Unverifiable "Knowledge" is Demonstrably Trivial.

On April 14, 1994, two American Air force pilots in F15 fighter planes misidentified two American Army helicopters operating in Iraq and shot them down killing all 26 people aboard. Because the lead pilot was not able to evaluate his personal belief using external evidence, 26 people are dead.

In an interview after the incident, the lead pilot, the pilot that fired on the helicopters, reported that he had no doubt they were Iraqi helicopters when he shot them down. The wingman, who was supposed to confirm, took the lead pilots word for it and the AWACs officers in charge of command and control believed the lead pilot even though they had information that the helicopters were scheduled to be there.  If they would have taken the time to look at all the evidence, it would have been obvious that they were not Iraqi helicopters. His personal belief needed external verification.

After the fact, The secretary of Defense identified four causes of the incident
- Pilots mis-identified the Black Hawks
- The AWACS crew failed to intervene
- The helicopters were not well integrated into the task force
- The "Identification Friend or Foe" System failed. However it worked properly, it was just not configured properly.
Retired Lt. Col. Scott Snook wrote about his investigation of the incident in a book called "Friendly Fire: The Accidental Shootdown of U.S. Black Hawks over Northern Iraq".
Wikipedia has an entry on it as well. 1994 Black Hawk Shootdown Incident
I have included a Dr. Snooks elaboration on the causes at the end of the article.

Though this case is usually studied as an example of how decision making in an organization fails, I want to focus on an aspect referred to in this statement by the AWACS pilot, since the helicopters were shot down by the man who held the belief.
"AWACS crew members added in their testimonies that once Wickson (the lead pilot) and May (the wingman) visually identified the helicopters as hostile, all responsibility for the shootdown passed to the F-15 pilots."
Peterson, "Court-Martial Begins in 'Friendly Fire' Deaths in Iraq", Piper, Chain of Events, p. 214–215.

Though the AWACs officers had prior information about the helicopters, the AWACS pilots took the word of the lead pilot when he said he saw Iraqi helicopters.  In fact the AWACS pilots were impressed by the lead pilots ability to not only identify that the helicopters were enemy but that he could identify what kind they were.  The AWACS officers placed a higher value on the lead pilots belief than the data that they had on file.  Additionally, the wingman in the other fighter jet did not confirm that the helicopters were enemy, but only confirmed that there were two helicopters.  The wingman believed that if the lead pilot believed they were enemy helicopters, then they must be.

The pilots expected that if they saw helicopters when they were doing their initial patrol, then they could only be  Iraqi helicopters.  When they saw the helicopters, they perceived and inferred what they expected. They believed what they thought they saw.  They were certain that they had knowledge of two Iraqi helicopters and were justified in shooting them down.

COGNITIVE BIASES
We are fundamentally bounded in our rationality. We are bounded by the physical architecture of our brain, our experiences, what we already know and believe, our feelings, our self-interest.  We don't examine every possible option, or every scrap of data before we make a decision. We adopt heuristics, mental shortcuts. Usually, when the stakes are low and mistakes happen, whatever harm is done is tolerable.  But only when the stakes are high is it obvious that procedures need to be in place to correct for cognitive bias and human error.

Some of the Biases that I can see that were obviously involved in this incident are
- Overconfidence bias: Human beings are systematically overconfident in our judgments.
- Confirmation Bias: Human beings tend to gather and rely on information that confirms thier existing views and tend to avoid or downplay information that disconfirms what we think is the case.
- Accepting the word of someone based on acquaintance: the wingman worked closely with the lead pilot and had a lot of respect for his skills.
- Deference to Authority: the wingman and the AWACs officer did not question the mis-identification by the lead pilot, though the AWACs officers had information about the identity of the helicopters prior to the shootdown.
Cognitive bias skews our thinking and makes it hard to come to correct conclusions, make good decisions, and formulate "Justified Beliefs".  That is why it is important to use methods to counteract cognitive bias.  One of the first to be formulated was "the scientific method".  If the scientific method is used as it is intended, it will counteract many of the effects of cognitive bias.  If a persons belief system makes it difficult to trust the scientific method, then at least it should be agreed on that things in general need some definition and boundaries, and those definitions and boundaries should be kept in mind when deliberating.  Human error should always be considered likely in anything a human does.

List of Cognitive Biases from Wikipedia.
[Wikipedia should not be considered authoritative, but a good place to start]

HOW DO WE COME TO "KNOW" SOMETHING?
In an interview after the fact: the fighter pilot reported that he had no doubt they were Iraqi helicopters when he shot them down. The black hawks did not even cross his mind when he made the decision.The lead pilot "knew" that they were Iraqi helicopters.

What is Knowledge?
Knowledge can be of how to do something, knowing a person, or a place, or propositions.  This discussion will be limited to "Someone knows that a Proposition is true or is a fact".  Briefly stated, "S knows that P" or "The lead pilot knew that they were Iraqi helicopters" or "I know that God exists because of the inner witness of the spirit".

Epistemologists have wrestled with the idea of "rightly justified belief" as a definition of knowledge, but they always come to the same point of disagreeing on "what makes some knowledge or belief preferred over another?".   Can a consensus be reached on a standard for determining what makes some knowledge or belief more preferred or "better" than another?  I think an external standard has already has been found and has been put into practice in fields such as Public Safety and Public Health, civil engineering and such, for many years.  I think the strongest work in Epistemology is being done outside the domain of philosophy and is not being done by philosophers.

Justified Beliefs
The fighter pilots belief about the Iraqi Helicopters was not "rightly justified".  It was a weakly justified belief on little evidence that was of a type that was likely to be in error.  While its true he had to make a time critical decision, and while a military hearing found him not culpable for anything other than making a mistake, some points in the time-line of the event were identified that could have prevented the shootdown had some action been taken to account for the likelihood of human error.  The team could have considered the external data they had.  Someone should have asked the lead pilot "What makes you so sure those aren't the Army Helicopters that we expect to work with today?"

Introduction to some key concepts in Epistemology
Key terms in epistemology are Belief, Truth, Justification, Evidence, Reliability, Internalism, Externalism, Foundationalism, and Coherentism, but unfortunately, some of the key terms in use are largely undefined. In reading through the Epistemological literature, it is obvious that in some cases the terms and words are minced until they are no longer useful. It results in some philosophers positing obviously improbable and unknowable "thought experiments" as analogies to use in deliberation while presuming that the analogy "fits".  The "Brain-in-a-vat" thought experiment is a famous one, and Berkeleys "we all exist in the mind of God" is another. In reality, a thought experiment that breaks down the boundaries so much so as to permit "fantasy" is not very useful.  We have to find a reliable way to exclude "fantasy" and more importantly "Human Error".

AN EXTERNAL STANDARD TO USE IN DETERMINING WHAT IS "KNOWLEDGE"
In order to make progress in defining what is knowledge and what is not, some standards need to be agreed on. If language is insufficient to capture a definition of knowledge, yet everyone seems to "know" things and use that knowledge to interact in the world, then "What knowledge is" is not as important as "what action are you taking on what you think you know"?  More importantly "Will it cause any harm?" Does the possible harmful outcome outweigh the risk?  What justifies a person in taking some action based on what they think they know?

Having The Humility To Accept The Possibility Of Error In Perception
Lets look at the shootdown incident through an Epistemological lens and try to come up with why one variety of knowledge is more preferred than another.

1. The pilot thinks that if he see's helicopters where he doesn't expect them, they will be enemy.
BIAS, BELIEF:

2.  He see's helicopters and he didn't expect them.
INTERNAL EVIDENCE, JUSTIFIES HIS BELIEF AND IT BECOMES TRUE TO HIM, CONFIRMATION BIAS

3. He is an expert, he gives his opinion to his team.
HE EXPRESSES HIS BELIEF, OVERCONFINDENCE BIAS

4.  His team defers to his expertise rather than checking the data
DEFERENCE TO AUTHORITY, INTERNAL EVIDENCE VS EXTERNAL EVIDENCE:

5.  He shoots down the helicopters and kills twenty six people
INTERNAL EVIDENCE APPARENTLY NOT AS RELIABLE AS EXTERNAL EVIDENCE

6. If he had externally verified his beliefs with the external data that was held by the AWACS plane, he would not have shot down the helicopters.

THEREFORE EXTERNAL VERIFICATION IS MORE VALUABLE THAT INTERNAL VERIFICATION IN MATTERS OF HEALTH AND SAFETY.

But we all already knew that didn't we? This principle is already presumed in society.  Its just that some of us have to deny it to make a system of beliefs work.

Therefore, generally, unverifiable internal knowledge is trivial compared to externally verifiable knowledge. This principle is accepted as a sound principle and expected to be used to make judgments.  To not use this principle can be considered negligent.

Using an external standard of minimizing harm, I have shown that the relative value of Internal Knowledge is less than the value of External knowledge.

Equivocation Of The Word "Justification"
Paul's use of Justification by Faith means "justified to join the christian community of believers" by faith in Christ not by being Jewish, joining the Jewish community or following Jewish laws. Its not a knowledge claim at all, its membership criteria. So "Justification" is membership criteria for whatever it is that is being assessed for inclusion in a category. 

It would fit the task of assessing whether a belief should be considered knowledge. Justification for inclusion in the Jewish community is quite another thing than Justification by faith of knowledge of God.  When someone says that they are justified in a belief in god by faith, then they are making a circular statement.  Faith is a belief in god, and belief in God is Faith.  Or do I have a misconception?

Belief does not seem to be the preferred way to acquire knowledge because it doesn't counteract the likelihood of Human Error.

\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

Here is a brief summary of the elaboration on the findings of the Secretary of Defense from Snooks Book with my notes in brackets and curly braces.

- The helicopters were army, the fighter planes were Air Force. They did not effectively share information with each other.

- The fighters pre-flight papers did not indicate the helicopters were going to be there

- Before anyone can come into the zone, fighter pilots fly around the zone ensure there are no enemy  and make the call or decision that it is clear.  The US Helicopters were in the zone before the pilots had finished their initial flight. The pilots did not expect to see Helicopters in the area until they had reported that it was clear of enemy.
 
- An American AWACs plane was in the area whose task it was to ensure monitoring and control of the area. It knew about both fighter planes and helicopters were in close vicinity to one another.
 
[Part of the verification process]
- The Helicopters could not respond to the IFF signal in the affirmative because they were not using the same code as the fighters.

- The pre-flight papers did not indicate the helicopters would be there

- Standard operating procedure dictates the Jets should be first in the zone to ensure it's safe
 
- The US Helicopters were outfitted with extra fuel tanks that caused them to resemble Iraqi helicopters.

- The pilots were not familiar with the new equipment configuration.

[Human Error]
- The fighter pilot and wingman did not verify or confirm each others conclusions when they conducted the visual assessment though they INFERRED each others confirmation due to ambiguous language usage.

[Cognitive Biases]
- Interview after the fact: the fighter pilot reported that he had no doubt they were Iraqi helicopters when he shot them down. The black hawks did not even cross his mind when he made the decision.
{He did not have access to information he needed that was stored in his brain.  For some reason, his cognitive processes did not access what he had in memory and bring it to consciousness. This is a common cognitive limitation that occurs to people on a daily basis, and will probably occur to the reader today or this week.  }

- Interview after the fact: The wingman said that when the fighter pilot said he identified them as Iraqi helicopters, he believed him.
{In social psychology, Research in persuasion has created four major categories  of persuasion variables.  In this instance the wingmans decision making was biased by the variables in the "Communicator" category.  They all liked, trusted and viewed the pilot as an authority.  Research in persuasion  has demonstrated that people are more easily influenced by people they like, trust, consider and authority or are attactive}
- Persuasion
- Weapons of Persuasion

- Interview after the fact: After the fact, The AWACs officers trusted the Fighter pilots opinion over the data, so they did not challenge them. {Same as above}



72 comments:

Sabio Lantz said...

Excellent article -- thank you !
This "external standard" you write of is also present in Evidence Based Medicine. But even here, it is constantly being refined (as is the nature of science). New biases are noted all the time, For example, political bias sneaks its way into Evidence Based Medicine ideas. But since history, even recent history, shows we are constantly refining, we must not take too much solace in something being a "standard" but instead, in them being useful.

I agree that to make progress we must agree on standards, even if held tentatively. And though belief may not be a "preferred way to acquire knowledge", trust/faith is a common method with other data is unavailable by easy means.

Great article, thank you.

Persiflage said...

Fascinating article

There are, as you've hinted at here, different reasons for believing something without a doubt in one's mind.

I think I would differ though on your "What Is Knowledge" section.

I agree that it would be the most useful to limit the discussion to the knowledge of the truth or falsehood of propositions.

But I don't think you are rightly distinguishing between the words "know" and "believe." Someone who says "I believe God exists" is making a different claim from someone who says "I know God exists."

The pilot in your example believed without a doubt in his mind for one moment, but it seems to be your whole argument that he didn't really know.

A Christian who says he "knows" something because of a feeling he has that he calls the witness/moving of the spirit is simply not using the word "know" correctly. It's a belief, and a blind one at that.

It's possible to believe something blindly. It's also possible to base a belief on pretty solid looking evidence (still without truly knowing). It's possible to mistakenly believe that you know something. And most epistemologists would argue that it is possible to know some small collection of things, but definately not all things.

So wouldn't there still be a difference between a pilot with a "rightly justified belief" that he is seeing the enemy, and a pilot who unquestionably knows that he is seeing the enemy?

Lee Randolph said...

