The Unicorn Hypthesis (redux)

I hate to leave a loose end dangling, so just for the sake of completeness, let’s take one more look at the Loser’s Compromise and the Unicorn Hypothesis. The point of the original post was to demonstrate that we can’t justify our beliefs on the grounds that they are merely as consistent with the facts as some other hypothesis (or explanation or world view). We did this by setting up a scenario in which the consequences we would expect from one hypothesis (that world affairs are under the clandestine control of self-effacing magical unicorns) work out to be the same as the consequences we would expect from a contrary hypothesis (that humans are in control of their own governments).

I think we did that rather well, but one commenter disagrees.

No, what we’ve achieved is another silly, impertinent scenario, if nothing else, simply because a single sample is seldom sufficient. Here, you offer two hypotheses each with a single consequence that both permit. So, of course I agree with you that “there’s no reasonable basis for concluding, even provisionally, that we’re being secretly controlled by a one-horned oligarchy.”

It’s a classic example of misdirection and dodging the issue, so I thought it would be worth a bit of attention.

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Posted in Loser's Compromise, Unapologetics. 21 Comments »

How great a loss!

In response to “Our Unicorn Overlords,” ThatOtherGuy writes:

I do notice, DD, that you’ve moved away from the “both are equally UNjustified” stance a bit… though I think the usage of parsimony covers your bases on that one, don’t be surprised if SOMEONE mentions the shift.

It’s not actually a shift, per se. What I’m saying is that IF two theories predict exactly the same real-world consequences, then we are equally UNjustified in preferring one over the other. (We’re free to do so if we wish, there’s just no justification for it.) But if we take a step back, and take a critical look at that big IF, we find that, in fact, there is good reason to believe we’ll never have that problem.

A true hypothesis, by definition, is one that is consistent with the truth. A false hypothesis, by definition, is not consistent with the truth. That’s what “true” and “false” mean. Two hypotheses that contradict one another are not going to both be true, because truth is consistent with itself. At most one of them is going to be consistent with the truth. Thus, the only way two hypotheses can contradict each other AND both be equally consistent with the facts is if they’re both false and are equally INconsistent with the facts. Hence my remarks about why we are equally UNjustified in believing either one.

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Posted in Loser's Compromise, Realism, Unapologetics. 11 Comments »

Our unicorn overlords

I thought it might be helpful to take a step back and look at the Loser’s Compromise in a more neutral context. So let’s consider a couple different hypotheses: the Autonomous Hypothesis, which declares that humans control their own governments and are therefore responsible for the current state of world affairs, and the Unicorn Hypothesis, which states that the various major world governments (at least) are under the control of magical unicorns.

The Unicorn Hypothesis might seem at first to be absurd, but let’s tweak it slightly. Despite their magical nature, unicorns are relatively few in number, and would likely lose the battle in the event of any direct, focused efforts by the more numerous humans to throw off their dominance. Thus, the Unicorn Hypothesis proposes that magical unicorns are not only running the governments of the world, but that they are deliberately creating tensions and crises and other distractions in order to keep human attention diverted from the subject of unicorns. And naturally, they are also using their magical powers to “fix” the visible, verifiable evidence to be perfectly consistent with the consequences that would result from the non-existence of unicorns.

As a further refinement, let’s also modify the Autonomous Hypothesis to declare that there is no such thing as a magical unicorn, and therefore human governments are under human control, and humans are responsible for the state of affairs in the world (at least, as much as anyone is responsible).

What we’ve achieved, in other words, is a pair of hypotheses which both produce exactly the same consequences. The lack of evidence for magical unicorns is predicted in the Autonomous Hypothesis by, well, the lack of existence of unicorns, while the Unicorn Hypothesis predicts an equal lack of evidence due to the unicorns’ magical powers and desire to remain undetected by their human thralls.

Is there anyone who would say that we are justified in concluding (as a provisional conclusion) that the major world governments are all secretly under the control of magical unicorns who are manipulating world events in order to further their own, selfish ends? We have contrived a situation that precisely matches the conditions which some say are sufficient to justify either conclusion as an equally justified belief, but does that make the idea of unicorn overlords any less silly?

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Posted in Evidence Against Christianity, Loser's Compromise, Unapologetics. 15 Comments »

Why “Loser’s” Compromise?

[Update: I forgot to include the link back to Lifeguard's original comment; fixed now.]

Well, I’m back, sort of, and from the looks of things you guys didn’t miss me too much. I don’t suppose I’ll ever catch up on the comments backlog, but I’m sure you will let me know if there are any important points I’ve missed in my quick skim.

Meanwhile, I did notice this interesting comment (stuck in the moderation queue) from a commenter by the handle of “Lifeguard.”

I guess what I’m struggling with here is what the exact difference is between the Loser’s Compromise and simply acknowledging the very real possibility that despite the certainty of your beliefs you may be mistaken about which conclusion is the most justified, the best of the bunch, to say nothing of absolutely proven to be true?

That’s an excellent question, and I’m happy to have the opportunity to explain this further.

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Posted in Comment Rescue, Loser's Compromise, Realism, Unapologetics. 27 Comments »

The Loser’s Compromise (cont.)

In my post on “Victoria and Holmes,” I wrote the following:

There’s a particular approach to the truth that I call the Loser’s Compromise, and it goes like this: “We can’t know the truth about X, so let’s just agree that different people are equally justified in believing whatever they like about it.” Considered superficially, it sounds open-minded and fair, because it appeals to a certain live-and-let-live quality that avoids putting anyone in the wrong. In reality, though, it’s a deceptive rationalization, and an excuse for avoiding the truth instead of embracing it.

The rest of the post explained this and gave some illustrations, but there’s just a point or two more that I’d like to add to try and clarify why this is indeed a Loser’s Compromise.

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Posted in Loser's Compromise, Realism. 95 Comments »

A quick preview

We’ve looked at the evidence, and we’ve all seen (though some of us have mixed feelings about admitting it) that the real-world evidence is consistent with the expected consequences of the Myth Hypothesis, and inconsistent with the expected consequences of the Gospel Hypothesis. “Big deal,” you may say. “So what?” After all, it’s possible that some variation of the Gospel Hypothesis will work better. Maybe by adding things and/or taking things away we can come up with a New Gospel Hypothesis that will be as consistent with the facts as the Myth Hypothesis.

Well, yes and no.

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Posted in Evidence Against Christianity, Loser's Compromise, Unapologetics. 53 Comments »

Victoria and Holmes

There’s a particular approach to the truth that I call the Loser’s Compromise, and it goes like this: “We can’t know the truth about X, so let’s just agree that different people are equally justified in believing whatever they like about it.” Considered superficially, it sounds open-minded and fair, because it appeals to a certain live-and-let-live quality that avoids putting anyone in the wrong. In reality, though, it’s a deceptive rationalization, and an excuse for avoiding the truth instead of embracing it.

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Posted in Loser's Compromise, Unapologetics. 21 Comments »