The price of belief

In the Chronicles of Narnia, there is a story of how two children and a “marsh wiggle” named Puddleglum travel deep into underground realms to rescue a kidnapped prince from the clutches of an evil witch. Using gentle music, and some strange, narcotic herbs thrown into the fire, the witch begins to enchant the three of them, telling them there is no sun, no sky, and above all no Aslan (the messianic Lion who is the real hero of Narnia). Just when the enchantment is almost complete, Puddleglum rallies, stomps on the fire, and tells the witch that even if there is no sun, sky, or Aslan, he’d rather believe in them all anyway because they’re a darn sight nicer that what the witch is telling them.

You hear the same argument from people in real life. Suppose there is no God (or at least no Christian God). Suppose the Gospel really is just a myth. But it’s such a nice story. What’s wrong with just believing in it anyway? If the fable is pleasant and comfortable, and the truth seems unappealing, why not go ahead and believe the fable anyway? What’s the harm?

I’m always a bit aghast at the attitude behind such questions. I like fantasy games as much as the next geek, and when my kids were little, my wife and I taught them the story of Santa Claus and told them it was a game we play at Christmas. They got just as much “magic” and fun out of the game as they would have if we’d lied to them and told them Santa was real, just like I enjoy a good role-playing session even knowing that it’s all a fake. But I would never for a moment suggest that the pleasurable qualities of fiction should be a reason to deceive yourself and/or others into thinking the fiction were real.

Truth is when what’s in your head matches what’s in the world around you. Any time there’s a disconnect between belief and reality, you have a blind spot, a vulnerability. And if you have to constantly train yourself not to notice your own blind spots (in order to protect your beliefs), then you’re even more vulnerable. In the story I linked to above, an elderly millionaire was robbed and eventually murdered by a pastor, not suddenly, but over the course of a long relationship. Does it really matter whether we know the truth or not? I think it matters a great deal.

Any time you systematically lie to yourself, you train yourself to overlook the little inconsistencies that ought to be telling you there’s a problem. By repeatedly defending what you wish were true, and justifying it in your own mind, you impair your own ability to respond appropriately to the objective reality of the situation you are facing. Your pleasant and comfortable faith might just be lulling you into complacency on your way to disaster. Faith turns off the fire alarms instead of putting out the fire.

“Oh,” some people will say, “but that’s a rare case. There is usually no harm in believing.” The thing is, you don’t know, do you? Maybe you’re the next rare case, maybe you aren’t. But wouldn’t it be better not to voluntarily cripple your own ability to tell the difference? If your future happiness and well-being depends on knowing the truth about your situation, isn’t it better to have a clear and unbiased knowledge of what the truth is?

You don’t need to drive yourself to abject gullibility in order to experience the benefits of faith. My kids got everything out of the Santa game that the true believers did except the big disappointment at the end. If you like the God game, you can play that game too. If you feel like praying, pray to Alethea—you’ll get the same answers as Christians do, only you’ll have a better understanding of why God “works in mysterious ways” and seems to favor the prayers that are accompanied by hard work, careful timing, and wise planning.

Belief is not a bad thing, provided it is based on the real world. But belief based on denying reality is always harmful, even if it doesn’t lead directly to overt disaster. You may have been lucky thus far, but you’re walking into the future with one eye closed and the other eye blurry. That kind of cognitive handicap is too high a price to pay for the pleasures and comforts of mere fiction.

 
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Posted in Current Events, Unapologetics. 35 Comments »

35 Responses to “The price of belief”

  1. Freidenker Says:

    There’s like, a million-dollar quote in every passage. Who the hell are you? I’ve been reading my ass through philosophers, apologetics, science and whatnot for years now, and the sheer power of your rhetoric surpasses ANYTHING I read or read today, the company of giants like Harris, Dennett, Dawkins and PZ Myers.

    I keep telling myself: “This guy is just a linguist and a man with some background in seminary training”

    But I find myself captivated more by your worldview and how you represent it than I do any of the others. I may be young, but I’ve dipped in hard into the boggy marsh of the atheism debate. You won. I don’t get it.

    People don’t swarm in here like they do in Pharyngula or RDF. People don’t swarm here, don’t debate here, nothing.