Hi persiflage,
The pilot in your example believed without a doubt in his mind for one moment, but it seems to be your whole argument that he didn't really know.

you tell me,
did he know?
Did he believe?
Did he think he knew?
Was he willing to shoot down those helicopters on a belief or a knowledge?
Or lets ask ourselves, in which case would we be willing to shoot down helicopters, if we believed or if we knew?

If I thought I would be killed if I did not act, I would act, using the precautionary principle.

But, as it turns out, He didn't know they were Iraqi helicopters, because....They weren't. He didn't know he was not shooting at enemy helicopters.

last week some others seemed to be trying to convince me that it is possible to know something that is not true, but this seems to be equivocation of the word "know". It seems to me to be a criteria of knowledge that the object of the knowledge be true. Some people believe in Krishna, so we have knowledge that they believe in Krishna, but we don't have knowledge of Krishna. We have knowledge of what people believe about Krishna, but we don't know if Krishna is real. If Krishna is not real, then they don't have knowledge of any characteristics of Krishna, but of something else. Once Krishna is debunked, they have knowledge of a fantasy called Krishna. At that point we know to a large degree, that Krishna was a fantasy.


And I have to ask you, since we probably both know how easy it is to get off track with the definitions of "believe" and "know" once we start mincing them, what difference does it make?

Its a matter of degrees.

How does one become or how does one find a pilot who unquestionably knows that he is seeing the enemy?
the only way I know of is to check and see.

Without neglecting the so far unpredictable role the limbic system plays in certainty, A perception becomes a belief, and become strengthened as more evidence comes in.
See, touch, smell,
ask a friend,
friend confirms, you should get the idea
a perception becomes knowledge as it gets more evidential support.

or would you disagree with that?

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Sabio,
trust/faith is a common method with other data is unavailable by easy means.
How much faith should I put in your faith?
How much should I trust your faith,
your belief,
your knowledge,
and how much
faith, belief, and or knowledge do you have?

Its easy to say trust and faith are common methods, but that is really the exception isn't it? A last resort in high stakes environments isn't it?

If you want to say its the norm when grabbing for the coffee cup when you're alone in your room, thats fine, theres little risk, but to say that its the norm for clinical trials is another isn't it?

Lee Randolph said...

By the way Sabio and Persiflage,
a heartfelt thanks for the compliments. I'm glad you seemed to appreciate it.

Persiflage said...

Randolph - "you tell me, did he know? Did he believe? Did he think he knew? … as it turns out, He didn't know they were Iraqi helicopters, because....They weren't."

So, he thought he knew, but he was wrong. It was a belief, not knowledge.

"... last week some others seemed to be trying to convince me that it is possible to know something that is not true, but this seems to be equivocation of the word 'know'."

I agree with you here completely. You cannot “know” something that is not true. You can, on the other hand, mistakenly believe that you know something … and be wrong.

"And I have to ask you … what difference does it make?"

Well, in epistemology, the difference between certainty and belief makes a hell of lot of difference. Certainty gives one more sure ground to act upon than a belief does. Do we still act on our mere beliefs all the time? Yes, and this is why, as you already explained, epistemologists discuss what precisely constitutes a “rightly justified belief.”

"How does one become or how does one find a pilot who unquestionably knows that he is seeing the enemy? the only way I know of is to check and see."

Again, I agree with you.

I think everyone would agree that the pilot who shot down friendly helicopters in this example did not have a “rightly justified belief” because
(a) he already “had information that the helicopters were scheduled to be there,”
(b) if he had “taken the time to look at all the evidence, it would have been obvious that they were not Iraqi helicopters,”
and
(c) he “took the word” of the usually reliable lead pilot, instead of checking for himself.

Wouldn’t anyone agree that a pilot shooting down helicopters would have had a “rightly justified belief” if
(a) he instead possessed intelligence that enemy helicopters were going to be there,
(b) he looked at evidence that made it appear they were enemy helicopters (oh say, an American convoy had been ambushed by Iraqi helicopters a mile away),
even though
(c) these helicopters were still dots in the distance that he couldn’t physically identify

While, it could be said that a pilot unquestionably knows that he is seeing the enemy when
(a) he witnesses the Iraqi helicopters attacking his own convoy,
(b) he’s close enough to see the helicopter make & model and Iraqi uniformed crewmen
and
(c) they start firing missiles at him.

In both the last two scenarios, the pilot would be justified in acting, even though one would only still be based on belief, while the other would be based on certainty. There are so many things we don’t know in life that we do have to constantly act upon mere beliefs based on the evidence that we do know. But, the ability to distinguish between knowing and a belief can help us determine when to be more or less cautious. Even knowing that it is possible to have a false belief that we know something is very useful.

Persiflage said...

Randolph - “A perception becomes a belief, and become strengthened as more evidence comes in … a perception becomes knowledge as it gets more evidential support - or would you disagree with that?”

Yes, I would also agree with that.

In a discussion about this last year my friends and I worked out this definition of knowable reality - "The outside environment that man collectively and repeatedly perceives, interacts with, and remembers."

http://persiflagethis.blogspot.com/2008/07/first-things.html

Of course, this turns into a completely different discussion if you would make the claim that it is impossible to know anything at all. But from your article, I did not get the impression that that is something you would claim.

My little disagreement being simply when you asked - “Can a consensus be reached on a standard for determining what makes some knowledge or belief more preferred or ‘better’ than another?”

Yes, I believe this consensus can be (and has been) reached.

But, in order to do so, one first has to distinguish between knowing and believing in the first place. After that, you can rank your preferences -

Knowing/Certainty

Justifiable Belief (based on credible evidence)

Unjustifiable Belief (based on poor evidence)

Blind Belief (based on no evidence whatsoever)

Etc.

Sabio Lantz said...

I didn't say anything insight full. Just this:
Today I was kayaking with my son -- his first time on a river. I told him to avoid certain types of logs, and how to approach large rocks. He trusted me. He now knows how to do that not by trial and error but because I told him and he trusts that I am correct. I also taught him how to cook bacon this morning -- same deal for temperature, etc.
See, common sense stuff. Trust is a huge way we get knowledge. We can later test it or not.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Persiflage,
Of course, this turns into a completely different discussion if you would make the claim that it is impossible to know anything at all
When I was a Christian, I had a shocking moment, where I realized on my own, that at any given moment I might be wrong, and that I should start thinking in terms of "degrees". It was around the time I started trying to be an apologist.
That was before I heard of socrates saying something like "a wise man knows he doesn't know" or something like that.

From my readings in epistemology, which I discovered through Information Science and databases by the way, I agree more with the Bayesians and part of this article that didn't make into to final cut is a defense of Bayesian Epistemology. I left it out because it wasn't really necessary to support my claim and got unnecessarily technical.

But, in order to do so, one first has to distinguish between knowing and believing in the first place.
I think its "a problem of the heap" or "beard" or whatever you prefer, and it needs an external demarcation, similar to a rule for a drinking age, since there is likely to be no physical demarcation to point to. Even if neuroscience is able to show how it works in the brain, I think it will always be dependent on which school of thought one adheres to.

As I see it, the principle of mitigating harm is one that is already in place, is intuitive and has been in practice implicitly for a long time.

If we say that at any given moment, whatever anyone believes is a candidate for knowledge, it should not be considered "Knowledge" (with a capital "K" if you like) until its verified however weakly, and then its status as "knowledge" gets stronger or weaker with the evidence.

As Christians point out, "they wouldn't die for a lie", but religious terrorists do it quite a bit, so Religious Terrorists think they know what they are doing, but we don't. Its a viewpoint, which in this case is bounded by a principle of harm, even within Religious Domains. The religious terrorists are a small percentage of the total believer population.

A Bayesian sort of Epistemology is is pretty much what happens by default in reality anyway, whether you're a Kuhnian or Popperian ;-)

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Sabio,
He trusted me. He now knows how to do that not by trial and error but because I told him and he trusts that I am correct. I also taught him how to cook bacon this morning -- same deal for temperature, etc.
See, common sense stuff. Trust is a huge way we get knowledge. We can later test it or not.

I am not disagreeing with you. However I would like to point out that he is "hardwired" to trust you whether biologically or logically, and you could tell him plausible sounding things that aren't true and he would believe you just as easily.

as you pointed out he/she can test it later, however, once that prior belief takes root, it shapes the perception and processing of other information and is what is later called a "bias".

For example, if I tell my children "white men are bad" and they don't ever have much experience with them except incidentally, and anecdotally, that is going to shape thier perception of "white men".

alternately, if I tell them that Jesus was an avatar of Krishna, and that hinduism is the oldest religion and all others are corruptions of hinduism, then, that would likely be a hard ideology to shake off. The "evidence" supports it pretty well if it supports what you already believe, and people resist change, and beliefs are very stubborn.

Sabio Lantz said...

Yes, beliefs from youth are stubborn. I hope my son always avoids fallen trees in fast moving rivers.

I am in medicine. I just started a new field. When my attending doc tells me, during surgery, "always, move this to the side, then cut here", I TRUST him and do it. I will probably always to it until enough theoretical feasibility outweighs risk for me to experiment.

Likewise, with many things in medicine, much is learned by trust/faith.

Trust/faith is a major way humans learn -- it has huge adaptive advantages. Much of what you know is soley based on this trust/faith.

Persiflage said...

"When I was a Christian, I had a shocking moment, where I realized on my own, that at any given moment I might be wrong ..."

The fallibility of man is definitely part of Orthodox Christian doctrine. And yet, the ability to really know some absolute truths is too. Sort of a paradox isn’t it? One could say that it is an absolute truth that man is both finite and fallible.

I looked Bayesian theory up on wikipedia btw, and yep, definately looks technical.

"If we say that at any given moment, whatever anyone believes is a candidate for knowledge ... its status as "knowledge" gets stronger or weaker with the evidence.

That just sounds really funny to me. I don't anyone except for philosophers who would call that "knowledge" - I think scientists would call that a theory. If it hasn't been proved, it hasn't been proved. I doubt you would qualify the propositional claim of the existence of God as "knowledge" that can get weaker or stronger by degrees.

Throughout history, people die for their beliefs. And some of those beliefs are horribly wrong (i.e., a woman throwing herself into her husband's funeral pyre to practice "sati" - or her family even throwing her unwillingly in). I guess I just wouldn't classify these beliefs as knowledge.

good discussion though, gives me something to think about

Rob R said...

You choose an example that serves to confirm your view that we always need to personally verify the facts through an examination of data.

As the varieties of experiences of war are unlimited, there are very likely to be instances where someone choose not to trust his companions, and choose to verify the data for himself, and for the lack of immeadiate action (because he was verifying the data for himself) he killed.

So it seems to me that you've universalized a situation that is far from universal.

I'm not confident in your distinction between external and internal verification. If the pilot examine more of the data, he'd still be weighing it against his beliefs. And as he performed, he was still dependent on external evidence even if he didn't weigh enough evidence.

If we all have to verify all of the data for our selves and we can't trust others or communities of others, then science itself is inept to bring us knowledge since no one has the time, ability, or technical skill to assess all of the data for himself. This highlights the futility of an individualistic epistemology.

Owlmirror said...

«"If we all have to verify all of the data for our selves and we can't trust others or communities of others, then science itself is inept to bring us knowledge since no one has the time, ability, or technical skill to assess all of the data for himself. This highlights the futility of an individualistic epistemology.

Good thing that science is not just an individualistic epistemology, then. It's an individualistic epistemology and a consensual epistemology. More importantly, the methodology is completely open; the data is there to be checked as much as you like -- and if you have a correction to the data based on real-world evidence, it will be accepted.

No, we don't have the time, ability, or skill to assess all of the data. But in order to deny all of it, you pretty much have to accuse everyone involved of dishonesty, in an epistemic system where honesty is continually reinforced by group cross-checking of data and methods.

Religion is not based on evidence. Religion is fundamentally dishonest -- because it's an epistemic system where honesty is less important than tradition and personal preference. Sometimes it accepts correction based on evidence -- but more often does not.

This dishonesty is demonstrated by Jesus himself, in the story of Doubting Thomas. Thomas asks for, and receives, real-world verification that Jesus has resurrected. Jesus says: "blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed."; the story of doubt is told to emphasize that faith without evidence is just plain better. Yet on what is the faith supposed to be built on, without evidence? Nothing at all, except perhaps the personal charm of the one telling the story. The claim that those who believe that a miracle occurred without seeing the evidence for themselves are blessed is the mark of a swindler looking to persuade the gullible through deception.

Lee Randolph said...

HI Persiflage,
The fallibility of man is definitely part of Orthodox Christian doctrine. And yet, the ability to really know some absolute truths is too. Sort of a paradox isn’t it? One could say that it is an absolute truth that man is both finite and fallible.
boy, you guys sure do love throwing that "absolute" this-and-that around. To know there are absolutes, don't you have to know that you know everything about something?

How do you determine that there are any absolutes? or What is absolute?

I'll agree that it sure looks like it is an absolute truth that man is fallible, but thats only because we are discussing a general characteristic, and because I know something about it through experience. I stopped being so promiscuous with "absolute" when I stopped being a christian.

And you've fallen back to that "this but not-this" mystery hogwash.
The fallibility of man is definitely part of Orthodox Christian doctrine. And yet, the ability to really know some absolute truths is too.
I know that 2+2=4 because I can count it, but I am not so sure that Vishnu has come down to earth eight other times before he came down as Jesus. The time before Jesus he was Krishna, just to be clear.

I doubt you would qualify the propositional claim of the existence of God as "knowledge" that can get weaker or stronger by degrees.
evidently,
because, for example, you can't show any other evidence for Jesus beside four gospels that were included in the bible and a handful that were thrown out for various reasons, some of which is that "they were unbelievable or unreliable".

