points to. However, there is room for a leap to the opposite conclusion;  it doesn't contradict the evidence, because strictly speaking evidence only says something about what was.
Faith would become a very empty concept if we considered these to be examples of faith, because then everything can be considered faith. There couldn't be any emperical statement about the world that isn't. The mere suggestion the laws of nature will apply in a moment as they do now would be nothing but faith; even that the world as we experience it exists at all.  
At the very least this isn't what I mean by the concept 'faith'.
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Re: religion  
« Reply #40 on: Apr 12th, 2007, 6:07pm »
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Huh Huh
 
How is believing in life on other planets "following the evidence"? What validated evidence is there for life on other planets? (By "validated", I mean something verifiable - not UFO sightings.) I am aware of none other than that martian meteorite. And while that one is provocative, it falls well short of being convincing. Theories are not the same as evidence.
 
And conscious certainty beyond evidence is exactly what faith is. What is the problem with recognizing that any time you extrapolate past patterns into the future, this amounts to faith that the pattern will continue?
 
Perhaps the problem is revealed by your phrase "would be nothing but faith". This suggests that you view "faith" as something insubstantial. To call something "faith" makes it seem less trustworthy.  
 
But belief beyond the evidence is belief beyond the evidence no matter what name you give it. And any time you make an empirical statement, you are moving beyond evidence. That is the whole point of such statements - to move beyond what has been witnessed and make predictions about future observations.
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Re: religion  
« Reply #41 on: Apr 13th, 2007, 1:22am »
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on Apr 12th, 2007, 6:07pm, Icarus wrote:
How is believing in life on other planets "following the evidence"?
All that we know about life and the universe makes it very probably, even though we don't have any direct evidence (i.e. observations on other planets of things that, on earth, are caused by life)
I can only suggest to read "What Does a Martian Look Like", by Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen. It gives a very readable overview of the issues involved and gives a lot of support to the claim that the chances are stacked against an empty universe.
 
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I am aware of none other than that martian meteorite. And while that one is provocative, it falls well short of being convincing.
I thought it had been pretty much discredited as evidence of life on mars.
 
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Theories are not the same as evidence.
Certainly not, however if a theory points in a certain direction and is supported by a host of evidence, than it does have some weight. One could reasonably say the evidence points in that same direction.
Which isn't to say there can't be a competing (and supported) theory that points a few degrees to the left or right, but it's unlikely it points in the opposite direction.
 
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And conscious certainty beyond evidence is exactly what faith is.
Is it?
I'd be hard pressed to say exactly what faith is.  
But it just doesn't sound and feel right. It puts belief in god, and the belief the sun rises tomorrow on the same level. Even though the latter has been emperically verified a million times. But still, any induction goes 'beyond evidence', strictly speaking; it's not a logically valid principle. "And therefore the existence of god is as certain as the sun rising tomorrow".
 
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What is the problem with recognizing that any time you extrapolate past patterns into the future, this amounts to faith that the pattern will continue?
It turns every endeavour of knowledge into faith, except perhaps abstract mathematics, and so removes any sensible distinction between (emperical) knowledge, belief, faith, and anything else of the kind.
I'm not prepared to put all these things on the same level. Certainly, we might all be in the matrix. But I'm more sure we're not than of the sun rising (because obviously it wouldn't really be the sun if it was just in the matrix). I'm not prepared to just take evidence as something that I have faith in existed.
There has to be some distinction to have any meaning in those concepts.
 
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Perhaps the problem is revealed by your phrase "would be nothing but faith". This suggests that you view "faith" as something insubstantial. To call something "faith" makes it seem less trustworthy.
Less trustworthy than something as certain as the sun rising, yes. Less trustworthy than everything I've observed.
That's just not what 'faith' means in my book. But results may vary per author.  
 
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But belief beyond the evidence is belief beyond the evidence no matter what name you give it.
But that doesn't make them all equal. A rose by any other name is still a rose, but some or white, some are red. Even if I were to subscribe to the idea that faith is belief beyond evidence, that doesn't make all belief beyond evidence faith. A belief that is verified every single day (like that there will be a new day) isn't comparable to one that cannot be verified. Tomorrow is beyond evidence, certainly, but yesterday's tomorrow isn't.
It just doesn't compare.
If I saw God today, I'd be more justified to belief he exists tomorrow than if I didn't. "Beyond evidence" be damned.
 