    In all the places where cyber-congregations of Atheists, freethinkers, secular humanists, whatever, you get the same tired old crap over and over again and we just rant and rant and repeat what we know almost (almost!) as if we’re chanting it.

    But here… I go here every day in hope you’d write and if you write, you write more than one post. Please, write more than one post a day. I’d be content even if you, yourself would humor me with debate.

  2. jorgaba Says:

    “Faith turns off the fire alarms instead of putting out the fire.”

    Score.

  3. David D.G. Says:

    Freidenker is right. This blog is the best (and best written) source of freethinking philosophy and anti-apologetic material around. Kudos!

    ~David D.G.

  4. jim Says:

    Got to agree! The appeal to commonsense, combined with the emphasis on our experiences of the ‘real world’, makes this blog a winner. Kudos once more!

  5. John Morales Says:

    Freidenker,

    Please, write more than one post a day. I’d be content even if you, yourself would humor me with debate.

    You might try posting a comment about some relevant point regarding the post about which you have cricitism, a need for clarification, or just an interesting observation to make if you want engagement.
    Etiquette.

    And, not to be a hypocrite, may I too say I find this an excellent post in an excellent blog.

    meta: This comment, obviously, doesn’t invite engagement; it doesn’t exclude it, either.

  6. ssjessiechan Says:

    Genious! I’ve been wondering for a while now what to do about Santa Clause when I have kids, because I too value truth, and at least try to put it before comfort. That’s how I ended up challenging my own faith and deconverting recently.

    I have an odd Santa story in that when I found out, I was PROUD to be in on the secret. It was at the Thanksgiving parade, we were really there to see Santa coming up the road. I must have asked my mom if Santa was really real, and like me, she must not have wanted to lie just to have me feel bad later. So she whispered in my ear that it was a secret and that he was just a big trick, and not to tell my sister. From then on, there was something big and grown up that I knew and my sister didn’t. It was like a Christmas present in itself! But that pleasure was entirely born out of the cruelty inflicted on another. I don’t want to feel like that for someone I love dearly that depends on me to tell them the truth.

    Playing the game with their consent is a fabulous answer! I’m sure it’ll also encourage them to think critically about such things at an early age. Win-win-win!

  7. Freidenker Says:

    John Morales.

    in this case, I was just in awe of how well-written the post was, and as it is clear from my response, I was inspired by it.

    But, since you so nicely invited me to any kind of engagement, here’s something that I’ve always struggled with in any debate about religion and supernaturalism in general:

    How do you phrase it in any meaningful way why it is that we assume that things were always the way they are now. This is an assumption that I take for granted. I don’t feel the need to put it under scrutiny, but even though I’ve read miles about how post-modernism is a hypocritical self-contradicting worldview, I still don’t have a definite answer to that other than: “Humans will believe the sun exists no matter if you indoctrinate them to believe in it or not, the naturally occurring “beliefs” in natural entities is what gives credibility to naturalism”

  8. John Morales Says:

    Freidenker,

    How do you phrase it in any meaningful way why it is that we assume that things were always the way they are now.

    I don’t think scientists or philosophers generally do make such an assumption.
    The only assumptions are metaphysical, but the short answer is science relies on evidence and induction.

  9. Freidenker Says:

    You just said they did. If we use induction, we assume, say, in the case for evolution or cosmology, that nothing has gone completely banana shaped in any point in the past. Ever heard of the Omphalus argument? It’s more neatly called (and you’ll catch my drift with the name) as “the church of last Thursday”.

    The only thing I got against these guys is that it’s hypocritical and unpractical to wear your underpants on your head and refuse acknowledging it but still going to the doctor. I think PZ Myers phrased it well: Naturalism / Science has a demonstrable track of success.

    This is embarrassing to non-naturalists. Extremely, since most non-naturalists in the Western world would go to a hospital if they’re sick – but it does little to break anyone’s faith.

  10. Deacon Duncan Says:

    I just go back to the idea that truth is consistent with itself. It might be possible that events in the past were inconsistent with what we see today, but we ought to expect consistency unless there’s some verifiable reason to believe otherwise. And even then, the truth is still going to be consistent with itself. It’s just going to turn out that there was more to the truth than we originally suspected.