I think we can agree on lots of instances that don't qualify as knowledge, funeral pyres, religious terrorism, but you'd probably disagree with me on the inner witness of the holy spirit, unless i have a misconception.

I'd like to note that you seem not to have given any serious thought or have decided not to think about how you come to know something.

It starts as perception does it not? Where does it go from there?

you perceive it with other senses, you get confirmation from your internal sources, and then you look for external confirmation all the while becoming more certain in the idea, as it becomes knowledge. its true you might be wrong, but then now we are back to external verification trumping internal verification aren't we. Maybe that's why you haven't given it much thought.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi rob,
You choose an example that serves to confirm your view that we always need to personally verify the facts through an examination of data.
you evidently haven't read the whole article or the comments.

I included the INDUSTRIES OF HEALTH AND SAFETY.

now you may want to rethink that.

If the pilot examine more of the data, he'd still be weighing it against his beliefs. And as he performed, he was still dependent on external evidence even if he didn't weigh enough evidence.
uh,
if you're talking about his vision as an external source, then what would you consider an internal source?

If we all have to verify all of the data for our selves and we can't trust others or communities of others, then science itself is inept to bring us knowledge since no one has the time, ability, or technical skill to assess all of the data for himself. This highlights the futility of an individualistic epistemology.
uh,
you are right we have to trust some sources of "knowledge" but they are usually established and verified before we do so. I haven't touched anything that is labeled as "high voltage" and trust whoever posted the sign, but I don't know what it is like to be shocked with high voltage, and I don't know that the item labeled is "high-voltage" but I don't really care because the outcome outweighs the risk and I'm happy not knowing but only trusting.

however, if there were never any deaths from high-voltage, then it wouldn't be a standard safety principle, lawful regulation, to label instances of high-voltage.

oh yea, and just in case you were planning on it, you can forget about using "science" as an angle to attack my argument, I have abandoned science because it is so easily mis-understood by laymen and use things that they have experience with, namely, safety, health and business.

its all the same processes anyway.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Rob,
here's a little game I like to play sometimes to demonstrate how an argument is fallacious because it doesn't hold across domains. I replaced your use of the word "science" with SAFETY to reveal the fallacy.

If we all have to verify all of the data for our selves and we can't trust others or communities of others, then SAFETY itself is inept to bring us knowledge since no one has the time, ability, or technical skill to assess all of the data for himself. This highlights the futility of an individualistic epistemology.

and when I put it like that, it seems to be an argument in favor of my claim that externally verified "knowledge" trumps internally verified "knowledge".

Persiflage said...

I could see how you’ve probably talked to others who have thrown the term “absolutes” around loosely (and often arrogantly). I’ve talked to them too. But I’m trying to only use the idea of an “absolute truth” in a very strict sense. This is why I was asking if you’d make the distinction between merely believing something on one hand, and knowing something on the other.

To know there are absolutes, don't you have to know that you know everything about something?

No, I wouldn’t think so. For example, I know that man is fallible without knowing everything about man. But there is a difference between knowing one thing (or small collection of truths) and knowing all things (knowing every single truth). You don’t have to claim to know everything in order to claim to know something.

How do you determine that there are any absolutes? or What is absolute?

By absolute, I only mean knowing something with certainty. There are some things we can be certain of. Wouldn’t you agree? So there are only absolutes if there is anything we can really know.

I'll agree that it sure looks like it is an absolute truth that man is fallible, but that’s only because we are discussing a general characteristic, and because I know something about it through experience.

Right, so a propositional statement about a general characteristic of man can be an absolute. (If you’re only defining an absolute as certainty).

We can be absolutely sure that 2 + 2 = 4. But we are sure of this because the concepts of 2 and 4 are strictly defined. This is knowledge, but it is also limited knowledge.

“I think we can agree on lots of instances that don't qualify as knowledge … but you'd probably disagree with me on the inner witness of the holy spirit, unless I have a misconception.”

No. I’m not making any claims to absolute knowledge by some “inner witness of the holy spirit.” That’s why I was trying to distinguish between something you “feel” or “believe” as opposed to something you know. Sometimes we base our beliefs on “feelings” and sometimes we base our beliefs on the evidence that we know. But claiming that you “know” something simply because you feel or believe or have faith in it doesn’t work.

I'd like to note that you seem not to have given any serious thought or have decided not to think about how you come to know something.

Well, that’s precisely what I’m trying to do right now actually. There’s a reason I’m reading your blog, other atheist websites, and a few Dawkins and Hitchens books right now. It’s helping me think. I’m not just trying to have online debates (I have enough friends to do that with in person).

“It starts as perception does it not? Where does it go from there?”

Your explanation is a good start. 1 - perceiving with the senses, 2 - confirmation internally, 3 - confirmation/verification externally. I’d also add that we analyze our perceptions and etc. through the faculty of reason. From the simple evidence of our senses, we make logical deductions that outside reality exists. Interaction with others around us provides more knowledge because others have experiences that we do not. And experience also helps me understand how my senses are limited. My senses can be fooled (I can see a mirage in the desert). But studying the fact that my senses can be fooled provides even more knowledge (a mirror can be created by gases hovering over the desert, my eyes are correctly reporting the reflection of the light in the sky, and figuring this out informs me that the mirage is not a lake of water).

So I guess no matter what you believe (what your religion or culture is), there’s still some (a limited amount) basics out there that we can all agree on. That we can all know with certainty.

Lee Randolph said...

hi persiflage,
I'm sorry if I jumped to conclusions about, you know we get used to "more of the same" around here but you obviously are not.
I appreciate the dialog more than you know and I'll be back later to comment more.
thanks.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi persiflage,
when I slow down and give you a charitable reading, there's not much I disagree with in any significance.

I'd like to invite you to look into the role of the limbic system in certainty. If you go to the Brain Science podcast website,
part 1
part 2
there are two interviews with the author of ON BEING CERTAIN. He give case studies of people that were ceratin they were dead, or their wife was hat, or their hand was not thier own etc. While these are extreme cases, they serve to illustrate the physiological aspect of how bounded our reasoning is by our physical make-up.

my view of knowledge is something like this
the brain can store an "event", fact or perception what have you, and then we build our feeling of certainty by evidence or whatever it is that nurtures the feeling of certainty. In a 'normal' situation, it would be something like propositions supporting a claim, or experiences supporting a perception etc.

I see "knowledge" from a computer science, artificial intelligence perspective. something like It starts as information stored, then we get a feeling about how committed we are to it based on our comparisons to stored prior experience or information, we do an "integrity check", "cross-checks", pattern recognition, processing in general that helps to nurture our commitment to it. Our commitment represents our belief, and if our belief turns out to be true, then it qualifies as knowledge. This feeling of commitment has recently been roughly approximated in computers by data mining algorithms that generate theories.

In a loose sense of the word, anything anyone is certain about could be considered knowledge until its falsified, but in general, I think we only have a degree of knowledge of anything no-matter how certain we are or how obvious it is. To believe otherwise would be to disregard the role of introduction of new information or the role of chance. Euclidian geometry doesn't hold in all domains, and neither did newtonian physics, Quantum Mechanics is a game changer, so we should always leave that "one percent" available for new information that may tip the scale.

I know that I left myself open to an uncharitable interpretation and someone could jump on that and say "god exists in that gap" but I would point out that presumes the existence of a god, let alone the identity of the god, neither of which a consensus exists.

Rob R said...

post 1 of 3

Lee Randolph,


I think I had read enough of your post to get the jist and after a more thorough reading, my understanding of what was said did not change much. I'll grant though that there may be some details that I don't understand. I had not read the whole discussion either and it isn't my general practice to do so. i don't expect others to read a whole discussion when I post a blog, but if I answer something and someone brings it up again, I would point them to the specific posts of interest, unless they are rude, arrogant or outrageous in which I'll insist they read the whole thing for themselves to find that what they bring up is old news. I skimmed before but since you suggested that I read more, I have found it fruitful. I have however spent most of my time responding to owlmirror so I will get back to the conversation (at least thus far) with you later.


Owlmirror,


It's an individualistic epistemology and a consensual epistemology.

Actually, science isn't in and of itself an epistemology. After all, even some scientists have an "instrumentalist" approach to science which means that they don't think the rules of nature that science developes reflects reality so much as they are useful in organizing the data. The history of science naturally leads some people to this conclusion with great examples from physics where we have tremendous experimental confirmation of newtonian physics until the numbers get too big, too small, or too precise. then we we get the current situation of of quantum physics and relativity which have contradictory predictions in some areas.

But granting a realist approach to science, I agree that it is individualistic in a fairly limited way, and more broadly, it is consensual, that is based upon appeals to authority.


the data is there to be checked as much as you like -- and if you have a correction to the data based on real-world evidence, it will be accepted.

Yes of course the data is there. It's just not there to be checked by everyone personally.

For most of the advanced science, you might be able to find what you are looking for in a journal, to get the info second hand, but you can't walk into the control room of a large scale particle accelerator and do the experiments for yourself. You can't go into the control room for the hubble telescope and make sure all the equipment is working right. No, there's a lot of faith going on. And that's okay. That's the way it should be. There's nothing wrong with accepting some (as in most things) things on rational faith.

And of course, that's only the issue of access. I like the vast majority of humanity am not qualified or capable of assessing the data for myself. I don't have the time and money to get a ph.d let alone a BS in whatever science is in question. The best I can do is attempt to make coherent sense of what has been explained in layman's terms, and even that has to be given up when we come to quantum mechanics. Of course, it's not like quantum mechanics is clearly true anyway since it conflicts with relativity.


But in order to deny all of it, you pretty much have to accuse everyone involved of dishonesty,


Or philosophical bias. But that's beside the point. I wouldn't deny all of it. I have faith just like you and all of those scientists in what I cannot personally verify. Coarse it's a tentative faith anyhow. I have faith in the predictive power of much of science and it's usefulness, but I've already described the sticky issues of holding to it absolutely in it's ability to describe reality. Of course we can have faith that it will one day do that and many scientists do have that faith as well.

Rob R said...

2 of 3


Religion is not based on evidence.

Nonsense, there's loads of evidence to consider from all areas of life from various sciences to history. And for Christianity there is the biblical evidence.

honesty is less important than tradition and personal preference.


This must be based upon your personal preference of your experience and your preference of what evidence to consider where Christians and religious people are shown to be dishonest and not the evidence where they act in honest ways.



This dishonesty is demonstrated by Jesus himself, in the story of Doubting Thomas. Thomas asks for, and receives, real-world verification that Jesus has resurrected. Jesus says: "blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed."; the story of doubt is told to emphasize that faith without evidence is just plain better.


I don't see how this is an example of dishonesty. Seems to me that dishonesty is about decieving people to believe a claim that one knows is not true.

And this isn't about belief without evidence. Within the narrative Thomas had evidence (just like the vast majority of evidence in much that we believe including science) based upon eye witness testimony of others. Thomas here in the narrative is acting like a guy who won't accept any scientific claims unless he verifies every detail when the community should have been trusted especially when he has already witnessed multitudes of other amazing events. And the evidence of the eyewitness testimony is consistent with a greater body of data that Thomas witnessed.

So within the narrative of the Gospel of John, your accusation of fideism just doesn't make sense. In the narrative, Thomas' problem was that he did not trust when he had plenty of reason to trust.

Course here we don't have a completely objective epistemology as personal relationships play a role in knowing. Not that that's a bad thing.

Rob R said...

3 of 3

The claim that those who believe that a miracle occurred without seeing the evidence for themselves are blessed is the mark of a swindler looking to persuade the gullible through deception.

So here, on these grounds, we'd cast the scientific community as a whole as swindlers who, while they can make there evidence available to us, it cannot truly be available to us as it is only they who can interpret the data. It's really true that we are blessed that there are those who believe them without seeing it all for themselves as our society is too complex and too rich to insist that every single person have the scientific training to verify even a fraction beyond the few details and generalities that we can get with even a college education in the liberal arts or more so with even an associates in the sciences. it just wouldn't socially make sense to withhold belief in our society without personal verification (accept of course when there is controversy within science, and there is plenty of that). And yet people of a variety of walks of life from the arts to education to government to manufacturing all take advantage of the claims of science while only experiencing it at a superficial level.

With the faith that the church promotes, as with a scientific society, we benefit with a communal epistemic approach and the trust involved is not just to get us to believe something but is itself the point as part of the solidifying of trusting personal relationships, not just with God but with each other. It is a risky proposal just as knowledge itself cannot be had without risks. Faith, isn't belief in spite of the lack of evidence. Faith is living and believing in light of a perceived risk. And as nothing can be proven absolutely or as virtually anything that can be believed to be knowledge can conceivably be wrong on some level, all knowledge requires some degree faith.

Lee Randolph said...

HI Rob, part 1
I know you're responding to owlmirror, but here are my two cents anyway

Here is where your equivocation of "faith" begins.
I have faith just like you and all of those scientists in what I cannot personally verify.
Your faith is not based on a consensus of experts derived from experimental observation and the cross-checking between data from other fields. There are tens of thousands of denominations of Christians, and they only make up 30% of the world. So your "faith" is not the "faith" of those scientists at all. One of the criteria to have "faith" in a principle discovered through science is that it is pragmatic, it can be used to make predictions, it can be used in technology or to derive other processes from.
The object of a scientists "faith" is not like the object of a christians "faith".


Nonsense, there's loads of evidence to consider from all areas of life from various sciences to history. And for Christianity there is the biblical evidence.
Once again in science as in the safety and health industries, there is a consensus on the evidence, and the different agencies proceed from there. There is no consensus on which religion is correct, or the properties of the Abrahamic god, which is where your argument breaks down. Religion is a quagmire of uncertainty, speculation and disagreement.