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And any time you make an empirical statement, you are moving beyond evidence. That is the whole point of such statements - to move beyond what has been witnessed and make predictions about future observations.
But that doesn't make it faith. There is a lot of justification from past evidence; as isn't the case with faith.
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Re: religion  
« Reply #42 on: Apr 13th, 2007, 1:27am »
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And one more points I seem to have lost on the way.
 
Evidence may point in some direction (usually by building a theory around it). What you find there is in my, perhaps not as humble as it might be, opinion  more justified than what lies beyond the evidence in other directions.
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Re: religion  
« Reply #43 on: Apr 13th, 2007, 6:19am »
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on Apr 12th, 2007, 6:07pm, Icarus wrote:
And conscious certainty beyond evidence is exactly what faith is.

 
I more or less agree with towr's point of view, although I'd like to elaborate a little on this point. I do not see how it is possible to believe something in the absence of, or against, evidence. I suppose it is possible to fool yourself to some extent that something blindingly obvious is not the case (hypnosis?), but once fully questioned holes will appear in the belief and it will fall apart.
 
From this standpoint, I do not see how a rational person could not believe the sun will rise tomorrow (unless you know of some alien super-weapon...). It is true, there is no direct evidence that the sun will rise on the 14th of April, 2007. But then, since the future hasn't occured, there's no direct evidence of any particular future event. So every prediction is based on a theory, the sun rising every ~24 hours being a particularly successful one. I agree with towr that this is evidence--not what I'd define as faith, at least in a meaningful way.
 
Even defining faith as belief in something in the absence of any evidence, including past occurences, doesn't make sense to me. That makes it sounds like a choice to believe or not to believe in something arbitrary. I suppose the distinction between the lack of a belief in something and the belief that something is not the case should be made. A newborn baby lacks belief in God, but hasn't been presented with the idea, so cannot believe there is no God. A belief that something is not the case is a belief in itself and needs to be justified, so to choose to believe it is arbitrary and nonsensical. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that doing this is fooling yourself.
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Re: religion  
« Reply #44 on: Apr 13th, 2007, 4:57pm »
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Ulkesh - you are the one who tried to define "faith" as "belief against the evidence". Now you are saying you don't see how this is possible? And I did not define faith as being in the lack of evidence. I defined it as going beyond the evidence.  
 
Towr, "beyond" indicates "in the same direction as", not "in other directions". I certainly wouldn't refer to something as being "beyond the lake" if the lake was north, and what I was referring to was to the west.
 
But it doesn't matter whether either of you agree with my definition of faith or not. When you see "people of faith" talk about faith, my definition is the one they are using, not the "against the evidence" one that Ulkesh gave, and certainly not the vague untrustworthy concept that towr can't even adequately describe. If you choose to consider faith to be something less, then you do not understand what they are talking about.
 


 
As for the life on other planets issue. Go back and read that book again yourself. This time keep careful note of exactly where it touches on hard verifiable facts. You'll be amazed at how far it is from such facts to the conclusion. David Brin once said that he thought the arguments against life on other planets were statistical arguments based on a sample size of 1. I was disappointed that he failed to realize that is even more true of arguments for life on other planets.
 
We don't even know how life got started on this planet (I know what the theories are - but note that is "theories" - there are plenty, and the ones in vogue keep changing). Until we have some solid conclusions on that subject, theories about how it could arise on other planets are much too speculative to be considered evidence of anything.
 
There is nothing wrong with speculation, in my opinion, but you should never mistake it for anything more than speculation.
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Re: religion  
« Reply #45 on: Apr 14th, 2007, 4:50am »
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on Apr 13th, 2007, 4:57pm, Icarus wrote:
Ulkesh - you are the one who tried to define "faith" as "belief against the evidence". Now you are saying you don't see how this is possible? And I did not define faith as being in the lack of evidence. I defined it as going beyond the evidence.  
 
Towr, "beyond" indicates "in the same direction as", not "in other directions". I certainly wouldn't refer to something as being "beyond the lake" if the lake was north, and what I was referring to was to the west.
 
But it doesn't matter whether either of you agree with my definition of faith or not. When you see "people of faith" talk about faith, my definition is the one they are using, not the "against the evidence" one that Ulkesh gave, and certainly not the vague untrustworthy concept that towr can't even adequately describe. If you choose to consider faith to be something less, then you do not understand what they are talking about

 
Firstly I'll apologise for confusing the matter by 'trying-out' different definitions for the word 'faith'. I'll take your word for it that the first definition I gave is not generally what is meant. Beyond that I was searching for a useful defintion for the word, because I believe yours is not.
 