    That might not be a hard and fast answer, but it does explain why the expectation of consistency ought to take priority.

  11. Freidenker Says:

    Deacon – I can’t help but intuitively accepting your response, but I just can’t find myself convinced that anyone will find it sufficient to change their worldview. Words can be minced so hard that you can end up saying the same thing and relaying a reversed message.

    Maybe I’m just exasperated that the search for truth never reaches a climax because there’s always that smidgen of doubt, that tiny smidgen of doubt – that I might be wrong. That’s what led me to naturalism in the first place.

  12. John Morales Says:

    Freidenker, are you familiar with Kant?

  13. John Morales Says:

    PS Freidenker, I’m surprised you replied so quickly given the amount of information provided in those two links.

    Surprised enough that I hope you at least read the article I’ve linked in the previous comment to this one before blithely posting without any indication you’ve considered my response other than superficially.

    PS

    You just said they did.

    No, I actually said I don’t think scientists or philosophers generally do make such an assumption.
    That shows very poor comprehension.

  14. John Morales Says:

    Deacon, evidence and inference show that it’s rational to believe that the past lacks large-scale discontinous state changes, at least in our light cone.

    The metaphysical assumptions made are that there is an external reality and that only the senses can convey information about that reality. Those assumptions and the evidence of our senses leads to inferring that conclusion.

    Of course, that’s only my opinion. But I repeat, I doubt scientists just assume the past is not discontinous. For one thing, we have cultural evidence for a few thousand years worth of past. How rational would it be to believe some past event, say, radically altered things and yet the evidence was entirely consistent with no such event?

  15. John Morales Says:

    Ever heard of the Omphalus argument

    Yup. Theological ad-hoc justification, it is.
    What of it.
    Ever heard of the Matrix?

  16. Deacon Duncan Says:

    Freidenker — I think anyone who wants to know the truth will have to be content with discovering where it is rather than knowing everything there is to know about what it is. There’s just too much of it for one human mind.

    In that sense, doubt is a good thing, because it forces us to continually compare our current understanding with the external reality, just giving us a built-in error-correction mechanism. Or at least the opportunity for error correction.

    You’re right about not being able to change someone else’s worldview against their will. That sort of thing happens more by attrition than by direct conquest I think.

  17. Deacon Duncan Says:

    John — I think you and I are saying basically the same thing. It’s rational to expect past conditions to work like conditions in the present because that’s a logical conclusion from the premise that truth is consistent with itself. One might even argue that rationality is this integrated self-consistency we find in the truth. Logic and reason are a pattern of consistency based on real-world self-consistency. But it’s early in the morning here, and I don’t want to wax too philosophical before I’ve had my first cup of coffee.

  18. John Morales Says:

    Hm.

    However, there’s no need to belabour the issue. The point at hand is there is, to my knowledge, no prima facie reason that postulating past acausality is in any way helpful to furthering understanding.

    Or in short short: it works.

  19. Freidenker Says:

    John Morales,

    “however, there’s no need to belabour the issue. The point at hand is there is, to my knowledge, no prima facie reason that postulating past acausality is in any way helpful to furthering understanding.

    Or in short short: it works.

    in other words, your argument is that “it just feels that way”. I’m no theist, but if I was, I’m sure I wouldn’t be convinced by the “I just got that feeling” argument. To any theist, “it works” is a subjective term as any other. “It works” can be associated with the exact opposite of what you see as “something that works”.

    The only thing I had to offer in return is the humble suggestion that something, somehow, makes us all believe in very similar thing regardless to what we are told is true.
    My problem, and the reason I’m bringing this whole issue up, is that I find it very hard to put that “something” in clear terms. The minute I slip into subjectivity, any argument for naturalism (and I feel that arguing for naturalism is an important thing to do in every day life) is moot.

    That said, it’s merely a kind HINT to maybe, just maybe, there’s a point in naturalism if EVERYONE gives in to it in some respects because, as the Deacon puts it well: The truth is consistent with itself, and in so many cases, it doesn’t NEED backing up by any human excuses/theology/apologetics. It just is.