Where science, safety and health industries mostly agree on the evidence, religions mostly DISAGREE on the evidence.

I don't see how this is an example of dishonesty. Seems to me that dishonesty is about deceiving people to believe a claim that one knows is not true.
It is a principle that doesn't translate across domains.
It is a reasoning scheme the will nurture fraud isn't it? It is useful for fraud and it is used in fraud. Generally speaking, that reasoning scheme will not produce as many successful outcomes as one that is based on observation, experience, precedence, etc.

Would you tell your kids "blessed are those that have not seen yet still believe"? Think about that principle HARD before you answer.
Rephrased it is saying this
"Committing to an otherwise unbelievable idea on none to little evidence is good"

We should tell our kids the antithesis which is
- Look before you cross the street
- Don't trust strangers, trust is earned, Know the people first before you trust them.
- Don't put things in your mouth, you don't know where its been
- Don't touch unfamiliar animals, you don't know if they have ringworm or will bite you, you don't have any knowledge of that animals status.

and we should tell our elderly citizens,
don't invest your retirement money in anything before you talk to the family and we cross-check it.

Lee Randolph said...

HI Rob, part 2
Within the narrative Thomas had evidence (just like the vast majority of evidence in much that we believe including science) based upon eye witness testimony of others.
Right here you have presumed the accuracy of the text, but you don't know the origin, or the author of the text, depending on which text you look at, you get different details. If we say that the points of overlap in the scriptures are acceptable as evidence for the life of Jesus, we will end up with something like a short Gospel of Mark.

Using sound principles of research, there is little reason to trust the scripture as it is written because it doesn't meet criteria for trustworthy information.

Secondly, Eye Witness testimony is one of the weakest types of evidence. See if you can guess why.
Human Fallibility.
Doesn't Christianity make a big deal of how fallible humans are? They why on earth should we trust a humans word on anything that matters without cross-checking it?

Lee Randolph said...

HI Rob, part 3
So here, on these grounds, we'd cast the scientific community as a whole as swindlers who, while they can make there evidence available to us, it cannot truly be available to us as it is only they who can interpret the data.
this is misrepresentation (straw man) and a slippery slope.
You know it doesn't work like that as you've alluded to previously.

As I stated previously, the object of christian "faith" is of a different type that the object of your average citizens "faith" in the science, safety and health industries.

Owlmirror said...

«"Actually, science isn't in and of itself an epistemology.

This looks much like special pleading. My use of the term "science" was imprecise. I should have specified that I meant the scientific method -- although I think my reference to "methodology" should have made that clear.

«"After all, even some scientists have an "instrumentalist" approach to science which means that they don't think the rules of nature that science developes reflects reality so much as they are useful in organizing the data.

So? Scientists can be solipsists, if they wish, but this does not contradict the epistemic value of the scientific method.

«"The history of science naturally leads some people to this conclusion with great examples from physics where we have tremendous experimental confirmation of newtonian physics until the numbers get too big, too small, or too precise.

So? Then science self-corrected with new theory, based on the scientific method.

«"then we we get the current situation of of quantum physics and relativity which have contradictory predictions in some areas.

Please be specific in detailing what these contradictory predictions are. Do these problems contradict the fact that QM and GR do in fact make successful predictions in their own domains?

«"For most of the advanced science, you might be able to find what you are looking for in a journal, to get the info second hand, but you can't walk into the control room of a large scale particle accelerator and do the experiments for yourself. You can't go into the control room for the hubble telescope and make sure all the equipment is working right.

I think you are making a false distinction between immediate checking of the data, and long-term availability of the data to be checked. At some point, someone will be able to cross-check the data. If it's wrong, it can still be corrected.

«"I like the vast majority of humanity am not qualified or capable of assessing the data for myself. I don't have the time and money to get a ph.d let alone a BS in whatever science is in question.

You could try.

I don't think you understood my larger point, though. It's not just that the data is there; it's also that the scientific method has, as its basis, constant cross-checking. You might not be able to become an expert, but the general way that it works is that the scientists in their respective fields cross check themselves and each other, constantly.

«"Of course, it's not like quantum mechanics is clearly true anyway since it conflicts with relativity.

QM does not contradict relativity, and its truth is firmly established by experiment. The fact that the experimental results are counterintuitive is a problem with our intuitions.

And a quick double-check suggests that if anything "falls", it will be GR -- that is, it is suggested that GR is a special case the follows from a deeper string theory. I confess that I am not an expert myself, though.

«"But in order to deny all of it, you pretty much have to accuse everyone involved of dishonesty,


Or philosophical bias.

No. The broad and rigorous and constantly iterative process of the scientific method eliminates bias. No one scientist's bias is sufficient to prevent someone else from finding a refutation of that scientist's bias, if it exists.

«"I have faith in the predictive power of much of science and it's usefulness, but I've already described the sticky issues of holding to it absolutely in it's ability to describe reality. Of course we can have faith that it will one day do that and many scientists do have that faith as well.

If it can be done, it will be done by the scientific method. If the scientific method cannot describe reality, then it is not possible to do at all.

(...continues...)

Owlmirror said...

~~~continued~~~

«"Religion is not based on evidence.

Nonsense, there's loads of evidence to consider from all areas of life from various sciences to history. And for Christianity there is the biblical evidence.


Now you're definitely special pleading. There is no evidence for the truth claims about reality that are made by religion.

«"This must be based upon your personal preference of your experience and your preference of what evidence to consider where Christians and religious people are shown to be dishonest and not the evidence where they act in honest ways.

Religion -- where it demands that truth claims about reality be accepted without evidence -- is fundamentally dishonest.

«"I don't see how this is an example of dishonesty. Seems to me that dishonesty is about decieving people to believe a claim that one knows is not true.

And it is not true that it is better to believe that a miracle happened without evidence.

«"And this isn't about belief without evidence. Within the narrative Thomas had evidence (just like the vast majority of evidence in much that we believe including science) based upon eye witness testimony of others. Thomas here in the narrative is acting like a guy who won't accept any scientific claims unless he verifies every detail when the community should have been trusted especially when he has already witnessed multitudes of other amazing events.

Science is open, and has no problem opening its books and showing what happened and how, and repeating its methods and experiments. Did Jesus repeat resurrection? Did he insist that people confirm that death had occurred? Did Jesus walk on water more than once before multiple witnesses? If he walked on water, why didn't he also fly?

Jesus was not as honest as any scientist. Thomas was right to doubt.

«"And the evidence of the eyewitness testimony is consistent with a greater body of data that Thomas witnessed.

No, it wasn't. No miracle should be accepted without evidence.

«"So within the narrative of the Gospel of John, your accusation of fideism just doesn't make sense. In the narrative, Thomas' problem was that he did not trust when he had plenty of reason to trust.

Thomas had reason to not trust, given that Jesus had been arrested and performed no miracles to confound those accusing him.


«"The claim that those who believe that a miracle occurred without seeing the evidence for themselves are blessed is the mark of a swindler looking to persuade the gullible through deception.


So here, on these grounds, we'd cast the scientific community as a whole as swindlers who, while they can make there evidence available to us, it cannot truly be available to us as it is only they who can interpret the data.

Nonsense. The system is open, and it is not claimed that science is performing miracles. Indeed, the opposite: the scientific methods discovers how nature itself works. No supernatural events need apply.

«"It's really true that we are blessed that there are those who believe them without seeing it all for themselves as our society is too complex and too rich to insist that every single person have the scientific training to verify even a fraction beyond the few details and generalities that we can get with even a college education in the liberal arts or more so with even an associates in the sciences.

No, far too many people fail to understand the basic principle: If any part of science is wrong, there is a method to correct it. Anyone is allowed to -- even if the average ignorant individual is not able to.

There is no method to correct religion. You can make a schism, if you want -- but you have no way of demonstrating that your new schism is correct, and the old one was wrong. At least, not with the method of just "believing" without evidence.

(...continues...)

Owlmirror said...

~~~continued~~~

«"it just wouldn't socially make sense to withhold belief in our society without personal verification (accept of course when there is controversy within science, and there is plenty of that).

Religion teaches holding belief without personal verification in the tenets of that religion, and rejecting belief in the tenets of any other religion.

The facts of science should indeed be accepted provisionally -- because they can change based on a newer application of the scientific method. The method itself should be trusted and understood as the only way to find out anything real about reality.

Obviously, the facts that are better supported by the method should be accepted more firmly than ones that are less supported -- and by "less supported", I simply mean in the cases where the data is somewhat equivocal.

«"And yet people of a variety of walks of life from the arts to education to government to manufacturing all take advantage of the claims of science while only experiencing it at a superficial level.

And it's a pity that, given that science works, they do so without understanding the method.


«"With the faith that the church promotes, as with a scientific society, we benefit with a communal epistemic approach and the trust involved is not just to get us to believe something but is itself the point as part of the solidifying of trusting personal relationships, not just with God but with each other.

But the church rejects a genuine personal relationship with God. That is, any relationship that congregants have is with each other. An actual relationship with God is not made on the same basis a any relationship with other people.

It's a group delusion based on special pleading.

«"It is a risky proposal just as knowledge itself cannot be had without risks. Faith, isn't belief in spite of the lack of evidence. Faith is living and believing in light of a perceived risk. And as nothing can be proven absolutely or as virtually anything that can be believed to be knowledge can conceivably be wrong on some level, all knowledge requires some degree faith.

But religion rejects honest testing; there is no method for self-correction. Most changes that occur in religion are based on personal preferences and emotion-based propaganda.

Science welcomes honest testing, and changes based on empirical data.

Rob R said...

post 1 of 4


Lee,


There was something that I didn't comment on that I thought was relevant.

you dismiss with handwaving the possibilities of solipsism or the brain in a vat theory as "fantasy". I agree that these are fantasies. the problem is, there is no objective way to prove this. It surely isn't veriviable. You could say that it isn't useful, but there is no verifiable way to show that the ultimate truth about the universe is useful.

But I agree that we, you and I, are right to hold these views as fantasies. But to claim this, it helps if you don't insist on verifiability. It helps if you don't disregard the subjective as useless towards knowledge, and if you insist that we disregard this idea because it isn't useful (perhaps that isn't your approach, but I'm not going to comb the discussion in detail a third time, so you can correct me), still, what is useful and the very idea that knowledge should be about that which is useful is a subjective preference.


I said,

You choose an example that serves to confirm your view that we always need to personally verify the facts through an examination of data.

to which you replied:


you evidently haven't read the whole article or the comments.

I included the INDUSTRIES OF HEALTH AND SAFETY.

now you may want to rethink that.



Rethought it. I'm sticking to my guns. My counter example it seems to me shows that your requirement of knowledge isn't useful in all situations. I could have sworn that you admitted that there would be such situations where someone for self preservation would have to act swiftly in self preservation. So my addition was that the quick action was based upon trust. Now you'd insist that such a person in that situation wasn't acting on knowledge just because he didn't verify it for himself? I agree that he may not be on as good of epistemic grounds as he would be if he could verify it for himself, I just don't know why we would insist as an absolute that trusting someone else's judgment can't lead to knowledge.

Later (in a comment that you didn't address) Sabio Lantz gave another excellent counterexample from his own field of study in surgery where he has to trust the attending doctor as he is given precise directions on where and how to cut during surgery. Would you insist that he wasn't acting on knowledge barrowed and gained by trusting the attending doctor? Sure there's book learning prior to that action, and yet, it's not the guys that we allow into surgery who passed tests based only on book smarts, but rather it's the ones who've gained knowledge by placing themselve into this trusting relationship as well.


uh,
if you're talking about his vision as an external source, then what would you consider an internal source?


I don't have anything worked out rigorously. I'm just not confident in your distinction which just seemed to be kind of ambiguous. But I suppose the discussion above on subjective beliefs we hold qualifies.

Rob R said...

post 2 of 4


you are right we have to trust some sources of "knowledge" but they are usually established and verified before we do so.you are right we have to trust some sources of "knowledge" but they are usually established and verified before we do so. I haven't touched anything that is labeled as "high voltage" and trust whoever posted the sign, but I don't know what it is like to be shocked with high voltage, and I don't know that the item labeled is "high-voltage" but I don't really care because the outcome outweighs the risk and I'm happy not knowing but only trusting.

however, if there were never any deaths from high-voltage, then it wouldn't be a standard safety principle, lawful regulation, to label instances of high-voltage.


I was interpreting you on the basis of the fact that you said that the pilot did not verify for himself that the the helicopter was an iraqi helicopter even though it seems to me that he did, as you describe it, go through a process of verification albeit not as thorough as it could have been. But here, the process comes down to looking at a single sign. The pilot had several signs as you describe it.

Of course even you example here wouldn't necessarily lead to knowledge since the “high voltage” sign could be attached to a wire that has been unplugged.


here's a little game I like to play sometimes to demonstrate how an argument is fallacious because it doesn't hold across domains.

It seems to me that you yourself are making the claim that allegedly hold's across all domains. I'm not denying that personal verification of everything can't lead one to knowledge, I'm denying that it is always necessary across all domains (and we have three counterexamples from me regarding other combat situations, the confidence we generally place in our experience of external reality, and Sabio Lantz's example from surgery.

If we all have to verify all of the data for our selves and we can't trust others or communities of others, then SAFETY itself is inept to bring us knowledge since no one has the time, ability, or technical skill to assess all of the data for himself. This highlights the futility of an individualistic epistemology.

