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1  General Politics / U.S. General Discussion / Re: Over 80 percent of Americans support mandatory labels on foods containing DNA on: November 30, 2015, 02:55:55 am
Do you have some sort of citation that indicates that the synthetic pesticides that GMOs allow for (such as glyphosate) are more dangerous on average?  This contradicts what I've read.  Even if it were true, why is mandatory labeling of something that indirectly correlates (not even that strongly) with the presence of those chemicals a reasonable solution, especially when people will mistakenly infer they should be concerned about GMOs themselves?  These seems like a strained rationalization for supporting GMO labeling.

Also, any responses to the points made in my last post?

Here's one recent article that raises the question: http://www.nature.com/news/widely-used-herbicide-linked-to-cancer-1.17181

I'd like to see more science done on the subject; I believe there's enough evidence to justify looking further into the issue. In the meantime, I'd be willing to cover some additional cost associated with having labels on non-GMO products, as I mentioned in a previous post.

Oh, right, sorry, I forgot you were the one who indicated support for non-mandatory labeling.

The IARC ratings Nature refers to address the potential for an entity to be a carcinogen at some dose.  It does not indicate to what extent the entity is a carcinogen, or at what dose.  The IARC uses the same classification for glyphosate as it does for cooked meat and fish, bacon, grapefruit juice, and working a night shift.  It's also at a lower warning level than some other things, including sunlight, oral contraceptives, and alcohol.

After this categorization, numerous independent regulatory agencies in the U.S. and Europe reviewed the standing evidence and declared glyphosate wasn't a concern for human consumption (here, for instance).

Like a lot of stuff that even vaguely touches on GMO-related topics, it got picked up and heavily decontextualized.
2  General Politics / U.S. General Discussion / Re: Over 80 percent of Americans support mandatory labels on foods containing DNA on: November 29, 2015, 01:42:19 pm
Yes, just a point of clarification: modification of the genetics of a plant do not pose a health issue in and of themselves. The problem is that many of the genetic modifications being done target a plant's response to the use of certain chemicals, either for fertilization or for weed/pest control. It is the widespread use of these chemicals that people object to. People tend to want to over simplify things, getting all agitated about GMO products, when in fact, as you correctly point out, the genetic modifications themselves have no direct involvement in the health issues associated with produce coming from GMO plants. It's the use of chemicals that pose the real threat. I know that if I'm eating a fruit or vegetable off a plant that has not been modified to respond appropriately to the use of these chemicals, that the chances of these fruits or veggies containing residual amounts of these chemicals is quite a bit lower. That's the rational for wanting to draw the distinction between GMO and non-GMO.

Do you have some sort of citation that indicates that the synthetic pesticides that GMOs allow for (such as glyphosate) are more dangerous on average?  This contradicts what I've read.  Even if it were true, why is mandatory labeling of something that indirectly correlates (not even that strongly) with the presence of those chemicals a reasonable solution, especially when people will mistakenly infer they should be concerned about GMOs themselves?  These seems like a strained rationalization for supporting GMO labeling.

Also, any responses to the points made in my last post?
3  Presidential Elections - Analysis and Discussion / 2016 U.S. Presidential Primary Election Polls / Re: FL-Florida Atlantic University: Trump far ahead, Bush drops to 5th place on: November 21, 2015, 11:29:01 pm
1. Interesting that blacks prefer Paul by that big of a margin.

It's 355 likely Republican voters...how many of those are going to be black?  Massive margin of error.
4  Forum Community / Forum Community / Re: Do non-Americans actually still refer to "miles" a lot? on: November 20, 2015, 02:15:37 pm
...and I mentioned it in the OP.

Haha, oops.  Sorry.
5  General Politics / U.S. General Discussion / Re: Over 80 percent of Americans support mandatory labels on foods containing DNA on: November 20, 2015, 02:24:26 am
Or, alternatively, what was the study's threshold for significance?  Statistical significance?  Some unspecified percentage?  A price increase of 5-20%, even absorbed by the company, is "significant" to me.  And you inexplicably neglected to respond to my criticisms of why this is reasonable no matter how slight the increased cost is...kind of defeats the purpose of a debate/exchange of ideas.
6  Forum Community / Forum Community / Re: Do non-Americans actually still refer to "miles" a lot? on: November 20, 2015, 02:19:59 am
I think you're reaching a little far for your pop culture reference here.

edit: lol, Vevo actually marks that video as "explicit."