    Deacon:

    “In that sense, doubt is a good thing, because it forces us to continually compare our current understanding with the external reality, just giving us a built-in error-correction mechanism. Or at least the opportunity for error correction.”

    What you say rather reassures me, because it implicates something that I think anyone will find convincing: If doubt eventually brings within itself more answers (even if it ALWAYS leaves questions to be asked) – then it will always, truly always, lead to naturalism. Naturalism could then, at worst, be a “compromise worldview”for a limited human mind that cannot comprehend anymore than it already does, doubt being the fuel that keeps its knowledge accumulating.
    That said, doubt is extremly unlikely to eventually “rethrottle back to theism” or something of that order, only gullibility (or the lack of doubt) will. It rather alleviates that fear that any “deconvert” has of the “what if I’m wrong” question.

  20. John Morales Says:

    Freidenker,

    in other words, your argument is that “it just feels that way”.

    Sigh. First, I told you that, just because you assume it, doesn’t mean people who actually think about these things do as well – that they functionally do is an epiphenomenon. Then I told you how they arrive at that conclusion and what the assumptions actually are, and introduced a link to Kant to show historical basis why the those particular metaphysical assumptions were actually chosen.

    You have not engaged my claims at all, except my final point.
    And you’ve got that wrong.

    Oh well, I tried.

  21. John Morales Says:

    Freidenker,

    The truth is consistent with itself, and in so many cases, it doesn’t NEED backing up by any human excuses/theology/apologetics. It just is.

    That’s nonsensical, subjective and non-explanatory to boot; it consists of a tautology, an opinion on a particular rather than the universal and a naked assertion. Not to mention metaphysics doesn’t even belong in your trichotomy.

    I find you reason theologically though you claim rationality. Interesting – some might call it scientism.

  22. Freidenker Says:

    JM

    Sigh.
    Okay, I’ve gone through the beginning of our correspondence just to make sure, and yeah, instead of being informative and intellectually stimulating, you’re mainly being arrogant and sarcastic. You get plenty of that in free-for-all godbashing debates, this is pointless, and I’ll have none of it. The links you provided did not contain anything you haven’t said and did not contradict anything I said about the problem I posed with inference.

    Also, I think it’s a bit unfair if you link to an article depicting Kant and information, o-lots, about what he said and what his major ideas were, and then, after not going through the whole thing (or even opening the link!), admonishing me for not taking to your points. If you have something to say, say it. If you want to say something that Kant said, then say that Kant said it. What I won’t have, is you posing a one-liner with a link and a sotto voce RTFM.

    Oh, and

    ” The truth is consistent with itself, and in so many cases, it doesn’t NEED backing up by any human excuses/theology/apologetics. It just is.

    That’s nonsensical, subjective and non-explanatory to boot; it consists of a tautology, an opinion on a particular rather than the universal and a naked assertion. Not to mention metaphysics doesn’t even belong in your trichotomy.”

    Tell that to the deacon, that’s pretty much what he says here over and over. In finer wording, of course. But to name just one example that he used well in this blog, the sun is a good instance of something we’re “all atheist about”. Even, in some very real sense, “sun-worshippers”.

    All that said, you can sigh as loud as you like, I’m pulling off the “debate” here, unless of course the Deacon would like to say something. In his fewer responses to what I wrote, he managed to be a lot more informative than you have (you should try taking some lessons in manners from him. To begin with, say, how to keep the other side of the debate not completely disgusted with themselves. Remarks about the other guy’s comprehension would be a good start.)

  23. John Morales Says:

    Freidenker, your opinion of me is noted.

    In my opinion, you did not paraphrase DD’s comment accurately – and my response was to the comment.
    As to who arrogates, that is a matter of opinion.

    That you find no merit about my claims and focus on my manner is not something I have control over, and I resile from nothing I’ve written.

    And this is enough from me on this topic. Thanks for your forbearance, Deacon.