Sounds good to me. When I get a water boil advisory, I'm not cracking out the microscope and petry dish and text book on taxonomy of harmful bacteria and parasites.

it seems to be an argument in favor of my claim that externally verified "knowledge" trumps internally verified "knowledge".

I haven't seen this is completely the argument that you've advanced here, or at least I've interpreted more than this given of what you've said in the post and in response. But I wouldn't say that there's an absolute to make here. Perhaps external data is often better than the subjective gut feelings, and yet there are instances when this isn't the case, but if they can cohere, then that is even better.

Some areas of knowledge though cannot do without subjectivity such as ethics. I take this position even against so many Christian apologists who think you can't know morality without the bible. While pure emotion is not sufficient for morality, morality is empty and pointless without it.

Here is where your equivocation of "faith" begins.

I was quite consistent in my use of the notion of faith as embracing epistemic risk. But I don't pretend that the findings of science and religious thought are on the same epistemic grounds, and the epistemic risk is different, but of course, there is no objectively correct way to thoroughly weigh that epistemic risk.

Rob R said...

3 of 4



Your faith is not based on a consensus of experts derived from experimental observation and the cross-checking between data from other fields.

If this was true, it wouldn't change my claim about epistemic risk. It would demonstrate that what I claim had less means of lessening the epistemic risk for the Christian world view.

But it isn't true. My world view and theology is informed and seeks to find coherence amongst many disciplines. Scriptural interpretation for example gains richness and better footing when considering history, sociology, linguistics, literary theory and so on. Biblical scholars are making use of the advances in these fields to deepen their understanding and sometimes change their view to some extent on the basis of the finding in these fields. Then there are considerations from all varieties of philosophical pursuits such as epistemology, logic, metaphysics, then getting more explictely relavant in the philosophy or religion and the slightly different but related philosophical theology.

Is experimentation and prediction lacking here? With scriptural data, if prediction and experimentation have a place in historical studies, then so do they in studying biblical claims of history. And one Historian, N T Wright makes use of hypothesis and prediction in his work. Of course there is the extension of the biblical world view into contemporary life and we have observational confirmation in for example the promotion of the biblical ideal of marriage (Yes, I'm quite aware of polygamy and prostitution in scripture, but the trajectory of the narrative favors monogamous marriage) and the social sciences (highlighted in a recent time magazine cover story) confirm that this is the best situation for children as even children of poor married for life couples do better than children of wealthier divorced families.

There are tens of thousands of denominations of Christians, and they only make up 30% of the world.

a lot of those disagreements between those denominations aren't that important and they don't cover up the great deal of agreement on many important claims. But the presence of controversy doesn't prove the lack of truth. If it did, there'd be no point in our discussion. The lack of controversy doesn't mean there is no progress and the fact is, the church has been doctrinally developing over the last 2000 years in a trajectory on a number of issues. The Catholic church for example moved closer to the evangelical church in some ways doctrinally in Vatican II.

One of the criteria to have "faith" in a principle discovered through science is that it is pragmatic, it can be used to make predictions, it can be used in technology or to derive other processes from.

And where does that leave the pursuit of ethics which has yet to give us any technology or make predictions?

Of course, it like so many religions and Christianity have proven to be very pragmatic in motivating personal change and bringing social improvements. (now, at this point, you could inform me of all the atheists who do nice, decent and even noble things, and it doesn't change my point at all that religion has played the positive role that it has, and of course that people with a distorted Christianity have brought horrid evils to the world is equally irrelevent). When my father was a young doctor practicing in his home town, an elderly patient told him that he could remember when my family (My grandfather's parents, aunts and uncles and his generation) got religion, what an improvement it was as they were previously crooked buisnessmen and scoundrels. Actually they all didn't come around. I have an aunt by marriage who said she was glad that her husband didn't “get religion” and she lived to regret those words as he was neglectful and very adulterous in his marriage.

At least your claim of the unpragmatic nature of religion is subject to verifiability and it remains that it is verifiably wrong.

Rob R said...

4 of 4



Once again in science as in the safety and health industries, there is a consensus on the evidence, and the different agencies proceed from there.

In scholastic Christianity there is much growing consensus in a number of things. For example, the new perspective on paul and the law (derived from research on the implications of ancient Judaism for interpreting Paul) is viewed positively by scholars from many different backgrounds and is growing.

There is no consensus on which religion is correct, or the properties of the Abrahamic god, which is where your argument breaks down.

I'm really only defending the one though some of what I say could benefit more than one. Of course there's no consensus that all religions are wrong, accept amongst peoples who agree with you and the minority of western atheists, but that's pretty trivial.

religions mostly DISAGREE on the evidence.

There's two positions on religions that I find very shallow and skewed. One side (like certain more conservative elements of some religions and atheists) think that only the difference matter. The other side, the pluralists think only the common ground matters. I don't know why we wouldn't take both to be important.

It is a reasoning scheme the will nurture fraud isn't it?

Right, taken out of context. Taking anything out of context leads to all sorts of bad outcomes.


When you dealt with my statement on the context, you responded with a red herring:
Right here you have presumed the accuracy of the text, but you don't know the origin, or the author of the text, depending on which text you look at, you get different details.

Which has nothing to do with taking the story of doubting Thomas in the context of the gospel of John.

Of course this is all subject to historical research of which I am currently looking at and is a huge subject in and of itself. This conversation has become very long and I don't see the fruitfulness of addressing absolutely every potential conceptual difficulty with Christianity. I will mention that I hope to eventually get to Richard Burridge's book “What Are the Gospel's” which argues that the gospels belong to the genre of ancient greco-roman biographies which do not give history by the same standards of modern biographies and histories. Here, the landscape of what constitutes problematic conflict of details changes since the reasons behind a detail of the story that an ancient biographer encorporates can significantly differ from the reasons why a modern author would include a detail. A modern author would add a details event because it happened. An ancient author would wright an event to convey truth about the personality and the significance of the event.

Rob R said...

5 of 4



Secondly, Eye Witness testimony is one of the weakest types of evidence. See if you can guess why.
Human Fallibility.


it's hardly the weakest type of evidence. That completely depends upon what degree of visual witness we are talking about and the nature of the event and so on. But here, eye witness testimony is actually metaphorical. Some of the authors (Matthew) and the sources of the authors (Peter for Mark, the Beloved Disciple for John) didn't just see Jesus. They lived with him and they were taught by him. And of course, there are sources passed orally and contemporary sociological studies have shown that oral traditions within oral cultures are in fact VERY reliable contrary to previous modernistic biases.


Doesn't Christianity make a big deal of how fallible humans are? They why on earth should we trust a humans word on anything that matters without cross-checking it?

Christianity also makes a big deal of divine inspiration. Of course the fact that the four earliest gospels that are very close together in so many specific and general claims speaks not just for their reliability on the common ground but their reliability in general.


this is misrepresentation (straw man) and a slippery slope.
You know it doesn't work like that as you've alluded to previously.



I built this picture up and explained my comment. Without dealing with my explanation, this just seems to be so much handwaving.

Lee Randolph said...

hi rob, thanks for the thoughtful replies.
I can't comment right now, but please check back later.

Scott said...

Thanks Lee. Great post.

Rob wrote: I was interpreting you on the basis of the fact that you said that the pilot did not verify for himself that the the helicopter was an iraqi helicopter even though it seems to me that he did, as you describe it, go through a process of verification albeit not as thorough as it could have been. But here, the process comes down to looking at a single sign. The pilot had several signs as you describe it.

Rob,

If I come away with anything from this post it's that, given a particular view or position, there are a multitude of ways we can qualify and quantify what we consider knowledge.

In Lee's example, there were several processes and systems that could have allowed the pilot to make an accurate assessment. They were either not followed or incorrectly implemented. Even in the light of these failures, there were additional options which, had they been utilized, would have revealed a misidentification had occurred.

While the conditions in which pilots operate can be challenging, the situations they face are far from unknown. Decades have been spent studying what information is critical for pilots and trillions of dollars have been spent creating systems and processes to provide it as quickly and accurately as possible, and within in the confines of real-world constraints.

When it comes to modern aircraft encounters, every second and mile counts. It all comes down to who can obtain the most accurate information as soon as possible and how quickly it can be brought into play. When you're right or wrong, it's incredibly obvious.

Furthermore, information is constantly being refined and expanded from multiple sources which focuses on the window of operation. Conditions can change rapidly at any time during the mission and it's critical that reassessment occurs on-demand, in real-time, when information is about to be applied.

What you think you know can and should be verified and cross checked in proportion to it's application. It can be re-evaluated constantly based on your environment and situation. What might have been obscured at an earlier evaluation might be revealed under different conditions or in the presence of new information.

These are techniques that have been proven effective in countless situations and have brought a multitude of cognitive biases to light. We know they work. And we all benefit from the application of these techniques every day.

Despite this proven track record of success, religion takes a completely opposite approach. In fact, It strongly discourages it and even claims such attempts will be met with intentional misinformation should it be attempted. Instead, it suggests that ignoring these proven techniques is a virtue and should be valued above means.

Lee Randolph said...

wow scott, great comment, you summed up my response to Rob quite efficiently and succinctly.

In fact, my reply to him was probably going to become an article, since much of my comments are coming from the draft of this article that got left out.

also, while I'm thinking about it,
I want to credit much of my ability to verbalize my intuition about epistemology from the following teaching company courses in addition to various scholarly articles from various university websites on the basics of epistemology.

- philosophy of religion,
- philosophy of science
- tools of thinking
- the art of critical decision making
- Argumentation: The Study of Effective Reasoning
- Philosophy of Mind: Brains, Consciousness, and Thinking Machines
- Biology and Human Behavior: The Neurological Origins of Individuality, 2nd Edition
- Zero to Infinity: A History of Numbers
- Meaning from Data: Statistics Made Clear
- What Are the Chances? Probability Made Clear
- Questions of Value

and some others indirectly that are too numerous to mention.

though I have to admit, I derived my world view and epistemological view from my career which is ultimately what killed my faith.

free flow of info, baby! Keep it real.

Owlmirror said...

«"you dismiss with handwaving the possibilities of solipsism or the brain in a vat theory as "fantasy". I agree that these are fantasies. the problem is, there is no objective way to prove this. It surely isn't veriviable. You could say that it isn't useful, but there is no verifiable way to show that the ultimate truth about the universe is useful.

I think your final sentence actually repeats Lee's original point, which itself is a recapitulation of the principle of parsimony.

Let's call all of testable consistent reality X. Posit some "higher" reality, X1, which is defined as that which provides everything within X, and is not accessable in any way from X. If X1 were accessable from X, a test that could be made that provides access to X1 would collapse X1 into X. But since every test in X only returns results in X, positing X1 gives you no new information about X. It only makes your analyses more complex (assuming you use X1 in your analyses of X), with no actual informational return. That's definitely useless.



«"If we all have to verify all of the data for our selves and we can't trust others or communities of others, then SAFETY itself is inept to bring us knowledge since no one has the time, ability, or technical skill to assess all of the data for himself. This highlights the futility of an individualistic epistemology.

Sounds good to me. When I get a water boil advisory, I'm not cracking out the microscope and petry dish and text book on taxonomy of harmful bacteria and parasites.

At least you could if you wanted to. Learning about the real danger (microbial pathology) can be done in parallel with following the SAFETY directive, at least in this instance.


«"Some areas of knowledge though cannot do without subjectivity such as ethics. I take this position even against so many Christian apologists who think you can't know morality without the bible. While pure emotion is not sufficient for morality, morality is empty and pointless without it.

I think this is something I would actually tend to agree with -- although, obviously, I would note that there is no need to posit a God in order to come up with a system of ethics. The bible has very little in the way of ethics in it.

«"Your faith is not based on a consensus of experts derived from experimental observation and the cross-checking between data from other fields.

If this was true, it wouldn't change my claim about epistemic risk. It would demonstrate that what I claim had less means of lessening the epistemic risk for the Christian world view.

But it isn't true. My world view and theology is informed and seeks to find coherence amongst many disciplines.


How can it seek to find coherence when it starts off with completely incoherent premises?

«"Scriptural interpretation for example gains richness and better footing when considering history, sociology, linguistics, literary theory and so on.

Does the "richness and better footing" include the obvious point that if it contradicts reality, and itself, it cannot possibly be true?

«"Of course there is the extension of the biblical world view into contemporary life and we have observational confirmation in for example the promotion of the biblical ideal of marriage (Yes, I'm quite aware of polygamy and prostitution in scripture, but the trajectory of the narrative favors monogamous marriage)

On the contrary, the trajectory of the early narrative favors getting as many wives as you can afford to keep, and the trajectory of the later narrative favors no marriage at all, but rather waiting chastely for the world to end.

(...continues...)