Not sure what you mean.

Also that entire 18 Miles EP is AWESOME: https://youtu.be/LW3hcXWj0dE

you don't think that "i will walk 500 miles" song by the obviously Scottish guys would have been a less ridiculously obscure example?
7  Forum Community / Forum Community / Re: Do non-Americans actually still refer to "miles" a lot? on: November 19, 2015, 02:09:04 pm
I think you're reaching a little far for your pop culture reference here.

edit: lol, Vevo actually marks that video as "explicit."
8  General Politics / U.S. General Discussion / Re: Over 80 percent of Americans support mandatory labels on foods containing DNA on: November 19, 2015, 02:06:19 pm
You think it would be a good idea to not label GMO foods? I completely disagree, for the following simple reason. If you look at some of the old commercials put out by the cigarette companies, you'll see all kinds of claims being made. (Check out the one showing the brand smoked by most doctors, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnKLpO9qhOE). So what has changed? Well, we began seeing claims that smoking tobacco causes cancer, so we decided to do the science: the studies were run by looking at people that smoke vs. those that don't, results began to be compiled, and attitudes began to change. Ok, so fast forward to GMOs. Certain people are making one set of claims, others are making opposite claims. Which group is correct?  Well, to do the science like we did with cigarettes, you need to run studies on two groups of people, those that consume GMOs and those that don't. Then you look to see if correlations exist between diseases and consumption of GMO foods. But how can you do this when people don't know whether or not they've consumed foods with GMOs in them? Use of GMOs in our food system is so wide spread and so downplayed that it's going to be near impossible to get any clear answers on the subject, and I suspect that's by design.

There are very, very few scientists, including independent ones, who think this is a legitimate concern.  It's not like we don't understand the basic processes underlying genetic engineering.  If anything, genetic engineering is more precise than the process used in natural hybridization.  I don't think cigarettes and cancer is a good analogy, because we never had consistent medical or scientific consensus that there was no conceptual or empirical reason for concern, like we do with GMOs.  We can't just mandate governmentally-enforced labeling entirely based on what technologies give people the heeby-geebies, which is effectively what this is.

The analogy regarding vaccines is a bit more extreme (since obviously scaring people away from vaccines is more consequential), but otherwise pretty apt.  There are plenty of people who argue we should exercise the same logic when it comes to thimerosal, and demand that we observe control populations over their entire lifetime, and until then apply labeling.  The rationale is the same, as is the lack of empirical or conceptual evidence, and the hyper-extension of the precaution principle.

One solution might be to flip the whole labeling requirement on its head: figure out what specifically would be needed for something to be considered "non-GMO", and allow an appropriate label on only those products that meet the criteria. So the costs associated with the production, monitoring, and labeling of such food items ends up being covered by those working to produce these food items for that portion of the population that want them, for whatever reason (be it extreme paranoia, sensitivity to food allergies, or whatever). This would seem to be a reasonable approach that serves all of the various parties involved, as well as helping to bolster Adam Smith's informed consumer, yes?

I'm definitely totally fine with voluntary labeling regimes.  I think it's a silly personal preference, but I guess I have no problem with the government regulating claims to fact like this, even if I personally think the facts aren't materially relevant.

For what it's worth, "certified organic" labels actually require products to be GMO-free.  That doesn't really make sense, but hey, it's an existing option I guess.
9  Presidential Elections - Analysis and Discussion / 2016 U.S. Presidential Election / Re: CBS Des Moines, Iowa Democratic debate @9pm ET **live commentary thread** on: November 14, 2015, 09:21:19 pm
The climate change/terrorism link claim explained:

10  General Politics / U.S. General Discussion / Re: Over 80 percent of Americans support mandatory labels on foods containing DNA on: November 14, 2015, 05:46:11 pm
Uhh...  Did you even read the post you quoted?  The whole point of my post was people are naive when they think most disasters are caused by big complicated high tech faults.  You are agreeing with me, genius.