From your definition of faith, are you saying that if you make (and believe) a prediction based upon empirical evidence this is faith? As towr has pointed out, this covers a vast swathe of human existence. By this definition your ball dropping example requires faith that it will drop the next time you release it in the same way as the sun rising tomorrow. However, you say that belief that the ball wil not drop goes against all available evidence. To me this is equivalent to the sun example. There's emperical evidence that it has risen, and in the same way there's emprical evidence that gravity continually acts.
 
Regarding the alien life example, in the absence of any reliable evidence I don't arbitrarily believe what I want--I say 'I don't know'.
 
If you define faith as this, fine. But given that many people would consider your faith as belief in a prediction made by empirical evidence, it's a very confusing use of the word. Especially since 'faith' is regularly used in a religious context. Please tell me, what use does this definition of 'faith' have beyond confusing poor people like me?
 
By the way, the sun rose today just as I predicted!  Cheesy
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Re: religion  
« Reply #46 on: Apr 14th, 2007, 12:47pm »
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on Apr 14th, 2007, 4:50am, Ulkesh wrote:
Beyond that I was searching for a useful defintion for the word, because I believe yours is not.

 
That depends on what you are trying to use it for. If your purpose is to feel assured that people whose beliefs differ from yours are being illogical, then yes, my definition is useless for that.
 
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From your definition of faith, are you saying that if you make (and believe) a prediction based upon empirical evidence this is faith?

 
Yes. Any time you move beyond what you can see, and trust that it is so, this is faith. I know the sun came up today, yesterday, and all the days before, but until tomorrow morning, my certain expectation that it will do so again is faith. There is no deep qualitative difference between this faith and my faith in God. Both are the result of a vast body of experience that supports my conclusion, yet neither conclusion is something I've seen directly - yet. [/quote]
 
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As towr has pointed out, this covers a vast swathe of human existence.

 
Yes, faith is an integral part of everyone's lives - even of the lives of those who hate to admit it.
 
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By this definition your ball dropping example requires faith that it will drop the next time you release it in the same way as the sun rising tomorrow.

 
Yes - the two are both examples of faith - that is why I gave them. However, just to be clear, the ball dropping example does not require faith. The ball will drop whether I believe it will or not. The sun will rise whether I believe it will or not. The existence of God also does not depend on my belief or disbelief. What I am saying is, to believe the ball will drop is faith.
 
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However, you say that belief that the ball wil not drop goes against all available evidence. To me this is equivalent to the sun example. There's emperical evidence that it has risen, and in the same way there's emprical evidence that gravity continually acts.

 
Huh Huh How is believing the opposite of what strong empirical evidence predicts equivalent to believing the same as strong empirical evidence predicts? Huh Huh
 
Remember: believing the ball will not fall is an example of YOUR definition of faith (that is, the one you gave in the post I was replying to at the time). Believing that the ball will fall, or the sun will rise is an example of the definition of faith I gave.
 
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Regarding the alien life example, in the absence of any reliable evidence I don't arbitrarily believe what I want--I say 'I don't know'.

 
Nice to know - but whatever you believe or don't believe about it, you must admit that there are many people who are absolutely convinced that life exists on other planets without any reliable evidence. That is why I used it as an example of faith.
 
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If you define faith as this, fine. But given that many people would consider your faith as belief in a prediction made by empirical evidence, it's a very confusing use of the word. Especially since 'faith' is regularly used in a religious context. Please tell me, what use does this definition of 'faith' have beyond confusing poor people like me?

 
And here we come to the crux of the problem. Why are you confused by this? It is because faith is a religious term, and you like to think that religion has no empirical basis. And this is where you are completely wrong.
 
Every religion - without exception - is entirely empirical in nature. Every doctrine, every theory, every practice, all of it derives from the experiences of its practitioners. The reason we have so many religions is not that people are inventing something to believe in that is opposite the evidence before them (those some do invent things for other people to believe, but that is another problem). Rather, the reason we believe differently is because we are looking at different sets of evidence, and different experiences by which we interpret that evidence.
 
