The epistemological instability of the fallacy
Posted: 10 November 2007 01:08 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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On the assumption that the world is not self-contradictory, there is a unique difference between a fallacious statement about the world and a true one:

The true statement cannot be falsified by any type of correct evidence, but the false statement may very well be falsified.

(Both true statements about the world and false statements can of course be “falsified” by false, incorrect evidence, but that is beside the point).

Is this just a trivial observation, or does it, as I think, have some subtle implications that do have consequences in many areas in life?

I’ll try to make a few points first:
Insofar as you are committed to make true statements/have true beliefs about the world, how are you to best ensure that whatever statement you make or belief you have is, indeed, a correct one?

The answer is quite naturally that you’ll regard vigorous CRITICISM and SCRUTINY of your view as a positive good since it is only by being critical of beliefs and try to amass correct evidence against it that intermingled false beliefs/statements can be sifted out and discarded.

While it can be painful and humiliating to have one’s own core beliefs shown to be incorrect, personal vanity should not stop you from throwing every belief you have into the acid bath of critical analysis.
Those beliefs that emerge unscathed from such treatment can be given greater credence than those not subjected to that treatment.

That too much emotional attachment to any one particular idea may cause you to refrain from analyzing it critically, should perhaps tell us not to invest a lot of emotional capital into the ideas we make about the world in general.
Or, if that is impossible, develop, perhaps through repeated failures, a personality trait of humility and acceptance so that when we DO get things wrong, we are not smashed to pieces by it.

But what, then, of false statements, or unevidenced beliefs, how does this technique of the acid bath appear?

If you have a cherished idea in your head that you hold, DESPITE evidence to the contrary, will you not need to actively ignore such evidence, or feel them to be vaguely threatening to you?
Will the idea of the acid bath appeal to you?

What if your idea turns out to be wrong?
How have you braced yourself to endure that moment?
Have you trained yourself in suffering intellectual defeat by your penchant to believe in unevidenced ideas, rather than seeking out those ideas that are strong enough to withstand every type of valid criticism?

Isn’t it safer NOT to ask critical questions, NOT think “too much” around your belief, get annoyed at those persons instilling doubts in you, rather than welcoming their scepticism?


As I see it, the main flaw with unevidenced belief systems like religion, Marxism etc is that the believers in them are primed towards intolerance against unbelievers, precisely because the believers are lacking in evidence and simultaneously have invested lots of emotional capital on their beliefs.

A trivial observation of epistemology might not be wholly unrelated to important matters of life&death;after all..

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Posted: 11 November 2007 11:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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arildno - 10 November 2007 06:08 PM

While it can be painful and humiliating to have one’s own core beliefs shown to be incorrect, personal vanity should not stop you from throwing every belief you have into the acid bath of critical analysis…....But what, then, of false statements, or unevidenced beliefs, how does this technique of the acid bath appear? If you have a cherished idea in your head that you hold, DESPITE evidence to the contrary, will you not need to actively ignore such evidence, or feel them to be vaguely threatening to you? Will the idea of the acid bath appeal to you?

Excellent post, arildno.  This forum is an acid bath for theists. If the believer stays here long enough, he/she will find what is left after the acid has done its work. Everyone need to allow his/her fellow chimps pick the lice off on a regular basis.

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Posted: 11 November 2007 03:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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With each post like this one, I inch ever closer to understanding the psychology of atheism.

What you are saying, admirably cloaked in diplomacy as it is, is that for any given belief that can be “proven” wrong, those who continue to believe in the belief must choose to deny the “proof”. Either that, or they are too stupid to grasp the “proof” or to ashamed to admit that they are wrong.

There is an underlying fallacy working against you, that you cannot see, as one cannot see the forest for the trees. That is, you may have invested in a particular arbitrary definition of the belief. You think you are fitting a square peg into a square hole, but you are vainly trying to shove a vast, amorphous mass into a square pinhole. Just as IQ tests are cultural, proofs are cultural.

What it boils down to, then, is (strictly conjecture on my part) yet another case of someone with a sound, rational mind failing to understand how anyone else can claim to be sane and rational if they don’t agree with you. But don’t assume I am insulting you; that is a very human trait—perhaps even THE definitive human trait.