Yes, I did.  You have not explained why this incident is disastrous enough to require special concern or anything beyond the civil remedy typical of addressing supply chain screw-ups.  That was my point; it was clearly stated, and you did not respond to it.

And the second point I made is even once these simple faults are demonstrated in much smaller scale disasters history is littered with the wreckage of idiots that did not head those warnings... like Monsanto.  After the zombie wheat incident did they immediately coordinate with regulaters to implement a process improvement program... or did they deny the event happened?  If you chose choice B then congratulations you have at least half a brain.

I'm aware of this incident, and Monsanto did not deny it happened.  They suggested it was a malicious introduction instead of a supply chain error.  I doubt that's the case, but so what?  If your argument is that corporations can spin into denial when they might be on the hook for something, that's obviously the case -- and it's the case with virtually every corporation, in virtually every sector, because that's how the incentive structure lines up.  So what?  Again, unless this is some disastrous issue that can't be remedied through the normal processes used to address civil cases, I have no idea why this is unusually significant, let alone what it has to do with mandatory labeling.

Also an interesting point is no one in this thread is suggesting banning GMOs.  The only fanatical hair on fire lunatics are on the don't touch muh GMO side.  Everyone else is saying lets consider writing three letters on the side of the box and use a little bit of common sense restraint in using this new and potential dangerous discovery.  I mean do you really think it is crazy to say maybe the majority of Americans who are overweight or obese should think about eating less vs churning out more GMO mutations at a break neck speed to create high fructose corn syrup for Big Gulps?  Is that really a radical position?

"Potential dangerous" (sic) in what way?  You seem to be arguing from the precaution principle, but your only rationale for precaution seems to be something easily addressed by civil law (the possibility of supply chain issues), and something that would not, as far as I can tell, be helped by labeling anyway.

What kind of ridiculous false dichotomy is "maybe you should eat less high-fructose corn syrup instead of making GMOs"?  You seem to be verging on wrapping up ideas of health, and evidence-based things like limiting caloric consumption, with woo food 'purity' nonsense.

I mean a poster on this forum honestly said we should suppress information from the average American because they can't handle it.

How Orwellian is that?  And worst of all if those nanny state apologists bothered to read what the author they were quoting wrote he debunked that insane notion.  Some of the proGMO fanatics on this forum have lost the plot.  Seriously printing three letters on a box, a bit more government oversight, and a more robust discussion of how much crap we cram in our fat pie holes is not a crazy suggestion.  Take a chill pill folks.

It's not Orwellian.  I doubt he's arguing against banning voluntarily labeling; that would be authoritarian.  He's responding to the argument that commonly put forward, which is essentially, "even if mandatory labeling of GMOs is pointless and arbitrary, why not do it anyway?"  His response is that the consumer demand doesn't reflect a compelling interest -- in fact, it causes harm, so arbitrary labeling is worse than just pointless.  He is (I assume) arguing that the government should pursue evidence-based policy, not institute labeling based on (and contributing to) people's non-evidence-based freakouts.  That's entirely a valid response to "why not just label it anyway?"

Imagine if the government considered instituting mandatory labeling of vaccines simply because some proportion of the population believes, in the absence of compelling evidence, that they're harmful.  Would you not find the scaremongering effects of the label a potentially compelling argument against the label?

Can't live without muh GMO!!!  Gobal food shortage indeed!

I don't think you should be the one accusing others of having apparent emotional over-investment in this issue...
11  Presidential Elections - Analysis and Discussion / U.S. Presidential Election Results / Re: How did the wealthiest communities in your state vote? on: November 14, 2015, 06:08:49 am
Hunts Point ($200,000): 63-37 Romney
Medina ($183,892): 52-47 Romney
Yarrow Point ($183,392): 51-49 Romney
Clyde Hill ($172,819): 53-46 Romney
Mercer Island ($146,399): 63-36 Obama
Sammamish ($143,965): 56-43 Obama
Woodway ($143,677): 51-47 Romney
Newcastle ($109,833): 58-40 Obama
Bainbridge Island ($95,877): 75-23 Obama
Kirkland ($93,655): 63-35 Obama

