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Infallibility and Reincarnation
Posted: 20 January 2007 02:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]  
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Ok, I will endeavour to make my point in a succint manner, as this valuable discussion is in danger of moving off target.

I think what we are trying to get to bottom of here, is the question of what is rational rationality?

I value your opinions ‘ligh+bringer’, and feel that you do indeed have some very valid points, but to be candid with you, it is a challenge for me to be sure as to where you are coming from. And wachowskiesque comments such as;

To clarify: the lightbringer is the inquisitive, rebellious spirit in all of us. I do not bring light to this board, you must bring light to yourself—no one else can.

do not exactly strike me as those of a strictly principled thinker. What I mean is that it sounds a little wispy! As far as I can see your points seem valid, although I do think you need to clarify your terms a little more if you want me to understand you correctly.

For example, I would like to highlight a comment of yours that I forgot to query in my previous post;

Strict rationality will not lead you to these facts. At times it will lead you far way in the opposite direction. Science is a way to make sure that doesn’t happen, because it can operate independent of rationality. Sometimes results make rational sense, sometimes they don’t, but science can forge ahead regardless.

My query is in the same vein as ‘SaulOhio’s’, i.e. in what sense are you using the term rationality, because I sense that this is where we get our wires crossed. For a start, I disagree with you entirely on the notion that ‘strict rationality will not lead us to these [scientific] facts’, I think you would definetely be right in saying that intuitive rationality would not lead us to [scientific] facts because as you said the universe is often stranger than we can suppose. But in regards to your actual statement, I would argue that the opposite is true, it is strict rationality that has lead us to these facts, and that is science. Science is strict rationality, because it is not swayed by opinion or religious beliefs, well at least it shouldn’t be, and it is because of these strict restrictions on the way that the reasoning process works in science that has allowed us to make such wonderful and at times what seems to be counter-intuitive discoveries, such as all of the ones that you mentioned before, ‘ligh+bringer’.

The point is that in the past, before we had scientific evidence, the only evidence that was available to us to support our claims were opinions. Now that we have developed scientific reason, the scales have changed, opinion no longer bears the same weight unless it is backed by empirical evidence.

As I said before, maybe what we are really disagreeing over, is the question of what constitutes rational rationality? Is it strictly scientific, or a mixture of science and intuition?

My personal belief is that intuition is just creative problem solving, and through this we have eureka! moments that inspire us to perform experiments, but it is the experiments, and not the intuitions we should base our understanding of the world if we intend it to be a rational understanding.

Your stance here is basically zero tolerance for religion. That is almost insanely idealistic.

Ok, let me make it clear, I am not lacking a tolerance for religion per se, but faith, and the use of faith as an approach to the questions of the reality of our existence. The message of ‘The End of Faith’ seems to be that there should be an end of faith, or at least that it should be seen as a vice. I would say that this is where my problem with the Sam Harris stance lies, in light of his attitudes toward mysticism and reincarnation, you could say that he does seem to have double standards in relation to what he might term an approach to life that utilizes faith. Sam seems to think that whereas it’s not a good thing to have faith in the claims of an ancient book, it is OK to have faith that writers of books such as ‘The Conscious Universe’ are being truthful. And therefore go ahead and citate them in your own argument against faith. Sam advocates scientific reasoning, which we can trust more than anything else, because of the scientific method and peer review. The problem is, that he does not do any peer reviewing himself!! Well, at least he didn’t with some of the books he has citated on matters of reincarnation and other nonsense. He admits it. This to me is a strange, and inconsistent approach. And you, ‘ligh+bringer’ seem to be defending it. Are you? The future of reason depends upon it’s progress, and for reason to progress then it needs to be consistent, this is what reason is, consistency. Although, it seems that Sam has no shortage of followers who see no need for this.

Let me reiterate once more! I am not against open-mindedness, I am dismayed at double standards and inconsistency. I am not saying that there is harm in someone who calls themself a rationalist to be interested in perinormal research, not at all. I am saying that there is something wrong when someone writes a polemic directed at people who don’t do their research (i.e. religious believers), and then not do the research themselves (which he admitted).

Let us remember here, that Sam Harris is attacking the ideal that people can be religious moderates, I am saying that there is a double standard here because it is as though he is saying ‘Hey, being moderate in your approach toward religious claims that are supported by weak evidence is not good, unless their buddhist, because I like buddhism’. This is a double standard.

You seem to be arguing that people have a right to be interested in stuff ‘ligh+bringer’, I do not disagree with you. But remember that Sam Harris has written a book about reason and faith, I am merely trying to point out that it not good to be inconsistent when writing such a book, especially when you are writing about consistency itself! In other words, the robustness of his argument diminishes if he fails to practice what he preaches.

