Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

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Eduk
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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Eduk » October 6th, 2017, 9:37 am

Yes. I think this why the answer to the question "What do atheists believe? What is their position on various moral issues?" is the same as if we ask that question about any other person about which we have no positive information. - "If you want to know - ask them!"
I agree.

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Papus79
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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Papus79 » October 6th, 2017, 8:26 pm

Steve3007 wrote:I wouldn't say it would "break the rules" because these kinds of rules don't work like that. If it really was happening and there was no explanation based on something like the aerodynamics of the carpet, then it would change the rules. The laws of nature are descriptive. They don't tell nature what to do. If there's a difference, it's not nature that is wrong. It's the rules.
But that's precisely my problem with the idea that something like self-awareness can come from nothing. It doesn't even seem to fall into the category of error you're suggesting, it's not even falling into something as wrong but at least coherent as 'What we know right now is all there is to know'.

As for a carpet flying for reasons we can't understand - I don't think we want to say that it would change the rules, rather it would reveal certain rules which were likely always there but hidden in that we'd never before perceived such a stark demonstration of those rules.
Steve3007 wrote:I don't know how you judge whether "consciousness from dead matter" is a foolish idea. What are your criteria for deciding whether an idea is foolish?
By the dead-matter assertion there's no place for it to come from. To peg consciousness on anything destroys that assertion because the moment we have a physical analog to consciousness and we have enough reason to believe that it truly resides within and is part-in-parcel with that analog we're showing that it's something that's in matter to begin with. As far as I can tell the type of naive physicalist who'd roundly assert that it's all dead matter would either have to admit to being a mind/matter dualist insofar as being able to participate in such a way as to have an opinion on the matter or the subjective drive to have that opinion.

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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Atreyu » October 7th, 2017, 2:59 am

Steve3007 wrote:I don't know how you judge whether "consciousness from dead matter" is a foolish idea. What are your criteria for deciding whether an idea is foolish?
I would also call that idea "foolish" because, given our knowledge of "dead matter" (physics, chemistry, etc). we have every reason to think that if consciousness really "arose" somehow from dead matter, then scientists would be able to demonstrate it in the laboratory. The fact that they cannot is strong evidence that it never did. Not to mention that we don't see this process in action anywhere, and never have.

The cold hard truth is that we only see awareness (let alone consciousness) in living matter...

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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Steve3007 » October 7th, 2017, 3:43 am

Yes, you've said that before.
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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Eduk » October 7th, 2017, 5:45 am

I asked before with no answer. If science did demonstrate the causal link between matter and consciousness would you then be prepared to change your mind? Or would it make no difference? It would be nice if you had some intellectual honesty. If your Christian (I assume) God came up to me and said hi then I would believe in your God. All I need is evidence to inform my opinion.

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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Papus79 » October 7th, 2017, 9:11 am

Atreyu wrote: I would also call that idea "foolish" because, given our knowledge of "dead matter" (physics, chemistry, etc). we have every reason to think that if consciousness really "arose" somehow from dead matter, then scientists would be able to demonstrate it in the laboratory. The fact that they cannot is strong evidence that it never did. Not to mention that we don't see this process in action anywhere, and never have.
Thinking of our conversation in the other thread I got the impression that matter might have been part of where we differed a little but didn't get to talk about it much. What we seem to have is an extensive fossil history showing that what's here today in the way of organic and what we'd currently classify living matter (the irony...) or biological life came from single-celled organisms. That particular part makes idealism of the 'matter is Maya' variety difficult to swallow because there's a significant gradient of consciousness and mind, and I'm stuck with similar critiques of Tom Campbell's My Big Toe and most holographic conceptions of the universe for a similar reason - ie. the argument for parsimony where to tell the truth there really isn't much in the way of NPC material here on Earth unless we're considering basic inorganic compounds and molecules.

I think my own proposal on this is that the relationship between consciousness and matter is much more tangled and unusual when compared to older outlooks. I would say that my own research of the history of mysticism and magic and the kinds of things that people have said across the centuries as well as the big occult revival of the 18th and 19th centuries seems to fit well within a functionalist and emergentist understanding of consciousness, or at least emergentist if we're considering it to be new arrangements and potentials of primitives that are fundamental to the universe. Similarly Franz Bardon and those following him wouldn't have had much to talk to in the elemental kings and queens if there wasn't something to the idea that dynamic and complex systems don't at least to some degree share in our own nature of self awareness to have that conversation. I do get that the last part is contentious but we're increasingly seeing odd things like the webbing of the galactic clusters in the universe in such a way where they look a lot like neurons - seems like similar laws are at play at a different level there and I do wonder where else we'll see that sort of maximized travel efficiency pattern, we make it ourselves in roadways and telecom networks.