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By the way, the sun rose today just as I predicted!  Cheesy

Keep the faith, brother! Wink
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Re: religion  
« Reply #47 on: Apr 15th, 2007, 8:15am »
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on Apr 13th, 2007, 4:57pm, Icarus wrote:
Towr, "beyond" indicates "in the same direction as", not "in other directions". I certainly wouldn't refer to something as being "beyond the lake" if the lake was north, and what I was referring to was to the west.
But mightn't you refer to it being north if it was actually north north west. If it's just a mile or two, what's the difference really.
How far beyond is still sensible, and with what degree of variation?
 
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But it doesn't matter whether either of you agree with my definition of faith or not.
Then there is no point in talking about it, is there? You can't talk about something without sharing some idea of what it is.
 
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When you see "people of faith" talk about faith, my definition is the one they are using
Frankly, I have never met anyone that uses that definition. Or in fact a definition. Most people have very vague ideas. They wouldn't compare believe in the sun rising to faith in God. It does neither concept any favour.
 
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certainly not the vague untrustworthy concept that towr can't even adequately describe.
It's hard to adequately describe something like faith; it's hard to do it justice either way. But that is a normal state of human concepts, try defining "game", without including too much and without excluding too much (the example is a famous one by Wittgenstein's; the concept of game itself is not particularly relevant here.)  
 
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If you choose to consider faith to be something less, then you do not understand what they are talking about.
If you think I'm considering faith something less, then you don't understand my "vague untrustworthy concept" of faith. I'm considering it to be something different.
 
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As for the life on other planets issue. Go back and read that book again yourself. This time keep careful note of exactly where it touches on hard verifiable facts.
Ian and Jack are actually quite helpfull there, they're demolishing preconceptions and badly based theories left and right. Showing exactly where mistakes in reasoning are, and what the facts do and don't allow for conclusions. The whole point of the book is to show what's wrong with 'astrobiology' and why it should be replaced by an actual science.
 
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You'll be amazed at how far it is from such facts to the conclusion. David Brin once said that he thought the arguments against life on other planets were statistical arguments based on a sample size of 1. I was disappointed that he failed to realize that is even more true of arguments for life on other planets.
You think mathematics, physics and chemistry is fundamentally different on other planets? Because that's what their argument is ultimately based on. They discuss at length the problems with basing conclusions based on one example (earth), either pro or con.
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Re: religion  
« Reply #48 on: Apr 15th, 2007, 9:09am »
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on Apr 14th, 2007, 12:47pm, Icarus wrote:
How is believing the opposite of what strong empirical evidence predicts equivalent to believing the same as strong empirical evidence predicts?
It's just a small matter of reinterpreting evidence. If you have no faith in the at-face-value of evidence, you can always take it as evidence of the opposite. Like some people think the world is out to get them; especially when things go their way the moment someone they want to proof this to is around.
The gnostics might have said that the world is just a clever delusion fabricated by a false god to make us accept a lesser state of being -- and all the supposed evidence to the contrary only shows how good a job he does. It's also a bit matrix-y, admittedly.
 
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And here we come to the crux of the problem. Why are you confused by this? It is because faith is a religious term, and you like to think that religion has no empirical basis. And this is where you are completely wrong.
I can't speak for Ulkesh, but I fully believe people have religious experiences. And I'd fully expect normal, rational, sane people that have religious experiences to take that as evidence of there being something more to this world. Similarly I fully believe people experience alien abductions, and for that reason believe in aliens. Which isn't to say there can't be other explanations of such experiences. But it's not a sane respons to think you're mad or halucinating: I'm not sure if I would dare tell God to his face he's just a figment of my imagination.
However, I don't know of any objective evidence pointing to either visiting aliens or God; that is to say, nothing that can't have a million other explanations as well. With the evidence pointing in all directions, any conclusion is beyond it. Some further out than others, too.  
You can't share the personal evidence in any real way, not the way you can share scientific evidence; and in that sense there is something more to faith than to regular beliefs. Faith, in my book, also has connotations of much greater personal importance than regular beliefs; and faith tends to touch on the meaning of it all.
I just think it just doesn't do it justice to heap it all together.
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Re: religion  
« Reply #49 on: Apr 15th, 2007, 3:03pm »
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on Apr 15th, 2007, 8:15am, towr wrote:
But mightn't you refer to it being north if it was actually north north west. If it's just a mile or two, what's the difference really.
How far beyond is still sensible, and with what degree of variation?