Many people will let him off, either because they also like buddhism or they just want to jump on an anti-religion bandwagon and don’t care about the robustness of his stance, but the message of his book seems to be that if we shouldn’t trust someone’s claims if it’s not backed by good evidence, and in his very own argument (or part of it) he citates research that he hasn’t in fact authenticated!

So should we follow his argument and not listen to him himself?

Anecdotal evidence is evidence too. All evidence can be placed on a spectrum of quality. In the case of pseudoscience the evidence doesn’t support the claim—they actually have no evidence. In the case of fringe science / perinormal study, evidence may be meager and low quality, even anecdotal, but claims based on such evidence are not condemned to pseudoscience – they may represent reality as well.

This is the exact stance that a religious believer would take in defense of their beliefs, and it is the exact stance that is attacked in TEOF. Why should pseudoscience or anything else for that matter be treated any differently? This is a total contradiction, to attack moderates for selecting which beliefs bear a burden of proof, but not do the same for your own speculations. In my opinion, everything bears the burden of proof if you are to claim a rationalist stance. Of course we can’t we grant differing levels of credibility to a whole spectrum of beliefs, by why lessen the burden for things such as reincarnation etc. Don’t interpret this as me attacking someone for believing in something, I’m talking about standards that are based in rationality, and not in one’s personal preferences.

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Posted: 20 January 2007 07:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]  
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[quote author=“ligh+bringer”]
Rationality and reason do not appear to me to be the same thing.  Science is a form of reason.  Rationality is a double edged sword.  You can use it to find the best answers, or you can use it to “rationalize” doing the worst things.  Everyone of us has a distinct ability to outsmart ourselves.  Over zealous application of rationality can do that.

 

Perhaps a little research with a good dictionary (E.g., American Heritage, large version) can help.  The Proto-IndoEuropean root of reason is _ar_ which meant something like “fitting together.”  So reason is a means of fitting things together in thought, or in practice.  That means that there are different sorts of reason depending on purpose.  A mathematician uses deductive logic and proof by induction.  A composer uses the rules of harmony and composition.  An architect uses geometrical and aesthetic criteria (as well as staying inside the constraints of engineering possibility). 

Science is the project of discovering how far we can go in understand the world through the use of reason alone, without assumptions of supernatural beings and such.  At the same time, science does depend on some basic metaphysical assumptions: (1) Nature is ordered; (2) The human mind is capable of understanding this order; (3) Our understanding of this order can be communicated unambiguously.  So a scientist, just by doing science, is expressing faith in the validity of these assumptions.

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Posted: 24 January 2007 05:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]  
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I agree with most of what you’re saying here thinker i.e. you seem to be understanding my stance better based on the feedback you’ve given.

That quip about the lightbringer was to mitigate any arrogance or high-mindedness you might pick up. I don’t want to be the @$$hole here.

“This is the exact stance that a religious believer would take in defense of their beliefs, and it is the exact stance that is attacked in TEOF. Why should pseudoscience or anything else for that matter be treated any differently? This is a total contradiction”

I hope you’re not calling me a religious believer based on my arguments.  As I’ve said before, evidence for the paranormal oftentimes flies in the face of religious expectations.  What’s more, a religious believer is not concerned with evidence at all.

There may be a subtle judgment call in discerning pseudoscience from the perinormal.  This requires one to research and learn about the fields of study at hand him(her)self.  Don’t decry something as pseudoscience simply because of low quality or anecdotal evidence.  Pseudoscience is a much more sophisticated way to make people misunderstand things (no evidence whatsoever, read: religion).

“In my opinion, everything bears the burden of proof if you are to claim a rationalist stance.”

And as such is one of the drawbacks of rationality.  Realize that science is a disproving machine.  The proportions of things that can actually be proven is quite low.  Expecting someone or something to prove itself is asking quite a lot.  I expect some things to be proven more or less over time, based on who has the time/resources/motivation/isn’t constantly attacked for being a pseudoscientist.

“The point is that in the past, before we had scientific evidence, the only evidence that was available to us to support our claims were opinions. Now that we have developed scientific reason, the scales have changed, opinion no longer bears the same weight unless it is backed by empirical evidence.”

Although I agree with the second sentence entirely, I really don’t see how the assumption that science started at some point in human history can be defended.  I’m willing to bet you could document chimpanzees using experimentation to change their behaviors based in empirical evidence (they use tools—>have technology—>use science).  What you say about highly “developed scientific reason” is true, but even that is something that can be pushed back in our understanding of history, like so many other things.  I would posit that anatomically modern humans have always been the reasoned and civilized beings we are familiar with – which would include an application of science. 


btw: “citate” is not a word.  The word you’re looking for is “cite

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