  24. Freidenker Says:

    JM

    That was actually the first comment of yours that I didn’t find insulting. I’m all in to get back to talking, provided that it continues being polite. I could be dead wrong all the way, but I’m just not going to waste time debating another freethinker/atheist/non-god-botherer who isn’t polite. It’s just a waste of time, if I’m spending my free time on getting aggravated at someone railing on my poor comprehension, I’m sure you wouldn’t enjoy it in my stead.

    That said, I want to know your take on how to do you reconcile (differently than me, apparently) the issue with inference. Yes, the question IS metaphysical, and most scientists DO simply presuppose that naturalism is what works,

    But not everyone’s a scientist, and frankly, I take most of the assumptions mentioned in your first two links for granted, but only after several miles of books read.

    So, what do you tell anyone else? See, I enjoy reading and have read quite a few books so far and I was discontent at being referred to two wikipedia links – so I don’t think telling anyone to go read a book about the subject is a bad idea.

  25. John Morales Says:

    Hm, you put me in the invidious position of not responding and thus ignoring your appeal, or of responding and breaking my (evidently weak) resolution.
    Still, after this I’ll hold off until the blog owner says something either way. I was actually pointing you to where you could do your own research, after which you could ask relevant questions or form informed opinions.
    So.

    That said, I want to know your take on how to do you reconcile (differently than me, apparently) the issue with inference. Yes, the question IS metaphysical, and most scientists DO simply presuppose that naturalism is what works

    You now acknowledge that the question is metaphysical, so that’s one aspect done with.
    However, I have already explained why that is not what I think they assume, and what I think they do assume. I need not repeat that.
    As to how I reconcile the use of inference as a reasoning tool to reach conclusions:
    1. from the induction link you belittle:

    Induction or inductive reasoning, sometimes called inductive logic, is the process of reasoning in which the premises of an argument are believed to support the conclusion but do not entail it; i.e. they do not ensure its truth.[…]Scientists still rely on induction nevertheless.
    Note that mathematical induction is not a form of inductive reasoning. Mathematical induction is a form of deductive reasoning

    OK, so I’m referring to logical, not mathematical induction.
    2. Why? Because, if you follow the reasoning in my Kant link, you can see that

    Things as they are “in themselves” — the thing in itself or das Ding an sich — are unknowable. For something to become an object of knowledge, it must be experienced, and experience is structured by our minds — both space and time as the forms of our intuition or perception, and the unifying, structuring activity of our concepts. These aspects of mind turn things-in-themselves into the world of experience. We are never passive observers or knowers.

    The metaphysical issue (and to grasp this, you need to understand the concept of ontology and how the category of ideas based on evidence is qualitatively different to that of ideas based on supposition) is that we cannot either way confirm or disconfirm the veridity of truths about reality-in-itself (as opposed to those about propositions) that we have no causal access to, and accordingly we cannot reason from such bases, and accordingly deductive logic cannot be used. Which is where the “reconciliation” comes in.
    3. Again from the link:

    In induction there are always many conclusions that can reasonably be related to certain premises. Inductions are open; deductions are closed. It is however possible to derive a true statement using inductive reasoning if you know the conclusion. The only way to have an efficient argument by induction is for the known conclusion to be able to be true only if an unstated external conclusion is true, from which the initial conclusion was built and has certain criteria to be met in order to be true (separate from the stated conclusion). By substitution of one conclusion for the other, you can inductively find out what evidence you need in order for your induction to be true.

    Clearly, since no external conclusions about reality are available, working assumptions must be made.
    4. The two assumptions I mentioned are not arbitrrary choices. Current cosmology shows the past was indeed different – there was a first generation of stars, and though it is/was the same spacetime, force unification “near” the singularity made for different physics.
    5. Which is why I answered

    How do you phrase it in any meaningful way why it is that we assume that things were always the way they are now. This is an assumption that I take for granted.

    as I did. The naive assumption that the past was like the present, as with many “commonsense” intuitions (and this particularly applies to causality), does not match the empirical findings of science. For example, conditions on planet Earth have altered dramatically since its aggregation, and the universe itself has evolved from the state of unified forces near the big bang.
    6. When you think about it, it’s quite remarkable that the whole edifice of science is built on such an apparently simple yet forced pair of assumptions.

  26. John Morales Says:

    Ahem. “veridity” should of course read “verity”.

