RE: virus: Haven't we been around this bend before?

carlw (
Sun, 7 Mar 1999 15:49:20 -0600

aka = also known as

I would argue that "reason" is the tool by which we measure our observations and temper our cynicism to allow us to build up a sensible and "useful" model which allows us to make predictions about the fashion in which the world functions.

I would argue (as you have) that many forms of disciplined thinking exist, yet I would also argue that many of them are not "useful" as defined above.

I also think that you have missed the point of "useful" and poorly defined discipline. While the practice of "faith" may require extreme discipline, to if necessary, put observation, reason, utility, knowledge and thought on one side, it does not produce a "disciplined model of the world" only a disciplined area in the head of the believer. The models produced by faith are not competent to make predictions and thus are not "useful". On the other hand, the models produced by reason are produced through the application of "a disciplined model of the world" which application of discipline allows us to measure the effectiveness of our models' ability to make predictions. There is no equivalent in the "faith" based universe.

Rule #1: All players in the game must be willing to change their mind.

Is of course a pre-requisite to a claim to be reasonable. But I would argue that it is only available to a non-faith based entity. An effective faith precludes the ability to perform the questioning necessary to changing the mind about the area obscured by the faith. Otherwise it would not require faith. To misquote Shakespeare's Sonnet 116 (appended below) "Faith is not faith which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove. O, no, it is an ever-fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken."

Faith formed through reasoned thought on the value of evidence is not "faith", except in the very loose sense. For example, I have "faith" that the sun will rise each morning - despite knowing that it is the earth's rotation that causes the sun to appear to rise, and knowing that one day our sun will die. I can explain my "faith", I have built a keplarian model of the solar system and proved by observation that my model is good and that it makes good predictions. I am also prepared to add the correction factors produced at the Naval observatory each year to the results of my model in order to make it make better predictions (changing my mind). I understand how this works and why I should do it, and accept that it makes my model's predictive capability more accurate. My "faith" is thus a product of knowledge and not something that requires "faith" in the sense of acceptance without evidence or contrary to evidence. Of course, I have friends who hold the same "faith" who have not built the models, have not observed grazing occlusions to prove the ability of a keplarian model to predict planetary orbits, but have looked at horoloscopes, have listened to others explaining the principles and mechanisms behind it and have decided to accept this explanation as a working hypothesis and their watches as an adequate means of prediction. I would argue that they too, do not have "faith" that the sun will rise in the mornings, except in the very loose sense explained above. On the other hand, we have all met people who have "faith" that a "god" or "gods" exist, and despite their believing it very firmly, they can produce no evidence in support of their faith other than their faith, cannot make testable (useful) predictions based on their faith, and certainly are not able to adapt their faith based on observation. After all, "god/z work in mysterious ways", is not an expression put about by rigourous scientific thinkers.

Rule #2: Each player has the right to change their mind as quickly or as slowly as they choose.

Given the glacial rate of most believers' thinking, I think that we can postulate (purely as a working hypothesis) that the time required for them to change their minds (stipulating for the sake of the argument that these exist) is probably best measured on a geologic timescale. Given that humans are an ephermal phenomenon with a lifespan much shorter than that of even moderately successful memes, how do you think this "rule" is going to contribute to the discussion? And how would the discussion be different if this "rule" were omitted? In other words, I am suggesting that your need to suggest this "rule" indicates that nobody is likely to change their modus based on the discussion, and simultaneously, that this rule seems to be irrelevant to the discussion itself.

Rule #3: Changing of a mind may be accomplished either by changing terms, or by reinterpreting old terms according to a new frame of reference.

Seems to me that this is a very slippery concept and very inadequately defined. What about new discoveries or measurement techniques which invalidate previous positions? What happens when a situation is discovered or postulated, where a new set of rules apply? What happens when we discover that Schwartzchild was wrong? That black holes do radiate?