Gay marriage, for comparison:

Hunts Point ($200,000): 60% Approved
Medina ($183,892): 66% Approved
Yarrow Point ($183,392): 67% Approved
Clyde Hill ($172,819): 61% Approved
Mercer Island ($146,399): 71% Approved
Sammamish ($143,965): 63% Approved
Woodway ($143,677): 58% Approved
Newcastle ($109,833): 60% Approved
Bainbridge Island ($95,877): 79% Approved
Kirkland ($93,655): 65% Approved
12  Forum Community / Off-topic Board / Re: Any good subreddits for politics? on: November 14, 2015, 05:54:36 am
/r/NeutralPolitics and /r/PoliticalDiscussion are among the few tolerable ones.  /r/PoliticalFactchecking is as well, but rather inactive.  /r/Economics is pretty good for related discussion.
13  General Politics / U.S. General Discussion / Re: Over 80 percent of Americans support mandatory labels on foods containing DNA on: November 13, 2015, 09:33:57 pm
You don't seem to understand something can pose no threat when ingested and still wreck the environment and the economy.  Did you read the quote?  The farmers are suing Monsanto because of the economic damage they caused.

OK, so we have an incident of a genetically modified crop being introduced accidentally into the environment, with economic consequences, because some consumers (for almost invariably irrational reasons) don't want to buy the stuff.  That seems like a compelling reason for a civil case, but how do you arrive at mandated labeling from it?

And you like a lot of lay people have a naive Hollywood kind of view of how disasters happen.  As someone who has studied some disaster prevention and management let me tell you most catastrophes are caused by little mundane things that the average person ignores.  It is only in retrospect that the average person goes whoa okay I guess that thing I ignored was God's warning shot across my bow.

The zombie wheat incident illustrated a couple of things.  First of all all that testing in a certain sense is worthless.  Why?  Because zombie wheat demonstrated seeds can circumnavigate the testing and approval process and end up surreptitiously on private property.  The second thing it demonstrated is all the control that Monsanto tells us they have is no guarantee.

You're using incredibly flowery language to say that a supply chain error occurred.  Nothing in the testing process of GMOs somehow protects against supply chain errors.  You're acting like this was some unknown and catastrophic secondary consequence of the technology that somehow requires more than the usual remedies for civil issues, and I have no idea why.

Basically it is like Monsanto had the working ICBMs, centrifuges, and uranium mining equipment.  All they need to do is find some uranium... and they are actively prospecting.  So you would look at Monsanto and say nothing to see here?  Or would you call the IAEA and say let's chat with these guys?  So you see all that but you would rather wait for a mushroom cloud before even doing something as simple as writing three letters on food packaging?  I wish Republicans showed that kind of restraint with Iraq.  You guys have a very weird sense of what people should worry about and take action on.

Unfortunately I got a front row seat to a natural disaster that evolved into a man made disaster.  There was a structure with a completely mind blowingly dumb design flaw.  I had been in and around the structure more times than I can count.  I never realized it harbored this particular design flaw.  Well after disaster struck and the design flaw crippled various facilities and probably cost hundreds of millions of dollars I became aware of it.  I was dumbstruck.  And what was weird was even after the disaster the design flaw was mentioned almost casually.  Well I ranted about it to anyone who would listen.  My family probably got sick of me talking about it.

Well fast forward a few years later.  The Fukushima disaster occurs.  I get a call from a relative.  They tell me the reactor melted down and there were multiple hydrogen explosions because of the design flaw you kept ranting about all those years ago.  I just said, "They never learn."  Actually I didn't say that.  I ranted even more.  Can't believe the design flaw was demonstrated in grand fashion and some jerk running a nuclear power plant on a coastline on the ring of fire just shrugged.  WTF?!  God gives you a nice clean shot across the bow demonstrating for you a flaw in your design or process and all he gets in response is a smart ass on the interwebs.  Trust me seeing a package of food in the grocery store with three extra letters on the packaging is not the worst thing that can happen in this scenario... not even close.