  27. John Morales Says:

    Sigh at myself. 2 is muddled and needs correction.
    “we cannot either way confirm or disconfirm the veridity of truths about reality-in-itself (as opposed to those about propositions) that we have no causal access to”
    should read
    “we cannot either way confirm or disconfirm the verity of truths about reality-in-itself (as opposed to those about propositions) or of evidentiary phenomena that we have no causal access to”

  28. Freidenker Says:

    John,

    I would like to apologize for my earlier responses, you’ve been most kind and extremely informative, thank you.

    I would like to ask some further questions, and on this occasion, I wouldn’t scold you (probably unfairly) for linking me to do my own research.

    This, to me, is the money-quote:

    “The metaphysical issue (and to grasp this, you need to understand the concept of ontology and how the category of ideas based on evidence is qualitatively different to that of ideas based on supposition) is that we cannot either way confirm or disconfirm the veridity of truths about reality-in-itself (as opposed to those about propositions) that we have no causal access to, and accordingly we cannot reason from such bases, and accordingly deductive logic cannot be used. Which is where the “reconciliation” comes in.”

    So the reconciliation comes, really, because of the inevitable flaw that comes from inductive logic – the fact that you could have endless conclusions using said logic.

    So, this leaves me to conclude that since you cannot look “outside of reality”, then other for “practical reasons”, we cannot assume anything else other than that which we can see and investigate?

    The reason I’m being so pedantic on this seemingly obvious issue is because I’m fascinated by a process that is mainly a psychological process: deconversion. When I had it, I had it because, among other things, I read (which is why I didn’t re-read when you linked me just now, though I probably should have) about the scientific method, and critical thinking. I had no “outside encouragement” and no “sciency indoctrination”. I sort of popped out of my room one day and told every one that I don’t believe in god anymore.

    The reason I’m still reading atheist blogs every day is because I am fascinated as to why this has only happened to me. I know that indoctrination leads to a lot of “belief-walls”, but still: the information is available, open, so easy-to-access.

    What’s keeping everyone so tightly removed from reality? Why is the vast majority of the world having walls in their brains? How can these walls be removed before one of these walls would be a wall between giving a child medical care and letting him die?

    I live in Israel (that might explain my English), and we’re a fairly conservative nation, with lots of ultra-conservative influence, even on the secular population I’m part of. I was born and have lived in a country that has been torn apart for over a century because of the walls in people’s minds..

    So, you can see why I’m so passionate about breaking down the beforementioned walls.

    Again, John, I apologize for zig-zagging earlier. I’m a touchy sort of person and I get uncomfortable rather quickly when I pick up sarcastic remarks… More times than none, that means that the other guy is not interested in a real conversation and instead is just interested in a display of his own prowess. I was made aware that I was 100% wrong about you in that respect.

    Thanks again.

  29. John Morales Says:

    Freidenker, taking DD’s silence for assent, I respond. Pedantic is good in these issues, but unfortunately tends to lead to dense verbiage. Note also my correction to the paragraph you quoted.

    Yes, reason tells us there are limits to the knowledge (as opposed to ideas)* that can be acquired by reason alone; and philosophy owes a great debt to theology much as chemistry owes a great debt to alchemy.

    You would do well to seek out information about the philosophy of science for (no doubt) a much better presentation of the subject than I can provide.

    Regarding

    So, this leaves me to conclude that since you cannot look “outside of reality”, then other for “practical reasons”, we cannot assume anything else other than that which we can see and investigate?

    Only within some domains; this issue relates to both ontology and epistemology (the categories of concepts and what can be known, respectively). Certain categories may be reasoned about without recourse to evidentiary support, for example mathematical propositions. There are sub-categories that are of relevance – you might wish to find out about the difference between analytic and synthetic propositions (in the former, the predicate concept is embedded in its subject concept) and a-priori and a-posteriori propositions (in the former no evidence is necessary). The truth-value of propositions relating to Nature can only be determined by congruence with evidence (and theory, but that itself is derived from evidence).

    What’s keeping everyone so tightly removed from reality?