-- Updated October 7th, 2017, 9:18 am to add the following --

The other part - if we consider souls these fully-formed things on arrival or at least ready to take up human functioning, we're getting to the same template that Christian apologists use to suggest that either evolution happened but the first man and woman were ensouled into matter only six thousand years ago or that cro-magnon man was the first human to have a soul injected in and until that time we were sitting around the earth or doing other things waiting for evolution to hit a certain point. That also has a lot of components that I'm not comfortable with, mainly that we see no evidence of such impacts (the cro-magnon man and abstract thinking is maybe the most stretchable apology) but other than that everything on this planet seems to be wildly incestuous in terms of interweaving causes as well as something near half of our bodies being conscious bacteria and yet under most circumstances it all marches to the same drum beat in a healthy way. That last part also really sounds like a dynamic system (ie. human body) enslaving lower forms of consciousness and rendering them into service such as the bacteria in the gut and other places.

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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Chili » October 7th, 2017, 11:20 am

Roel wrote:I see many very good debunkings and videos by sceptics in all kinds of subjects, and I consider them as intelligent, critical people. However I see an attitude to want to debunk everything, even if it's possible that something is actually real. A good example is the 4chan murderer of which people first thought he was acting with his girlfriend, until the police discovered her body in his house.

There is also the "Bible code" theory which, although not giving full proof is very convincing, but if you consider all instances in which the prediction comes true as cpincidence, how can yoh eved prove it to be true?

If you have a bias that something is fake, can you still be a good sceptic?
I had a lot of new-age beliefs in my 20s, and would fret over skeptical literature. Eventually I realized that resistance was futile, and that it made more sense to be *more* skeptical than people generally were - even "skeptics". These people tend to have beliefs that they have not recognized or investigated - particularly regarding minds, souls, and consciousness. They open their mouths and all kinds of stuff comes out that is not strictly scientific, just rehashed beliefs that they don't even know are beliefs. I have wondered whether Mr. Dawkins understands the problem of other minds and that there isn't hard science about consciousness per se. I know that Steven Pinker has a great section about sentience in "How the Mind Works" .

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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Steve3007 » October 7th, 2017, 12:01 pm

Papus79:
But that's precisely my problem with the idea that something like self-awareness can come from nothing. It doesn't even seem to fall into the category of error you're suggesting, it's not even falling into something as wrong but at least coherent as 'What we know right now is all there is to know'.
For sure, we do certainly make conservation laws. One of the most well-known is the law of conservation of energy. But there are others. One reason we have them is that the concept of a quantity being conserved is a manifestation of symmetry/pattern. And it is symmetry/pattern that allows us to describe and predict our observations.

But conservation laws, like all natural laws, are generalizations from specific observations. That means that they are always provisional and never certain. And we should always bear that in mind when attempting to apply them to situations that are way outside of the realm in which the observations on which they are based were made.

And another thing to bear in mind is that just because we like conservation laws, it doesn't follow that every concept we can think of has to be conserved. If we state that "something cannot come from nothing" then we have to be clear as to exactly what we regard as a "thing". Clearly "self-awareness" is not the same kind of thing as, say, "energy" or "angular momentum". So just because we have decided that conservation laws for those two things are useful to us, it doesn't necessarily follow that "conservation of self-awareness" makes sense as a rule.

Clearly there are some concepts, that we might classify as "things", that are demonstrably not conserved. Characters in posts on a philosophy forum might be an example.

qwertyuiop

They can be created here without having to remove them from somewhere else.

-- Updated Sat Oct 07, 2017 5:31 pm to add the following --

Atreyu:
I would also call that idea "foolish" because, given our knowledge of "dead matter" (physics, chemistry, etc). we have every reason to think that if consciousness really "arose" somehow from dead matter, then scientists would be able to demonstrate it in the laboratory. The fact that they cannot is strong evidence that it never did. Not to mention that we don't see this process in action anywhere, and never have.
What do you regard as a laboratory? Is it literally just a room with scientists in it that has existed for, say, less than 100 years? If we think of a "laboratory" that's a lot bigger and has existed for a much longer period of time, do you think we might then observe life, as we commonly define it, having come from non-life, as we commonly define it?

Suppose the laboratory was the size of the Earth and had existed for, say, 6 billion years? How about then? I know you've previously got around the 4.5 billion year lifetime of the Earth by stating that life came here on an asteroid, but as I've previously pointed out, this changes nothing. Unless you think there is an infinitely long succession of planets and asteroids with life being endless passed from one to the other.
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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Papus79 » October 7th, 2017, 12:33 pm

Steve3007 wrote:Papus79:
And another thing to bear in mind is that just because we like conservation laws, it doesn't follow that every concept we can think of has to be conserved. If we state that "something cannot come from nothing" then we have to be clear as to exactly what we regard as a "thing". Clearly "self-awareness" is not the same kind of thing as, say, "energy" or "angular momentum". So just because we have decided that conservation laws for those two things are useful to us, it doesn't necessarily follow that "conservation of self-awareness" makes sense as a rule.
Well, I may be saying something presumptuous here and this very well may be my a priori assumption behind everything I said. I think we can say that certain things are happening or not happening in the universe, our talk of laws is our attempt to conceptually bundle certain observed consistencies in our observations, and science is in the almost eternal process of peeling a big onion. What the progress physics seems to be about, and I think the progress in any field of endeavor, is drilling into older provisional assumptions with the idea that there are enough outlying cases to warrant stripping out portions of earlier assumptions that made the claim less than 100% true. My presumption - I think the universe is rational enough that we can do that for quite a ways, even if it's complex in the extreme. There are a lot of complex systems that are formed, shaped, and maintained by compounding iteration and a lot of that goes beyond our capacity to calculate.