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Posted: 11 November 2007 11:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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Bruce Burleson - 11 November 2007 04:26 PM
arildno - 10 November 2007 06:08 PM

While it can be painful and humiliating to have one’s own core beliefs shown to be incorrect, personal vanity should not stop you from throwing every belief you have into the acid bath of critical analysis…....But what, then, of false statements, or unevidenced beliefs, how does this technique of the acid bath appear? If you have a cherished idea in your head that you hold, DESPITE evidence to the contrary, will you not need to actively ignore such evidence, or feel them to be vaguely threatening to you? Will the idea of the acid bath appeal to you?

Excellent post, arildno.  This forum is an acid bath for theists. If the believer stays here long enough, he/she will find what is left after the acid has done its work. Everyone need to allow his/her fellow chimps pick the lice off on a regular basis.

Quite so.
I have no trouble with theists who fully understand that their faith is a SUBJECTIVE choice, whose ideals of model behaviour towards the deity cannot be upheld as universal standards all must follow, precisely because it is based on individual faith.

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Posted: 12 November 2007 02:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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I’m inclined to agree with arildno’s post. I’d just like to add a few hopefully uncontroversial observations. The first is that even the most rational people are not completely objective when appraising the evidence for and against their beliefs. This article gives an interesting example:

http://www.csicop.org/si/2007-03/einstein.html

Obviously some people come a lot closer to the goal of complete objectivity than others.

The other is that nothing can ever be proven to 100% certainty. No matter what piece of evidence you present, someone who is determined to hold on to a belief will be able to think of a reason to do so.

My father once told me of a man who was a member of a lottery syndicate. Apparently he heard that a syndicate in his area had won the lottery, and became convinced that it was his syndicate, and that the other members were cheating him of his share of the winnings. He took the matter to court, but lost his case, because his syndicate had not in fact won the lottery.

If I remember rightly, he then thought that his lawyer and the judge were part of the conspiracy, and tried to kill one or both of them. (Some of the details are a bit vague.) As a result, he ended up in a mental hospital, where my father, who was working there, met him. Apparently he still believed that he had been cheated, and no evidence could ever free him of his delusion. Fortunately the staff at the hospital were able to convince him that they were not involved in the conspiracy - I think he believed them to be innocent dupes.

The interesting thing is that, once you accept the idea of a giant conspiracy, it becomes easy to dismiss any evidence. Records from the lottery office? Forgeries, of course. Witnesses? Obviously they’re part of the conspiracy.

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Posted: 12 November 2007 03:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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That example sounds more like. . .


paranoid schizophrenia: The key feature of this subtype of schizophrenia is the combination of false beliefs (delusions) and hearing voices (auditory hallucinations), with more nearly normal emotions and cognitive functioning (cognitive functions include reasoning, judgment, and memory). The delusions of paranoid schizophrenics usually involve thoughts of being persecuted or harmed by others or exaggerated opinions of their own importance, but may also reflect feelings of jealousy or excessive religiosity. The delusions are typically organized into a coherent framework. Paranoid schizophrenics function at a higher level than other subtypes, but are at risk for suicidal or violent behavior under the influence of their delusions.

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Posted: 12 November 2007 10:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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mcalpine - 11 November 2007 08:28 PM

With each post like this one, I inch ever closer to understanding the psychology of atheism.

What you are saying, admirably cloaked in diplomacy as it is, is that for any given belief that can be “proven” wrong, those who continue to believe in the belief must choose to deny the “proof”. Either that, or they are too stupid to grasp the “proof” or to ashamed to admit that they are wrong.

There is an underlying fallacy working against you, that you cannot see, as one cannot see the forest for the trees. That is, you may have invested in a particular arbitrary definition of the belief. You think you are fitting a square peg into a square hole, but you are vainly trying to shove a vast, amorphous mass into a square pinhole. Just as IQ tests are cultural, proofs are cultural.

And here the blatherboy reveals himself.
Sensory perceptions, and logical deductions are overwhelmingly non-cultural ways to establish truths.

That is precisely why these modes of knowing are so crucial and important.

[ Edited: 12 November 2007 10:43 AM by arildno]
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Posted: 12 November 2007 11:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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Blatherboy?

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Posted: 12 November 2007 11:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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Indeed. Just empty-headed, social relativist blather spewed forth.