 
The problem here is that people disagree on where the evidence points, not that some people choose to go to the side of where it points. I.e., the question isn't whether it's a mile or two west of north, but rather: which direction exactly is north?
 
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Then there is no point in talking about it, is there? You can't talk about something without sharing some idea of what it is.

 
This is my point. The definition I gave IS the one used by people of faith (to the extent I've gone with it - more on that later). If you choose to reject it, then you will not understand what they mean. But their meaning is not dependent on your interpretation.
 
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Frankly, I have never met anyone that uses that definition. Or in fact a definition. Most people have very vague ideas. They wouldn't compare believe in the sun rising to faith in God. It does neither concept any favour.

 
Then either you have not met anyone who has a real grasp of faith, or you have and have failed to recognize it and understand what they meant. Do you really mean to tell me that you would reject a clear definition because of the maunderings of someone who you admit has no real idea what they are talking about?
 
Among those of us who have studied faith, its origins, and its applications, the idea that it springs from evidence, but goes beyond that evidence, is the essential part. The only difference you will find is in exactly what words we use to describe the concept. (Caveat: Augustinians will not agree with this. To them, faith is something given supernaturally from God, not arising out of our own experience. Obviously, other religious movements may have their own ideas as well. But all will agree that it is belief that reaches past evidence).
 
As for comparing faith in God to belief in the sun rising. You are very much mistaken. This comparison does much favor to both. To faith in God, it reveals that faith is not some nebulous fuzzy-wuzzy feel-good concept, but rather a rational hard-grounded conclusion based on the person's experiences. I find much in favor of that. To belief in the sun rising, it points out that any prediction of future events, no matter how basic, is a step beyond observation. It requires putting trust in your reasoning ability, and in things that you can only assume are true. (Who knows that there aren't Vogons out there ready to destroy our world and spout bad poetry?)
 
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It's hard to adequately describe something like faith; it's hard to do it justice either way. But that is a normal state of human concepts, try defining "game", without including too much and without excluding too much (the example is a famous one by Wittgenstein's; the concept of game itself is not particularly relevant here.)

 
No definition in ordinary language is complete and exact. Mine leaves off a significant part of what faith is. I have ignored that part thus far because it was peripheral to my point: that faith works with evidence, not against it. However, to be more thorough, faith means not just believing in something, but trusting in it. The best way of explaining this that I know is by a famous illustration (of which I'll only give a synopsis). The story goes that a tight-rope walker sets up his tight-rope across some precipice and after several demonstrations of his prowess, asks the crowd if they believe he can cross the tight-rope carrying someone. The crowds all cheer and say they believe he can. He then asks "Who will be the first to go?" Faith is not just believing it can be done. Faith is letting the tight-rope walker carry you across.  
 
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If you think I'm considering faith something less, then you don't understand my "vague untrustworthy concept" of faith. I'm considering it to be something different.

 
It may be that you don't consider it something less, but by your remarks, you have been making something less of it.
 
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Ian and Jack are actually quite helpfull there, they're demolishing preconceptions and badly based theories left and right. Showing exactly where mistakes in reasoning are, and what the facts do and don't allow for conclusions. The whole point of the book is to show what's wrong with 'astrobiology' and why it should be replaced by an actual science.

 
It would be nice to have it be an actual science. But in order for it to become one, you need to be able to test hypotheses, and right now that is impossible. The only testing that is possible at this time is limited to the planets of our own solar system (and except for one, the testing is extremely difficult).
 
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You think mathematics, physics and chemistry is fundamentally different on other planets? Because that's what their argument is ultimately based on. They discuss at length the problems with basing conclusions based on one example (earth), either pro or con.

 
That mathematics is the same is pretty much a given, as mathematics is strictly mental. That the overall structure of physics would differ is implausible, but cannot be entirely ruled out. That the values of the basic constants of physics are the same throughout space-time is mostly an assumption, also untestable at this time (some theories predict that all constants are constrained to particular values, but these theories have not been successfully tested, so far). Chemistry is derivative from physics. If the physics is the same, so are all other hard sciences.
 
But even given that physics behaves the same everywhere in the universe, I cannot see how they can have given any meaningful calculations, because we don't know the physics and chemistry here well enough yet! Theories about the origins of life on this planet are too unsupported for me to be willing to put any trust at all in predictions made from them about life on other planets!
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"Pi goes on and on and on ...
And e is just as cursed.
I wonder: Which is larger
When their digits are reversed? " - Anonymous
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