The sense I get is that with anything that seems truly exotic we'll find a large part of it propped up by other more mundane and known systems but in most cases I think we eventually drill down to some fundamental law or some portion of what's in the universe or what the universe is made of that starts the ball rolling to begin with. At it's most primitive or unitary levels it might look absolutely nothing like what comes of quintillions of units of said effect chattering away with one another, I guess that's what I mean though when I say that the claim of something coming from nothing seems challenging - it's like claiming you can multiply 0 by some number that will give you a non-zero result.

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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Steve3007 » October 7th, 2017, 12:43 pm

Another way of using an onion metaphor is to say that we are adding layers. Each theory, when it is superseded, doesn't get removed, but becomes a special case, for a narrower range of all possible observations, of the newer theory. If the total volume of the onion represents all possible observations at all possible levels of accuracy, then the onion gets bigger and bigger. But the limited set of observations, with their limited accuracy, represented by the middle of the onion, are still accurately described by the old theory.

So Newton's law of gravitation sits inside Einstein's General Relativity, for example.

Anyway, as I said the idea of "something coming from nothing" only seems strange if the type of "thing" being considered is something that we already know from experience is conserved. Like matter. If it's letters on a computer screen we have no problem believing that they can be created ex nihilo.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

(No 'x's were removed from elsewhere to do this.)
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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Eduk » October 7th, 2017, 12:52 pm

Using the normative definition then something coming from nothing is a logical impossibility. However on a philosophy site we should be doing a lot better than the normative definition.
I personally cannot satisfactorily define nothing. For example I can't point at nothing and say there it is.
I don't know what nothing is. So therefore I can make no assumptions about it. Something could come from nothing if I knew what nothing was.
My suspicion is that the human conception of nothing does not exist outside of human conception. Or human like conception. So my suspicion is that the universe did not come from nothing. But that is only a suspicion, absolutely not proof. And absolutely not proof of anything else.

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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Steve3007 » October 7th, 2017, 12:54 pm

Also, as I said, this is only the normative definition if the word "thing" means matter.

-- Updated Sat Oct 07, 2017 5:56 pm to add the following --

"Something coming from nothing" is not a logical impossibility. It is an empirically observed physical impossibility. i.e. a violation of an Inductively derived generalization.
"When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea." - Eric Cantona.

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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Eduk » October 7th, 2017, 1:54 pm

I was using the normative meaning of logical. As in reasonable. Not formal logic.
As you say an uncaused effect may not contradict formal logic. Although I've not thought it through properly, so it might. It certainly contradicts normal logic though.

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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Steve3007 » October 7th, 2017, 2:14 pm

I think I'd probably use a term like "common sense" where you say "normal logic". Yes, the idea of a physical object appearing out of thin air does violate common sense, because I've never seen it happen before.
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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Speedyj1992 » October 7th, 2017, 4:37 pm

Papus79 wrote:
Steve3007 wrote:Papus79:
And another thing to bear in mind is that just because we like conservation laws, it doesn't follow that every concept we can think of has to be conserved. If we state that "something cannot come from nothing" then we have to be clear as to exactly what we regard as a "thing". Clearly "self-awareness" is not the same kind of thing as, say, "energy" or "angular momentum". So just because we have decided that conservation laws for those two things are useful to us, it doesn't necessarily follow that "conservation of self-awareness" makes sense as a rule.
Well, I may be saying something presumptuous here and this very well may be my a priori assumption behind everything I said. I think we can say that certain things are happening or not happening in the universe, our talk of laws is our attempt to conceptually bundle certain observed consistencies in our observations, and science is in the almost eternal process of peeling a big onion. What the progress physics seems to be about, and I think the progress in any field of endeavor, is drilling into older provisional assumptions with the idea that there are enough outlying cases to warrant stripping out portions of earlier assumptions that made the claim less than 100% true. My presumption - I think the universe is rational enough that we can do that for quite a ways, even if it's complex in the extreme. There are a lot of complex systems that are formed, shaped, and maintained by compounding iteration and a lot of that goes beyond our capacity to calculate.

The sense I get is that with anything that seems truly exotic we'll find a large part of it propped up by other more mundane and known systems but in most cases I think we eventually drill down to some fundamental law or some portion of what's in the universe or what the universe is made of that starts the ball rolling to begin with. At it's most primitive or unitary levels it might look absolutely nothing like what comes of quintillions of units of said effect chattering away with one another, I guess that's what I mean though when I say that the claim of something coming from nothing seems challenging - it's like claiming you can multiply 0 by some number that will give you a non-zero result.
Well said, even if I couldn't help but think of Shrek when you mentioned the onion. And honestly, most intelligent Christians will tell you that God did create rules in the universe that it follows. I think of it as setting something into motion like a clock, but obviously many times more complex, and clearly there's more complexity in the creation process as well.

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