You seem to be arguing that we should assume there's some massively terrible unknown-unknown at play here, and your "shot across the bow" is a largely conventional supply chain issue.  Hell, it's a supply chain issue that would be exacerbated by manual labeling, since that would increase the ridiculous GMO hysteria, worsening these problems when they occur.

You're basically arguing the precautionary principle, and using an irrelevant supply chain issue and a bunch of metaphorical bluster to make the precaution seem more reasonable in this case.  It's not.
14  General Politics / U.S. General Discussion / Re: Over 80 percent of Americans support mandatory labels on foods containing DNA on: November 12, 2015, 01:07:49 am
Over 80% of Americans surveyed by this poll probably assumed that "DNA" referred to modified DNA, thus GMOs.I hope

I'm not sure that many of those Americans could give a more coherent reason for supporting labeling GMOs than DNA, so that's pretty cold comfort.
15  General Discussion / Religion & Philosophy / Re: Why Do You Believe? on: October 26, 2015, 12:16:09 am
Of course, thanks man!
16  General Discussion / Religion & Philosophy / Re: Why Do You Believe? on: October 22, 2015, 09:09:49 pm
I' not sure I agree with the strength of your assertion that I emphasized. The whole notion of the scientific paradigm exists to explain how science can ignore facts and reasoning if they fall too far outside the existing paradigm. Consider part of the history of the speed of light.

In the 17th century Newton and Huygens investigated the speed of light but differed on its nature. Newton believed it to be a particle and Huygens thought it a wave, but both agreed that it must be one or the other. In order to explain optical and gravitational phenomena which reached across a vacuum both believed in an aether of small particles that acted to transmit those phenomena. This was not based on observational evidence, but simply a belief by analogy with water which acted as a medium for its waves. Newton rejected the wave model of light in the aether because it would disturb the motions of planets, yet couldn't remove himself from belief in the aether.

In the 18th century there were discoveries such as observation of stellar aberration, which was inconsistent with a waving aether unless only the Earth moved but not the observed stars. This gave more weight to Newton's particle view, until at the beginning of the 1800's Young showed that only the waves nature of light could explain his double slit interference patterns. This left theoreticians to construct elaborate and unverifiable frameworks to explain stellar aberrations and planetary motion with respect to light. Fizeau's experiments in the 1840's and 50's on the Doppler shift of light through water didn'treally fit any model, but it best fit Fresnel's aether dragging theory. However, the physicists had measured effects with light of different colors that plainly meant it didn't fit Fresnel's theory either.

In the 1860's Maxwell derived his famous equation that held that light in a vacuum could only have one speed. But to the science of the day, believing in the aether and the exclusive wave nature of light, that meant the aether must be static and we move through it. This was despite all the contradictory results over the prior two centuries, which came to a head in the 1880's when Michelson and Morley were unable to measure any motion of the Earth in the aether at very high precision. After those observations Lorentz, Fitzgerald and Poincare had worked out detailed equations to describe the effects but they were still embedded in theory of magical aether. Neither observations nor mathematics were enough to change the fundamental beliefs about light.

In 1905 Einstein publish two papers that ended the old beliefs. He showed that the equations of Lorentz could be derived without any recourse to the aether, which he did by postulating that the speed of light was itself a universal constant. Since the time of Newton (and even back to Galileo) it was understood that physical constants would be the same to all observers regardless of their relative motion. That his postulate was based on other parts of the old paradigm allowed science to discard the aether postulate. At the same time Einstein also published his explanation of the photoelectric effect (for which he won his Nobel prize) and described light as a particle that could act like a wave. This resolved the Newton-Huygens debate by showing that both were right, depending on which type of experiment one did.

My point of the long history is to provide an instance (there are others) where science locks into  hypotheses and are willing to accept contradictory evidence in order to hold on to the fundamental beliefs. Note that many of the continuously held hypotheses in the above history had been falsified for decades! New beliefs came about in the context of the paradigm - accounting for the benchmark theories and experiments that have gone before.