What happens when a faith based believer in undefined "godz" (calling himself an agnostic and asserting that atheism is as much of a step of faith as deism) suddenly has a mental breakthrough and applies Ockham's razor to the throat of the proposition. And suddenly realizes that there is much more evidence for the tooth fairy than for any "godz" no matter how poorly defined. Do his "godz" slip into non-existence at that point? Or is it simply an idea in the mind of the now cured, ex-believer? So only his mind changed? Or do the other believers and quasi-believers keep these godz in existence for so long as their memes are present? Do these "godz" have minds? If not, how are they changed?

Do please, Oh Reed, define the word "god" and a "context", in such a way that in the "context" you have defined, the "god" makes sense.

Rule #4: The meaning of a word is context dependent, not intrinsic.

While this is a truism, the scope of the truism is a great deal more limited than the statement here implies. There are dictionaries to define words and to provide contexts for their use. Unless a common meaning is accepted for words, it is not possible to discuss anything. If we take this rule at it's face value, being the only "language rule" here and assign it a "special meaning" within the context of the discussion, then it implies that e.g. "rule" has no shared meaning, that it is only known by you for example, and that you are entitled to change its value as you would, by modifying its context. If we do not ascribe a "special meaning" to this rule, then you are enumerating a single quality of the english language and leaving out so many more, which seems futile - why don't you include Fowlers as part of the rules? Why don't you strike this one and assume that everyone here is using English. Wih all of the problems that using a language like English implies. Certainly Betram Russel proved that you cannot discuss any language using only that language to discuss it. So perhaps you should abandon the members of this list who are not prepared to study logic and meta-linguistics and adopt an apropriate propositional meta-language right now? Is it that, can it be, that your ideas on faith cannot be written in propositional form? If that is the case, it would be a major strike against the ideas at the very outset.

As a final comment, in many fields, restricting the discussion might be useful, it may even be so in this case. But I am far from convinced that the fundamental definitions are as clear cut as you are assuming them to be. I am completely convinced that the "rules" reflected here are not terribly useful or even appropriate, certainly not while they are in their current form.

TheHermit (grinding his teeth)

The Marriage of True Minds
by William Shakespeare

Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments; love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no, it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken; It is the star to every wand'ring bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken. Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks Within his bending sickle's compass come; Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, But bears it out even to the edge of doom. If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

And one other, purely for amusement. PS the ascribed author's name is not literally true, but is a most appropriate nom de plume.

Oh Damn! Must I Refrigerate?
by Leslie Marie Kapshaw

I, altogether a formed instrument,
Despite slim motivation, mend love
In what we'd call a fitter Shinto shrine; Where vermin rot, betroth some dove.
A fork (an extreme division
Soon eventless in the dark paths) makes not That street biker advisory warning
So. I laugh when he knows what the non-bikers thought.

> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> []On Behalf
> Of Reed Konsler
> Sent: Sunday, March 07, 1999 11:58 AM
> To:
> Subject: virus: Haven't we been around this bend before?
> Reed:
> >>What is the purpose of reason?
> David:
> >Reason is a disciplined way of thinking, its purpose is to create
> >a useful model of the world aka knowledge.
> Agreed. Could we use a different word for "aka"...I don't know
> exactly what you mean by it. How about simply:
> "Reason is a disciplined way of thinking, its purpose is to create
> a useful model of the world."
> and
> "Faith is a disciplined way of thinking, its purpose is to create
> a useful model of the world."
> We can develop the difference between <reason> and <faith>
> shortly...but can we agree that both spring from the desire
> to create a disciplined model of the world?
> >Rule #1: All players in the game must be willing to change
> their mind.
> >Agreed?
> Agreed.
> Rule #2: Each player has the right to change their mind as quickly
> or as slowly as they choose.
> Rule #3: Changing of a mind may be accomplished either by changing
> terms, or by reinterpreting old terms according to a new frame of
> reference.
> Thus, a person may state definitively that "God exists" while being
> infinitely willing to change what they perceive "God" to be, in
> accordance with their experience and evidence. Such a person is
> consistent with rule 1 via the "reinterpretation" clause of Rule #3.
> Rule #4: The meaning of a word is context dependent, not intrinsic.
> Agreed?
> Reed
> ---------------------------------------------------------------------
> Reed Konsler
> ---------------------------------------------------------------------