Owlmirror said...

~~~continues~~~

«"But the presence of controversy doesn't prove the lack of truth.

It does if none of the disagreeing theses has any basis in reality.

«"The Catholic church for example moved closer to the evangelical church in some ways doctrinally in Vatican II.

I infer from this that you think that evangelicals are correct. Can you ever see the evangelical church moving closer to the Catholic Church by acknowledging the authority of the Pope?

«"At least your claim of the unpragmatic nature of religion is subject to verifiability and it remains that it is verifiably wrong.

Your argument fails to make this case.

«"Of course there's no consensus that all religions are wrong, accept amongst peoples who agree with you and the minority of western atheists, but that's pretty trivial.

I assume that "accept" means "except", above. But each religion is convinced that only its interpretation is correct, and therefore all of the others are wrong. It's basically the same thing as atheists saying that just as you reject all Gods but your own, we reject that one last God as well.


«"There's two positions on religions that I find very shallow and skewed. One side (like certain more conservative elements of some religions and atheists) think that only the difference matter. The other side, the pluralists think only the common ground matters. I don't know why we wouldn't take both to be important.

I am all in favor of pluralism. Let people believe what they wish, as long as they behave well towards others. But you yourself agree that the differences are crucial. There isn't any method of resolving religious differences in the real world -- only in agreeing to tolerate them. More importantly, at least in some cases, the differences are explicitly contradictory. You and the Mormon and the Muslim may all smile and nod at each other, but you are each absolutely certain that your religion is true while the religions you don't hold to are based on a lie or delusion.

«"It is a reasoning scheme the will nurture fraud isn't it?

Right, taken out of context. Taking anything out of context leads to all sorts of bad outcomes.

What is this alleged "context" that can eliminate pious fraud?

«"I will mention that I hope to eventually get to Richard Burridge's book “What Are the Gospel's” which argues that the gospels belong to the genre of ancient greco-roman biographies which do not give history by the same standards of modern biographies and histories. Here, the landscape of what constitutes problematic conflict of details changes since the reasons behind a detail of the story that an ancient biographer encorporates can significantly differ from the reasons why a modern author would include a detail. A modern author would add a details event because it happened. An ancient author would wright an event to convey truth about the personality and the significance of the event.

In other words, an ancient biographer would create a deliberately subjective and biased account, which might well include more than a few false statements in order to bolster that bias.

Sounds like a recipe for fraud to me...

«"Secondly, Eye Witness testimony is one of the weakest types of evidence. See if you can guess why.
Human Fallibility.

it's hardly the weakest type of evidence.

It is indeed the weakest type of evidence. Don't you agree that humans are fallible?

«"But here, eye witness testimony is actually metaphorical.

In other words, it's not eyewitness testimony, it's second- or third-hand hearsay.

(...continues...)

Owlmirror said...

~~~continues~~~

«"Some of the authors (Matthew) and the sources of the authors (Peter for Mark, the Beloved Disciple for John) didn't just see Jesus. They lived with him and they were taught by him.

No. You mean that there is a tradition that some of the authors and sources of the authors lived with Jesus and were taught by Jesus. But you have no evidence that the tradition is true.

«"And of course, there are sources passed orally and contemporary sociological studies have shown that oral traditions within oral cultures are in fact VERY reliable contrary to previous modernistic biases.

Citations, please. And I suspect that you yourself are biased. Would you accept an oral tradition that Jesus was not assumed into heaven, but rather wandered east to Afghanistan and died of old age in Kashmir? The only basis for determining the reliability of an oral tradition is comparing the tradition with empirical reality. If there is no comparison that can be made, reliability cannot be concluded.

«"Christianity also makes a big deal of divine inspiration.

The problem with divine inspiration is that it is both rare and contradictory. If God was real, God could inspire everyone with the same message simultaneously. But we actually see what would be expected if humans, deliberately or mistakenly, claimed to be divinely inspired but were instead lying or delusional.

«"Of course the fact that the four earliest gospels that are very close together in so many specific and general claims speaks not just for their reliability on the common ground but their reliability in general.

Or that each author was copying and elaborating on an earlier work.

Lee Randolph said...

i really am going to respond, i just haven't had time yet.

Rob R said...

Well, there's some of that going around.

I don't think I will respond to any of this till some time next week.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Rob, no problem, I usually participate in the discussion for these articles for a week, then start work on another article and drop out responding occasionally, then after two weeks move on.

Lee Randolph said...

HI Rob, part 1

you dismiss with handwaving the possibilities of solipsism or the brain in a vat theory as "fantasy". I agree that these are fantasies. the problem is, there is no objective way to prove this.
so why does it matter? What value does it add to consider it? It adds no more value than for you to tell me you have a picture of a landscape on your wall. It doesn't make a difference. I can do nothing else but act as if I'm not a brain in a vat and thats all that matters isn't it? In my illusion, the technology for brains in vats doesn't exist so its a non-starter.

It surely isn't veriviable. You could say that it isn't useful, but there is no verifiable way to show that the ultimate truth about the universe is useful. But I agree that we, you and I, are right to hold these views as fantasies.
you think the ultimate truth is God is real, he created everything and he has a plan. What are you going to DO with that? Ignore it? No, you are going to DO what you are expected to do which is use it to take action and make decisions. Why bother about knowledge if we aren't going to DO anything with it?

But to claim this, it helps if you don't insist on verifiability. It helps if you don't disregard the subjective as useless towards knowledge, and if you insist that we disregard this idea because it isn't useful (perhaps that isn't your approach, but I'm not going to comb the discussion in detail a third time, so you can correct me), still, what is useful and the very idea that knowledge should be about that which is useful is a subjective preference.
The subjective in not useless in gaining knowledge, it just needs to be verified because of human fallibility. Thats all I'm saying. And I go back to my earlier comment, why is knowledge important? Why not just ignore it? Because we can do no other than to DO something with it. What we do is more important that what we think we know. We better be darn sure what we think we think we know accurately represents real world states before we do anything. You better make sure your food is not expired before you eat it.

I just don't know why we would insist as an absolute that trusting someone else's judgment can't lead to knowledge.

Later (in a comment that you didn't address) Sabio Lantz gave another excellent counterexample...Would you insist that he wasn't acting on knowledge barrowed and gained by trusting the attending doctor?

Sabio knows what he was told, but until he DOES it, it won't be verified to him, and he won't have his own knowledge. He only KNOWS WHAT THE DOCTOR TOLD HIM.
HE KNOWS THAT SOMEONE SAID SOMETHING. S knows that P.

I thought that Sabio and I were in agreement, but that he wanted to point out that trust is important to gaining knowledge. Yes, now what?
Trust is a weakly justified belief or would you say its a strongly justified belief? if he already knew how to do the procedure, and the doctor told him again, what value does it add other than as a reminder?

- Doctor says blah blah blah,
- Sabio stores information in the form of the memory of the event
- Sabio does what he remembers the doctor saying
- Sabio verifies with every action that the corresponding information he has in memory is turning out like the doctor said.
- Sabio's body now has experience of the event that can be related to the memory of the prior event, and now he has a greater sum of information about the procedure. He will find that there is missing information, ambiguous information, corrupted information, unecessary information, and he will make his own knowledge and store it in his head to be passed on to the person he trains.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Rob part 2a,
Of course even you example here wouldn't necessarily lead to knowledge since the “high voltage” sign could be attached to a wire that has been unplugged.
it would lead to knowledge of what the sign said, looked like, position, time of day, etc....
Knowledge Justified by experience and internal sources. If it was disconnected, then the sign is wrong, yada, yada, yada,

It seems to me that you yourself are making the claim that allegedly hold's across all domains.
yes i am, is this what you meant or was it a typo?

I'm not denying that personal verification of everything can't lead one to knowledge, I'm denying that it is always necessary across all domains (and we have three counterexamples ...
My clam is that unverifiable knowledge is trivial, nothing else. Knowing what you said is different than knowing you are right.

Sounds good to me. When I get a water boil advisory, I'm not cracking out the microscope and petry dish and text book on taxonomy of harmful bacteria and parasites.
good then we have some common ground. You trust the established knowledge of your generation, good for you. Now if I told you that as of yesterday at 12:00 am germs don't exist, you would have knowledge that I said that, but not that its true, and you'd have good reason to doubt me because it goes against your generations established knowledge. At this point you have two competing hypotheses, you have to trust one or the other. You won't be able to do anything about the feeling of trust, its something that happens in your brain outside of your control. You just have to do the work to test the theory, and if I'm right, and you've verified I'm right, that feeling will change, whether you want it to or not. In some cases of mental dysfunction, it won't but thats another topic.

Lee said: it seems to be an argument in favor of my claim that externally verified "knowledge" trumps internally verified "knowledge".

I haven't seen this is completely the argument that you've advanced here, .... But I wouldn't say that there's an absolute to make here.

as a principle I try to only speak probabilistically, because as I see it, absolutes are a cognitive bias that are not as frequent as people think they are. If I mistake an absolute for 99% certain, then I think its better than to consider something absolute that only warrants 66% certainty. Where do I get those values? I was trained in value system assessment as a counseling excercise, re-discovered it in the books "how to measure anything" and "tools for thinkig" (called weighted ranking) learned how to do statistics and probability, and how to do "math tricks and approximations" in my head. In the book "how to measure anything" there is an exercise that helps you become a better estimator with the goal of achieving 95% accuracy. Its not perfect, but to people who thing that perfection is a goal rather than reality, it works good enough.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi rob, part 2b.

Perhaps external data is often better than the subjective gut feelings, and yet there are instances when this isn't the case, but if they can cohere, then that is even better.
in the case someone yells DUCK! the precautionary principle takes precedence, and we're not talking about knowledge. But in the case someone tells me that I should drink a bottle of water labeled as vinegar, I'll smell it first, thank you.

It seems to me you are conflating different degrees and types of knowledge.

Some areas of knowledge though cannot do without subjectivity such as ethics. I take this position even against so many Christian apologists who think you can't know morality without the bible. While pure emotion is not sufficient for morality, morality is empty and pointless without it.
but would you agree that what you deem ethical should be imposed on everyone or would you say that you might be wrong about such-and-such? Don't we have to come to agree on ethical ideas to make policy and law? What do we use to do that with? Evidence, experience, more than one mind. As an atheist, my view in favor of capital punishment was changed by another atheist philosopher on the grounds that it is better to keep someone imprisoned and continually evaluate the evidence than it is to execute them in error. Human Fallibililty.


But I don't pretend that the findings of science and religious thought are on the same epistemic grounds, and the epistemic risk is different, but of course, there is no objectively correct way to thoroughly weigh that epistemic risk.
from wikipedia, the scientific method, minimizes congnitive bias by design,
"Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning.[1]"

and Bayesian Inference Algorithms. They are used to help machines make decisions. Do machines have knowledge? No, they just do what they are programmed to do when they assess an event meets enough criteria.

at a fundamental level, do we do anything more?


 

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Rob, part 3
I'm going to piggy back on Owlmirrors excellent rejoinders to you and just fill in some gaps.

My world view and theology is informed and seeks to find coherence amongst many disciplines....
You guys can't even agree on the fundamentals!
Who has the correct description of the Abrahamic God? Jews, Christians or Muslims? Since you don't even know what the characteristics of God are, how can any of you proceed any further let alone derive any theodicies?

Is experimentation and prediction lacking here? ... And one Historian, N T Wright makes use of hypothesis and prediction in his work.
Is he having any success? For example, is Christianity growing beyond its typical 30% global mind-share by any significant number (say more than 5%)? It has escaped me if it has.

and now as far as scholarship and research, you are studying and researching what you believe to be an intelligent entity that is wanting and intends to have a relationship with you.

WHY DON'T YOU JUST ASK IT WHAT YOU WANT TO KNOW?

Look, you respond to me and you don't even love me! What don't you get about relationships? This is the most egregious special pleading that Christians are guilty of. What is the scope and definition of relationships? If your wife treated you like God did, I bet you'd be one frustrated so-and-so.

Here's the punch line, adherents of the abrahamic god can't even agree on the fundamentals of an intelligent being that wants to have A relationship with you because he won't tell you!

If we apply the null hypothesis to this and say, should we expect this to happen if there is no God, the answer is a resounding HELL YES!

And where does that leave the pursuit of ethics which has yet to give us any technology or make predictions?
well the bad thing is that ethics, like god, doesn't answer when we ask IT either. Its kind of like its being slapped together by people. Its tentative, trial and error, and whatever knowledge comes out of it is used in business, health care, law, third world development, politics, schools, lots of places. I have to take ethics training every year as a requirement for my position and I have to take a test that is scored! If I don't get it right I have to retake the two hour course over again! And ethics predictions play a role in sociology and economics. Probabilistic predictions are made all the time. Look into game theory and decision theory for some mathematical models.

Of course, it like so many religions and Christianity have proven to be very pragmatic in motivating personal change and bringing social improvements. (now, at this point, you could inform me of all the atheists who do nice, decent and even noble things, and it doesn't change my point at all that religion has played the positive role that it has, and of course that people with a distorted Christianity have brought horrid evils to the world is equally irrelevant.....
Lets do another NULL hypothesis test. Morals and Ethics have improved world wide outside the scope of any one religion, and it has been the secularization of law that has garnered most of the progress. Not a lot of law comes out of Deuteronomy and Leviticus, and while its not against the law to "believe without seeing" there are plenty of people that go to jail for taking advantage of those that "believe without seeing".

Are the laws we have now what we would expect to have if there had never been any influence from adherents of the Abrahamic god? Why yes,
which thankfully exclude the laws that the muslims have regarding stoning rape victims. Now before you go disowning your muslim brothers and sisters, remember, they are a branch of the lineage of the abrahamic god too, you don't have a monopoly on him. Just ask them.

At least your claim of the unpragmatic nature of religion is ...verifiably wrong.
completely? or only partially? Is that some of that fallacious "argument from absolute" coming out? ;-)

Scott said...

Wanted to add one thing here as I think it's relevant.

Some areas of knowledge though cannot do without subjectivity such as ethics. I take this position even against so many Christian apologists who think you can't know morality without the bible. While pure emotion is not sufficient for morality, morality is empty and pointless without it.

Rob, I'd guess that, ultimately, our moral compass points in relatively the same direction. Instead, I think where we differ most is the moral implications of our actions. This is defined by our world views. We think doing X will result in a better outcome. We generally agree on what what better should conditions be equal, but we disagree on the conditions.