OK, I've read this several time and given it thought, and I appreciate that you indicated that this acceptance of unfalsifiable hypotheses was based more on constructed theory than evidence.  It's also cool to know more about the background particulars.  But you didn't answer any of my fundamental questions: how would one discern when doing this is reasonable vs. not, and how would you apply that to the social paradigm?  You seem to be declining to address the most fundamental question in this conversation, which is how we can determine which beliefs are reasonable and which are not.  It would help to know why this is done in some cases in the scientific realm but not in others, and how that could translate into the social paradigm -- and when it can't.

Obviously, it's not reasonable to arbitrarily accept unfalsifiable hypotheses -- I believe we call that "delusion" -- and it's not enough to presume all cases are reasonable just because some might be.  You understand this better than I do; can you explain the criteria as concisely as possible, and explain how they would translate to the social realm?

Thanks for the patience, btw.
17  General Discussion / Religion & Philosophy / Re: Why Do You Believe? on: October 21, 2015, 02:11:33 am
It may take me a few days to reply.  Death in the family, getting a cold, and it's political mailer season so work is busy.  Sorry -- appreciate the reply!
18  General Discussion / Religion & Philosophy / Re: Why Do You Believe? on: October 18, 2015, 01:02:29 pm
The paradigms I use as a basis are from science, not mathematics. It was for science that the modern notion of a paradigm was constructed. Science does deal with untestable hypotheses and does make value judgments about which should be pursued. When a paradigm shifts. the value set shifts as well. It's not purely from the observational data, but also by the belief system of the scientists that influences how they interpret the observations.

My invocation of mathematics is in looking at the set of untestable hypotheses as a set of logical propositions that can be true or false. Mathematics and the philosophy of logic say that I cannot have a subset of such hypotheses that is simultaneously complete and consistent. There will either be true statements that are outside my subset or there will be statements within the system that are logical contradictions.

My connection is that in science, and I suspect in other areas of life we naturally deal with this dissonance for good reason - it's unavoidable. Paradigms in science must contain unfalsifiable hypotheses to function, including some that can lead to inconsistencies, because without them the logical framework is too narrow to deal with world. It is with that in mind I look to extend the analogy from science to other areas of society where belief sets include unfalsifiable hypotheses and internal inconsistencies.

I understand that and the basic rationale for that, and I wish I knew more about the original of the unfalsifiable hypotheses that are accepted, but I have a vague sense of why such hypotheses are accepted for consistency with the paradigm.  I also understand that your point was just meant to rebut the idea that it's inherently unreasonable to accept unfalsifiable hypotheses.  However, I'm a lot less clear on how you see applying the affirmation of these unfalsifiable hypotheses to unfalsifiable hypotheses in the social realm.  You specifically invoked consistency with "accepted historical events and accepted norms for evaluating information to make decisions."  The parallels between "accepted historical events and accepted norms" in scientific/mathematical paradigms and social paradigms are unclear to me.  Mathematical/scientific paradigms are not merely traditional beliefs.  They're rooted in observations and inductive thinking in a way a lot of social norms and beliefs like religion are not.  I assume you understand what I'm getting at -- obviously, not all unfalsifiable hypotheses are reasonable to believe; the arbitrary belief in unfalsifiable hypotheses is the characteristic trait of delusion.  So, what trait of unfalsifiable hypotheses related to the social paradigm make some reasonable to affirm?  You can be really concrete here (relate it to religious views, even your own specific ones), if you want.
19  General Discussion / Religion & Philosophy / Re: Why Do You Believe? on: October 18, 2015, 12:50:26 pm
Oops, didn't notice there were two posts.

I am somewhat split on whether or not this hypothesis is reasonable or not. I was immediately about to reject it as unreasonable upon re-reading it since it is believing an anecdote over the wider array of information that can be gathered by looking at others' experiences as well. On the other hand, the opposite hypothesis (look at peoples' experiences as a whole and don't take too much stock in your own) does not seem reasonable either as it results in ignoring your own intuitions and simply agreeing with the majority opinion whatever it may be without being able to question it. In reality this is a spectrum rather than a dichotomy and we're forced to consider the question somewhere between the two extremes; neither seems particularly reasonable, but we don't really have a better option here if we're going to consider the topic at all.