    In my opinion, in short and in no particular order: wishful thinking, intellectual cowardice or feebleness or laziness, cultural pressure and the sunk-cost fallacy.
    I doubt many people have given much consideration to just how extensive humanity’s corpus of knowledge has become in the last couple of hundred of years, and how that knowledge correlates to their mythologically derived beliefs.
    You might wish to check the de-conversion blog where these issues are the topic; note that blog has an ex-Christian focus and I withdrew from commenting there as I felt my forthrightness was considered innapropriate in that forum.

    * Which was the whole point of the Critique.
    A note on jargon – I make a distinction between knowledge and belief; a justified belief is knowledge only if it is in fact true; justified beliefs that aren’t true are not knowledge. For example, the “law of mass-energy conservation” is known but (at this time) it is not known whether string theory is known or is merely a mathematical construct.

  30. John Morales Says:

    Re: “in the former, the predicate concept is embedded in its subject concept”
    This may be a little obscure; I mean the properties are part of the nature of the concept – e.g. “All humans are mammals” is analytically true, but “All humans are cleverer than any other known species” is not; I don’t feel it’s synthetically true either, by the way.

  31. Freidenker Says:

    Fascinating! This will make for an fascinating issue to delve into until I get back to campus (I study Biology, yeah, I know.) this October. My only dread is that delving into philosophy of science might leave me a bit out of knowing the opposition (and most importantly, the credible sort of opposition) to it.

    Thanks again for all the information, I’m going to delve into it for a while. Now would actually be a good time for a book recommendation (or books’, of course.)

  32. John Morales Says:

    It was my pleasure, Freidenker.

    I won’t recommend anything, because I honestly don’t know what to recommend. I suggest your best bet is to seek advice from someone who knows about this stuff(campus? sounds good).

    You could look at the Wikipedia article and its links, though, as a start. Hopefully it says much what I’ve said, if not, trust it not me :)

  33. John Morales Says:

    Addendum:

    My only dread is that delving into philosophy of science might leave me a bit out of knowing the opposition (and most importantly, the credible sort of opposition) to it

    Delving sounds ambitious, but I can reassure you that knowledge is power, and this knowledge is fundamental and a surprisingly flexible and powerful tool to help you think and analyse contentions.

    Regarding “the opposition”, you don’t want to learn how to respond by rote; you want to learn how to think and have a clear framework for so doing; the distilled knowledge of generations of very clever people is there for the taking, and, really, all you need is a grasp of the basic concepts and how they apply.

  34. John Morales Says:

    [slightly OOT]
    For any who like philosophical thinking, this might be of interest. [excerpt]

    … Where physics is concerned with the microscopic processes that underlie macroscopic reality, metaphysics is concerned with the fundamental nature of reality. A metaphysical hypothesis might make a claim about the reality that underlies physics itself. Alternatively, it might say something about the nature of our minds, or the creation of our world.

    I think the Matrix Hypothesis should be regarded as a metaphysical hypothesis with all three of these elements. It makes a claim about the reality underlying physics, about the nature of our minds, and about the creation of the world.

    In particular, I think the Matrix Hypothesis is equivalent to a version of the following three-part Metaphysical Hypothesis. First, physical processes are fundamentally computational. Second, our cognitive systems are separate from physical processes, but interact with these processes. Third, physical reality was created by beings outside physical space-time. …

  35. bipolar2 Says:

    ** blarnia ad narnia **

    Lewis was a propagandist like many another convert who must convince others of his new found “truths” in direct proportion to his insecurity about their being true.

    Much to Tolkein’s disappointment he did not convert to Catholicism — such an Oxford thing to do, even in Lewis’ time. He became an Anglican. Having been an agnostic.

    Lewis was not a theologian. He ended his life as a professor of medieval literature at Cambridge.

    His “Mere Xianity” means just that. It presents a mere, core set, of alleged truths which supposedly define the essence of Xianity in an Aristotelian sense. Lewis longed for a religious medievalism anathema to his fundie idolators.

    Stick with C. S. Lewis on medieval lit. Especially illuminating, “The discarded image” Cambridge U. Pr. (Canto reprint pbk). Alas, dear Lewis, The Divine Comedy is not a travelogue.

    bipolar2