To use an example, our positions on abortion are likely to differ based on what we think are facts about what it means to be a person, etc. For example, should I think God gave zygotes a soul, then I'd probably have the same view as you do. But I do not.

As such, it seems that what is ethical cannot be completely separated from what is factual about the nature of reality.

However, as a Christian, it's likely you the the morality of an action is not necessarily based on it's outcome. Instead, actions themselves can be immoral for no reason other than God commands them.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi all,
I want to stand on scotts shoulders for a minute

As such, it seems that what is ethical cannot be completely separated from what is factual about the nature of reality.
Agreed,
in fact they are making decisions about ethics using bronze age technology. I'm not being flippant here, it just sounds that way because the idea is so egregious.

However, as a Christian, it's likely you the the morality of an action is not necessarily based on it's outcome. Instead, actions themselves can be immoral for no reason other than God commands them.
agreed,
in fact the commands are notoriously ambiguous so it must be left up to those bags of cognitive bias called humans to sort out.
What an egregious principle to leave ethics to be sorted out by those that are not qualified, namely fallible humans.

If we do a NULL hypothesis test on that, its what we would expect if there were nothing divine about ethics.

another special pleading case is this idea that
though humans are sinful and have a natural disposition to disobey God, they are somehow immune to cognitive bias or the corruption of revelation, except if the divine revelation is given to someone outside their clan.

hogwash.

Lee Randolph said...

HI rob part 4,
In scholastic Christianity there is much growing consensus in a number of things. ... the new perspective on paul and the law ...is viewed positively by scholars from many different backgrounds and is growing.
My standard answer to my Junior Engineers in troubleshooting communications problems is
"growing?":
- How much,
- and how many,
- is it an outlier or is it pervasive.

"[experts] from many different backgrounds and is growing":
- Who are the experts,
- What qualfies them as experts,
- from many different backgrounds but from a background that qualifies them to make a coherent assessment?
- Does it cross-check? Is it convincing to anyone outside their group?

I'm really only defending the one though some of what I say could benefit more than one. Of course there's no consensus that all religions are wrong, accept amongst peoples who agree with you and the minority of western atheists, but that's pretty trivial.
If we do a NULL hypothesis test, is this what we expect if it were a human endeavor?
YES. Is this what we expect from a BETTER THAN HUMAN intelligence? NO.
Namely because everyone would want some.

Van Halen had a song that echoes an important universal constant,
"everybody wants some, how bout you? yea!"

Everybody wants vaccinations,
everybody wants clean water,
everybody wants a telephone,
everybody wants doctors
everybody wants christianity.....OOOOOPS not true. 66% of the world dont.

There's two positions on religions that I find very shallow and skewed. One side (like certain more conservative elements of some religions and atheists) think that only the difference matter. The other side, the pluralists think only the common ground matters. I don't know why we wouldn't take both to be important.
Your right we should, but need an epistemological methodology to do that with. Got to counteract that cognitive bias, that affects not only Christians, but scientists and Dog Breeders (who select for "pretty" genetic deficiencies [ridgebacks]).

When you dealt with my statement on the context, you responded with a red herring:
Right here you have presumed the accuracy of the text, but you don't know the origin, or the author of the text, depending on which text you look at, you get different details.

Which has nothing to do with taking the story of doubting Thomas in the context of the gospel of John.

When the origin and the source of a document purported to have as much importance as scripture is dismissed, the arguments over.

You don't ignore the source and origin of imortant documents in principle. its special pleading to say that the source and origin of scripture is not important.

As owlmirror rightly pointed out, you shoot yourself in the foot in trusting documents that you admit are partially fabricated. You have no reference point to tease out what is fabrication and what is not, therefore the whole document has an unacceptable degree of uncertainty about it.

Richard Burridge's book “What Are the Gospel's” which argues that the gospels belong to the genre of ancient greco-roman biographies which do not give history by the same standards of modern biographies and histories. Here, the landscape of what constitutes problematic conflict of details changes since the reasons behind a detail of the story that an ancient biographer encorporates can significantly differ from the reasons why a modern author would include a detail. A modern author would add a details event because it happened. An ancient author would wright an event to convey truth about the personality and the significance of the event.
Again,
this sounds like customers complaining about service and we can't take any action until we get past their perspective and evaluate the status, the details.

You can't resolve anything until you get at the details, and the source and origin of the information is one of the most important criteria in trustworthy information.

Lee Randolph said...

HI rob part 5,
since owlmirror did an outstanding job in his rejoinders, i'd like to stand on his shoulders too.

About Eyewitness testimony you said
it's hardly the weakest type of evidence. That completely depends upon what degree of visual witness we are talking about and the nature of the event and so on.
you haven't really looked into eyewitness testimony have you. I have, thats why I bring it up. It is such an easy target because Christians are not keeping up with the research and I am.
Go look up Elizabeth Loftus for starters. She's not related to John W.

Why is it should we trust eyewitness testimony, committed to writing decades after the fact?

But here, eye witness testimony is actually metaphorical.
so not only is it intrisicly fallible, they embellish a little bit to make really fallible.
Why is it we should trust metaphorical eyewitness testimony committed to writing decades after the fact?

And of course, there are sources passed orally and contemporary sociological studies have shown that oral traditions within oral cultures are in fact VERY reliable contrary to previous modernistic biases.
not only would I like to see some sources for this, I'd like to see your justification for dismissing all creation stories from every culture please. Some of them are quite fantastic! People coming from trees, People coming from Rocks, People coming from the limbs of Gods, Trees with special powers, Talking snakes......Fantastic!


On human fallibility you wrote:
Christianity also makes a big deal of divine inspiration. Of course the fact that the four earliest gospels that are very close together in so many specific and general claims speaks not just for their reliability on the common ground but their reliability in general.
like I said, okay, lets pick out what they have in common and make a composite of only what is in common.
Like I said earlier, you get a short version of mark. which doesn't include the doubting thomas story. The endorsement of reasoning schemes nurturing fraud came later to help the business (i suppose).

Persiflage said...

Whoa, I miss a couple days online and look what happens. Here’s just some general comments on the discussion so far -

Interesting stuff on those podcasts by the “On Being Certain” guy. Definitely true that our reasoning can be vastly affected by our physical make-up. This is good to know. I’ll be thinking about this for a while.

I guess my one quibble with your latest comments would be that how certain we “feel” about something or not is not certainty at all. Knowing something (some small mathematical equation for example) as a fact should have nothing to do with how you feel about it. 2 + 2 doesn’t = 4 more because I feel that it does. What is good to point out, however, is the fact that we do feel more or less certain about certain things, and it is by controlling and acknowledging how we feel that allows us to look at what is really true and what really isn’t. I’ve gone to way too many churches that emphasize how much you feel God’s existence as opposed for logical reasons or evidence for or against. In religion, many people say that they know something essentially because how they were raised makes them emotionally desire it to be true.

On the Rob R/OwlMirror discussion

Of course, science and religion are different. You can test things in science in such a way that you can’t test things in religion. But that alone doesn’t mean certainty can’t sometimes be possible in both science and religion.

As far as miracles go, debating whether a miracle (the supernatural interfering with/breaking the natural/physical laws of the universe) happened based on historical evidence is pointless if you haven’t asked the philosophical question first. If you don’t believe that miracles are possible, then no amount of historical evidence will convince you. If you already believe that miracles are possible, then the lack of historical evidence is not going to change that belief either. There are different ways of looking at evidence depending on what your presuppositions happen to be in the first place. So discussing those presuppositions first, would be the only way I could think of of actually even being able to discuss it.

Rob R said - … all knowledge requires some degree of faith.

And here is where I fundamentally disagree. And it has to do with my distinction between belief and knowledge. Faith is mere belief, not certainty. Knowledge requires a limited amount of certainty based on at least a few premises that you can know. Using your reason to logically deduce your way to a conclusion (2 + 2 = 4) does not require faith.

Lee said - “Once again in science as in the safety and health industries, there is a consensus on the evidence, and the different agencies proceed from there.”

True. But it is possible to have a consensus that is wrong. The majority point of view can be wrong. Having a consensus on something is useful because man is pooling his knowledge together to understand reality better. Putting the discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton along with those of Albert Einstein helps one understand reality better than if you were limited to the discoveries of only one of those guys. Religious or philosophical consensuses are only useful in so far as they show what a group of humanity believes to be true.

If every cultural universally believes in some sort of right and wrong, then that idea has to come from somewhere. The worldwide consensus on some level of morality, however, does not necessarily prove the truth of one religion over another (unless a religion denies the fact that men believe in right and wrong in the first place).

Persiflage said...

I think everyone was reading too much into Christ’s comment to doubting Thomas. Seems like the point there was simply that Thomas had been given evidence that most people wouldn’t have. He’s NOT making any claims here to precisely how much evidence someone should have. He IS implying that not everyone will have the same amount of evidence that Thomas has. No reasonable person would apply this to teaching their children that it’s better to believe based on insufficient evidence, or even that their children shouldn’t ask the exact same questions that Thomas did.

Yes, Christians misuse this verse to argue for “blind faith” all the time.

For now, I’ll ignore comments on how reliable religious texts can or can’t be. There are way too many questions obviously not settled here to try and suddenly discuss whether the Bible or the Koran could be true.

I completely agree with Owlmirror that science in this sort of discussion is most usefully meant to be referring to the scientific method. Science is a methodology with a particular goal. Proving or not proving the existence of the supernatural has nothing to do with the goal by definition. The same as religion should make NEVER make pretensions to use the methodology of the scientific method. The scientific method is used to study and observe physical reality.

But then Owlmirror says -

“There is no evidence for the truth claims about reality that are made by religion.”

But there are different sorts of evidence. For example, the courtroom will accept evidence that is more than only physical evidence observable by the scientific method. Logic, reason, mathematics, economics, etc. are all abstract sciences in their own right. Lee keeps referring to the safety and health aspects of the social sciences. These industries look at more than just scientifically observable physical reality. There are a number of truth claims made by completely opposing religions that either side could use evidence to support - the fallibility of man for example (and there’s more to the fallibility of man than the possibility of brain damage).

Persiflage said...

Owlmirror states - “Religion -- where it demands that truth claims about reality be accepted without evidence -- is fundamentally dishonest.”

And there, once again, I absolutely agree with you.

Owlmirror - “But religion rejects honest testing; there is no method for self-correction. Most changes that occur in religion are based on personal preferences and emotion-based propaganda.”

But here, I could only agree with this as a generality. Generally speaking when looking at all religions (even Christian churches), yes. But this doesn’t necessarily demand the exclusion of exceptions to the rule. And if there is one religion or philosophy that IS true, it should encourage questions, testing, doubting, challenging and everything else since, being true, it can stand up to all of that.

One last problem with Rob, who said - “Some areas of knowledge though cannot do without subjectivity such as ethics. I take this position even against so many Christian apologists who think you can't know morality without the bible. While pure emotion is not sufficient for morality, morality is empty and pointless without it.

I don’t understand that first sentence at all - your reasoning completely loses me sometimes. Do you need the Bible to know right and wrong are real? Of course not. But what does “pure emotion” have to do with propositional moral truth claims?

Bringing this back to the main point of the article, Scott then said - “If I come away with anything from this post it's that, given a particular view or position, there are a multitude of ways we can qualify and quantify what we consider knowledge.”

Yes.

Except I'd make the qualification in this discussion is that “mere belief” or “faith” cannot be qualified or quantified as knowledge by definition.

… and so I just finished reading the rest of the comments, and wow, there are probably more than 50 other topics that we could all delve into. I’ll limit any more of my comments for now, however, because I’m not too good at delving into rabbit trails without establishing more presuppositional premises first.

interesting stuff though

Lee Randolph said...

Hi persiflage,
welcome back, I thought you gone to a better place. ;-)

one minor quibble here
2 + 2 doesn’t = 4 more because I feel that it does.
I don't think a charitable reading of my comments would lead one to think that was my claim.

Should I put it in the bayesian theorem just to be clear?

the evidence NURTURES the feeling of certainty, unless there is something out of "spec" going on in the brain.

I agree that "feeling" has nothing to do with whether it is true or not, but if ones feeling of certainty and the truth of the matter don't coincide, then some more work needs to be done to get them to match up, presuming someone wants some measure of certainty about the matter.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Persiflage, part 1,
my two cents on your comments on owlmirror and Rob

If you don’t believe that miracles are possible, then no amount of historical evidence will convince you. If you already believe that miracles are possible, then the lack of historical evidence is not going to change that belief either.
This is utterly ridiculous and here's why.
Human consensus on matters that are counter-intuitive change from generation to generation sometimes taking hundreds of years, but eventually the data wins out even if its is for inelegant reasons such as commerce.

To qualify your statement as true requires proving that miracles have actually happened and they were explained away or not believed at all.

how bout that virgin mary in a cheese sandwich? absolutely divine.

Do you believe that if God walked up behind me right now that he couldn't convince me he was God?
Hogwash!

But it is possible to have a consensus that is wrong. The majority point of view can be wrong.
Here is that false dichotomy again, slippery slope.
Why does everything with you people have to be one or zero, true or false, on or off? The majority consensus gets it right good enough to work with and then the exceptions are handled as they are found and investigated. Cigarettes started out as a pleasurable pastime, then the data started coming in, then the typical science deniers came out of the wood work, then more data came in and finally we all believe that smoking, if not causes lung cancer, dramatically increases the likelihood that it will develop.

Maybe owlmirror can retell the "western" human perception of the universe from the church to galileo, to copernicus, to Newton to einstein to Heisenberg, etc.