[ Edited: 12 November 2007 11:52 AM by arildno]
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Posted: 12 November 2007 12:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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Fish Eater - 12 November 2007 07:56 AM

I’m inclined to agree with arildno’s post. I’d just like to add a few hopefully uncontroversial observations. The first is that even the most rational people are not completely objective when appraising the evidence for and against their beliefs. This article gives an interesting example:

http://www.csicop.org/si/2007-03/einstein.html

Obviously some people come a lot closer to the goal of complete objectivity than others.

The other is that nothing can ever be proven to 100% certainty. No matter what piece of evidence you present, someone who is determined to hold on to a belief will be able to think of a reason to do so.

My father once told me of a man who was a member of a lottery syndicate. Apparently he heard that a syndicate in his area had won the lottery, and became convinced that it was his syndicate, and that the other members were cheating him of his share of the winnings. He took the matter to court, but lost his case, because his syndicate had not in fact won the lottery.

If I remember rightly, he then thought that his lawyer and the judge were part of the conspiracy, and tried to kill one or both of them. (Some of the details are a bit vague.) As a result, he ended up in a mental hospital, where my father, who was working there, met him. Apparently he still believed that he had been cheated, and no evidence could ever free him of his delusion. Fortunately the staff at the hospital were able to convince him that they were not involved in the conspiracy - I think he believed them to be innocent dupes.

The interesting thing is that, once you accept the idea of a giant conspiracy, it becomes easy to dismiss any evidence. Records from the lottery office? Forgeries, of course. Witnesses? Obviously they’re part of the conspiracy.

And the major reason why persons are unable to relinquish wildly improbable beliefs is that they have invested too much emotional capital in them.

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Posted: 12 November 2007 01:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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In that particular case, I have to agree with Mia. 

I think it’s wise to consider if there is a difference between mental illness and religious fanaticism.

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Posted: 12 November 2007 03:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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Jeanie - 12 November 2007 06:58 PM

In that particular case, I have to agree with Mia. 

I think it’s wise to consider if there is a difference between mental illness and religious fanaticism.

Same here, Jeanie. Mia’s description (or perhaps quote) sets up a fascinating perspective on things. As much as religious ways have been variously compared and discussed on this forum, that paragraph puts things to rest, for me at least. It’s not that religious people need necessarily to be members of the paranoid-schizophrenia club. They just need to buy into the originators of it.

[ Edited: 12 November 2007 03:58 PM by nv]
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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
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Posted: 12 November 2007 05:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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homunculus - 12 November 2007 08:54 PM
Jeanie - 12 November 2007 06:58 PM

In that particular case, I have to agree with Mia. 

I think it’s wise to consider if there is a difference between mental illness and religious fanaticism.

Same here, Jeanie. Mia’s description (or perhaps quote) sets up a fascinating perspective on things. As much as religious ways have been variously compared and discussed on this forum, that paragraph puts things to rest, for me at least. It’s not that religious people need necessarily to be members of the paranoid-schizophrenia club. They just need to buy into the originators of it.

My bad! I usually post the source of a definition, but slacked off here wink.

Source (about halfway down the page, under the WordNet banner):
http://www.answers.com/topic/paranoid-schizophrenia


h, I concur. . . we see children raised by psycho parents all the time, who turn out psycho themselves. Not necessarily due to anything genetic, but simply the result of being steadily indoctrinated with erratic behaviors. Mental illness is by no means restricted to natural causes, while schizophrenia itself is. . . at least as far as I know. I’ve read of the possibility that it may involve the same area of our brains as our language skills:

[quote author=“Wikipedia”]
Psychiatrist Tim Crow has argued that schizophrenia may be the evolutionary price we pay for a left brain hemisphere specialization for language.[163] Since psychosis is associated with greater levels of right brain hemisphere activation and a reduction in the usual left brain hemisphere dominance, our language abilities may have evolved at the cost of causing schizophrenia when this system breaks down.

Source:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schizophrenia

 

Who knows. Human language is a relatively new development. . . but I have an interest in the ‘whys’ of paranoid schizophrenia since my oldest brother (of six brothers) has it—the delusions, along with great brilliance. He’s fluent in several Asian and Latin languages and acquired his PhD (in Japan) prior to the disease surfacing in earnest. It also amplified his religious compulsions, and he associates almost exclusively with Catholic monestary personnel now, living like a monk himself.

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