Religious or philosophical consensus's are only useful in so far as they show what a group of humanity believes to be true.
Stop!
How that belief cross-checks against the state of the world is not relevant?
Hogwash.
If a group of people hold a belief, such as "the water is safe to drink" and they start dying, they will not hold the belief much longer. Same with cigarettes.
If they believe the water is safe to drink and they don't die or get sick then they continue and their believe has been cross-checked against a real world state.

If god wants us to believe in a miracle, he's going to have to do better than hiding from us. He's going to have to better than Krishna for example.

If every cultural universally believes in some sort of right and wrong, then that idea has to come from somewhere.
yes it comes from logical relationships between actors, including animals, that are turn out to be good survival schemes. Its called "emergence" recently but it has been discussed most famously by Adam Smith with his "invisible hand" talk. In engineering we call it "new cybernetics" and its an extension of "cybernetics"

The worldwide consensus on some level of morality, however, does not necessarily prove the truth of one religion over another (unless a religion denies the fact that men believe in right and wrong in the first place).
you are right, its a non-sequitur.
Its an illusion of intelligence and intent caused by the feedback loop of the interaction of elements in the system. Pint size milk cartons were not meant be boats, but I used to put lizards and bugs in them and turn set them loose on the river.

No-one made the milk carton with the intent to be a bug-boat, those properties emerged from the interaction of its elements. No one made morality, it just emerged as a system that better promoted survival. If that doesn't suit you for an explanation, I'm sorry, but thats just the way it happens, just like genetic diseases have killed off several breeds of dogs. The successful elements of a system promote growth, or survival or success, and the weaker parts cause catastrophic failure.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Persiflage, part 2, my two cents

I think everyone was reading too much into Christ’s comment to doubting Thomas.
That is the problem with ambiguous information isn't it?

Seems like the point there was simply that Thomas had been given evidence that most people wouldn’t have. He’s NOT making any claims here to precisely how much evidence someone should have. He IS implying that not everyone will have the same amount of evidence that Thomas has.
I think your are right that you believe that.

No reasonable person would apply this to teaching their children that it’s better to believe based on insufficient evidence, or even that their children shouldn’t ask the exact same questions that Thomas did.
But I don't think you are right to make this claim. Analogous reasoning is the most common type of intrinsic scheme we have. That's supposedly why Jesus taught in parables. Do you deny that a child could read this an pick up "its alright to believe on little evidence?". Didn't Jesus, in effect REPROACH Thomas for doubting? That's what I was taught since I was kid, that I was arrogant for questioning because it meant that I thought I knew more than the bible! I wanted the approval of my group, my parents, my authority figures that were christians.

Isn't that in fact what is going on with the bible in general?
People are taught:
- that to question the bible is normal but it's derived from human arrogance and god tolerates it, so humans should get past it and get on with worshiping.

I believe the bible says this or that, but I don't believe the bible is accurate in this or that.
In religion, the two are conflated. If the bible says it, its true to some degree just because it exists and it is the tradition regardless of its source and origin, but
the source and origin are one of the most important criteria in trustworthy information!

Yes, Christians misuse this verse to argue for “blind faith” all the time.
thank you for that, but you've just called some christians unreasonable persons, fine, but with such a small global population, can you really afford that? It would seem that the church leaders would speak out against that and adopt some method of reducing cognitive bias in reasoning about issues.


But there are different sorts of evidence.
ah, yes now we're down to the nitty gritty.

For example, the courtroom will accept evidence that is more than only physical evidence observable by the scientific method. Logic, reason, mathematics, economics, etc. are all abstract sciences in their own right. Lee keeps referring to the safety and health aspects of the social sciences. These industries look at more than just scientifically observable physical reality.

yes but they must corroborate and converge on an idea in more than a circumstantial way.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi persiflage, part 3, my two cents

Except I'd make the qualification in this discussion is that “mere belief” or “faith” cannot be qualified or quantified as knowledge by definition.
AMEN BROTHER.
Now see if you can convince your brethren of that.
;-)

I'd say that in reality, you should all consider yourselves agnostic.

Owlmirror said...

«"As far as miracles go, debating whether a miracle (the supernatural interfering with/breaking the natural/physical laws of the universe) happened based on historical evidence is pointless if you haven’t asked the philosophical question first. If you don’t believe that miracles are possible, then no amount of historical evidence will convince you.

Well... If I may clarify my position a bit: I don't actually think that miracles, in the sense of being violations of nature, are possible. I'm a metaphysical naturalist, and I would argue that that which interacts with nature is part of nature. If God is real, and interacts with nature, God is part of nature, and his actions would only be apparent violations.

However, I reached the conclusion that the miracles claimed to have occurred historically almost certainly did not happen for a somewhat different reason: They are inconsistent with what they are claimed to have happened for. That is, the miracles Jesus performed and the resurrection of Jesus are claimed to have been caused by a person that lived (or existed, if you prefer) then and is still living; one that is claimed to be all-powerful, all-knowledgeable, and benevolent. I reject the claim because such a person, if it existed, could demonstrate its existence now, and would have no reason to not do so.


«"I think everyone was reading too much into Christ’s comment to doubting Thomas. [...] Yes, Christians misuse this verse to argue for “blind faith” all the time.

I'm pretty sure that the "misuse" was the direct intent of the story. The visceral references to the holes in his hands and the hole in his side, followed up by explicitly saying that those who believe without seeing are blessed -- this is the perfect red herring to distract from the fact that Jesus is not available now to be seen by the questioner.

(...continues...)

Owlmirror said...

~~~continued~~~

«"I think everyone was reading too much into Christ’s comment to doubting Thomas. [...] Yes, Christians misuse this verse to argue for “blind faith” all the time.

I'm pretty sure that the "misuse" was the direct intent of the story. The visceral references to the holes in his hands and the hole in his side, followed up by explicitly saying that those who believe without seeing are blessed -- this is the perfect red herring to distract from the fact that Jesus is not available now to be seen by any questioner.


«"For example, the courtroom will accept evidence that is more than only physical evidence observable by the scientific method.

I'm really not sure what you mean by this. Do you mean that courts do accept testimony? This brings us back the whole issue of the unreliability of eyewitnesses. I am not saying that eyewitnesses are always wrong -- but I would argue that they are absolutely insufficient in the case of alleged miracles.

«"Logic, reason, mathematics, economics, etc. are all abstract sciences in their own right.

Hm. I think that's arguable. Logic and reason are metaphysics, in the classical sense. They are necessary for science to work, but since you can reason about counterfactuals, I don't think that counts as science, which I would argue is always empirical.

The same goes for mathematics. I think that mathematics might be defined as systematic reasoning about quantities and the properties of quantities. But you can also do mathematics which is counterfactual (e.g., non-Euclidian geometry, depending on which way space itself curves)

Economics is a bit trickier. I'll leave it alone for now.


«"There are a number of truth claims made by completely opposing religions that either side could use evidence to support - the fallibility of man for example (and there’s more to the fallibility of man than the possibility of brain damage).

I suppose I should have qualified the statement you're arguing with:

There is no evidence for the truth claims about the reality of the supernatural that are made by religion.

Better?

«"Owlmirror - “But religion rejects honest testing; there is no method for self-correction. Most changes that occur in religion are based on personal preferences and emotion-based propaganda.”

But here, I could only agree with this as a generality. Generally speaking when looking at all religions (even Christian churches), yes. But this doesn’t necessarily demand the exclusion of exceptions to the rule. And if there is one religion or philosophy that IS true, it should encourage questions, testing, doubting, challenging and everything else since, being true, it can stand up to all of that.

I would again qualify my original statement:

But religions that make dogmatic claims reject honest testing of those dogmatic claims; there is no method for self-correction.

Better?

«"One last problem with Rob, who said - “Some areas of knowledge though cannot do without subjectivity such as ethics. I take this position even against so many Christian apologists who think you can't know morality without the bible. While pure emotion is not sufficient for morality, morality is empty and pointless without it.

I don’t understand that first sentence at all - your reasoning completely loses me sometimes. Do you need the Bible to know right and wrong are real? Of course not. But what does “pure emotion” have to do with propositional moral truth claims?

I understood Rob to simply be saying that you actually have to care about the consequences of your actions in order to actually be ethical, and take that caring into account when discussing and arguing ethics. That caring; that motivation, in and of itself, is a pure emotion, yes?

Persiflage said...

Ok, I appreciate all the discussion. But I think if I keep going on some of this stuff (the ethics of what Jesus told doubting Thomas, metaphysical naturalism, the possibility of miracles, whether Christians are really all just “blind faith” agnostics - some really great topics here btw) then I’m going to lose sight of the subject matter of Lee Randolph’s article here.

And it is precisely thinking about this one subject, that I am still interested in -

Lee said -

“ … one minor quibble here (with) “2 + 2 doesn’t = 4 more because I feel that it does.” I don't think a charitable reading of my comments would lead one to think that was my claim … the evidence NURTURES the feeling of certainty, unless there is something out of "spec" going on in the brain … I agree that "feeling" has nothing to do with whether it is true or not, but if ones feeling of certainty and the truth of the matter don't coincide, then some more work needs to be done to get them to match up, presuming someone wants some measure of certainty about the matter.”

So hmmm, no - not that you’re claiming that 2 + 2 is 4 because one feels that it does. I agree with you that feeling has nothing to do with whether it is true or not.

But certainty is not a feeling.

You don’t have various degrees of certainty that you can “nurture” with evidence. Knowing something for certain is not a choice. It is something that happens to you while you are thinking. Now it is also something you can be mistaken about, and something you can be right about. And here is where I agree with Lee that constant work needs to be done to guard against mistakes.

How I feel does not make me objectively know anything for certain.

Knowledge can be in levels and degrees. Certainty can’t.

Knowledge can be quantified in amounts - one guy has more knowledge than another guy. Certainty can’t because certainty is knowing something for sure - one guy can’t know 2 + 2 = 4 more than another guy does.

But my feelings do sometimes lead to what I choose to believe. Sometimes I base my beliefs on feelings instead of evidence. Beliefs are something you choose. One is never required to believe anything unless you decided to believe it. One is required to be certain about things all the time.

So for me to say “well … I feel certain” is

(a) a nonsensical statement, since certainty is not something you feel. I don’t feel that I have a strong degree of certainty that 2 + 2 = 4. I don’t feel any emotion about it at all. I just know it’s true.

and (b) untrue, because if I only “feel” certain, than I am not certain by definition.

This is the topic in this thread I’m most interested. I feel if I kept going back and forth on everything, no one’s going to have time to read it all.

Persiflage said...

(Note: I'm not trying to run from any of the other topics. If there is one particular subject here that anyone wants to keep pursuing, just let me know and I'm sure we can find a forum where we can more fully discuss it.)

Owlmirror, yes that is better, I still don't agree with you completely, but I disagree with you less with some of those qualifications you made.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi persiflage,
I'll read your comments and get back to you and I promise I'll stick to your subject.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Persiflage,
first before I answer I want to get some scope and definition on what you mean by certainty.

I mean "to what degree I commit to an idea and to what degree I am comfortable with it".

I'll elaborate with a real life anecdote on how I justify this after you tell me what you mean by "certainty"

from wikipedia [with my standard disclaimer]
"Certainty can be defined as either (a) perfect knowledge that has total security from error, or (b) the mental state of being without doubt."

in this case i'm interested in (b).

would you deny that doubt is a feeling? Isn't certainty the antithesis of doubt?

I think certainty is a feeling.

Lee Randolph said...

Here's a nice article relevant to the discussion.
Link to Salon.com

Rob R said...

I have more or less finished reading the posts, mostly one's directed at me.

And now I warn you all, you will be bedazzled by the flying fists of fury. And they fly at the blinding speed of about 1 mph.

In other words, I currently intend to respond to the comments to me but not only will the volume make this a long task, but I myself am a very slow reader, thinker and writer. I don't know that I will get through it all within two weeks, so if that 's when you check out Lee, I suppose you'll miss out on all the zingers I'll get in on your comments.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Rob,
funny!
I'll follow it longer if you want me to.
Right now I'm working on an article that is an introduction to Lord Krishna. Its called Krishna in a nutshell.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi persiflage,
maybe certainty is the absence of the feeling of doubt.

Rob R said...

I'll follow it longer if you want me to.


That'd be splendid. course I still haven't written a word. but the order is owlmirror, scott, you, then persiflage

Lee Randolph said...

okay. take your time.

eeen said...

I keep coming back to one simple point when I talk to christian (sympathisers) who talk about religion being a "different way of knowing" ... pulling information "out of your ass" is indeed another way of knowing. And I readily admit that sometimes this information is correct; in which case it is obtained more quickly and often obtained when mere logic is incapable of revealing the truth. However, as tempting as it is, this information isn't much use on average. Typically, when I apply this clarifying label my interlocutors will agree that pulling information out of your ass isn't a very respectable way of knowing ... suddenly they can see the problem that a small amount of truth hardly outweighs the infinite rubbish with the same epistemological status

Rob R said...

Lee, If you are still monitoring this thread, I ought to let you know what happened. I simply procrastinated and looking at about a dozen posts, I don't think I'll respond after all. Call me lazy, I'd respond to just about any of this but it's a bit much altogether after all.

One thing I'll mention though is that there was confusion when I said that it was metaphorical to call the gospels eye witnesses. I called it metaphorical, then I explained what I meant. People ignored my explanation and latched onto the label. It would be more accurate if I said that describing the gospels eye-witness accounts is metanymical. A metonym is where the part stands in for the whole. The sources for the gospels did not just see Jesus. Again, they LIVED with him. Whatever problems eye witness accounts have, it isn't on the same level as life witnesses.