No one is arguing the bolded argument.  I am arguing that it's reasonable to include your own experience, and even adjust whatever weight you attach the possibility that you are more perceptive than other people.  In fact, in general, I think it's reasonable to give this some weight, simply because even if you believe others to be honest, sane, and comparably perceptive, there is some information asymmetry.  But enough to weight others' opinions so low relative to your own that you affirm your own with certitude?  No way, dude.

Imagine you were a witness to a crime along with several of your friends who you know to be honest, trustworthy, and sane.  If they all had different perceptions of what occurred, it would not be reasonable to conclude your own perception was true with certitude.  More likely to be true, simply because of information asymmetry?  Yes.  So likely to be true that it's rational to believe it with certitude?  Obviously not.  Any reasonable person with this information should conclude that they can't be certain, or even reasonably confident, that they perceived correctly.  And we have empirical evidence (about eyewitness reports) that indicates that this is the correct conclusion.

Here, I would agree that this is not a logical position to hold for certitude, but it is a logical reason to act without complete certitude in virtually the exact same manner as someone with certitude in every way except claiming certitude, provided the person is convinced the belief is at least likely to be true.

This is a side debate, but imagine a construction like "there's a 51% chance that it's wrong to believe x is less than 100% certain"...mind-numbing Tongue

Eh, I do think people occasionally do act this way outside of religion -- not as universally so -- but they sometimes do. I remember going to a conference about liquid crystals 3 or 4 years ago and there were a couple professors who would dive in repeatedly in the Q&A sessions and bicker about a feud they were having over whether or not bent-core liquid crystals have biaxial alignment. Most of the people there would roll their eyes and try to ignore them. I think the necessary condition is having a strong passion for a particular outcome. Regardless, that does hamper their objectivity somewhat.

I'm actually confused why I wrote that it never happens outside of religion, because I remember specifically thinking that it happens in other areas where people have strongly-held conclusions they want to reach.  Just to be clear, I don't think there are any behaviors that are totally limited to religious thought.  Hell, the eyewitness example I gave earlier is such a case.  I've also been in arguments where someone maintained with total certitude they didn't say anything, despite the involvement of 5+ neutral witnesses.  I suppose maybe I meant that it's the only place where it's socially accepted as reasonable.  Sorry...
20  General Discussion / Religion & Philosophy / Re: Why Do You Believe? on: October 18, 2015, 12:29:20 pm
I am a little unclear as to what the second sentence here is referring to (is it referring to "God"?).

"It" refers to "uncreated entity" (the subject of the sentence), whether God or something else.

If God: The entire point of invoking an uncreated entity ("God") is precisely that the entity doesn't come into existence at all but is outside of time and thus outside of causation and creation. The entity simply is. Otherwise it would just be adding another step without addressing the issue (ie. "If God created the universe then who created God?"). That was the point my original post was trying to clear up and is the difference between the original misconstructed argument and my corrected version.

Understood...but do you understand how that's not relevant to my criticism of the logical construction?  If so, I think we're on the same page Tongue

For the latter part of your question, the argument is that everything within our space-time must have a cause, not that its cause must be within our space-time. Indeed virtually everything within our space-time clearly does have a cause within our space-time. However, if everything within our space-time must have a cause, at least one thing must have a cause outside of our space-time because it cannot cause itself. (An alternative explanation here would be a circular time but we have a lot of physical reasons to reject that idea.)

Right, I understand that.  But why do you believe that everything within our space-time need have a cause?  Because that is how we observe things in space-time to work.  But, by the same token, we do not observe things outside of space-time (if such things exist) to manifestly affect things within space-time.  The argument is based on the idea that an uncreated creator is consistent with something outside of space-time manifestly affecting something within space-time.  But it is also consistent with the idea of something existing within space-time being uncreated. 

If it's consistent with both, how do you reject the idea of an uncreated entity, and use that rejection to affirm the idea of an entity out of space-time having a manifest influence within space-time?  The only argument for this I see is that we regularly observe entities within space-time having causal origins*, but we don't regularly observe entities outside of space-time having manifest influence; as a result, we can assume that everything within space-time must be created, but can't reach any conclusions about the nature of entities outside of space-time.  This doesn't make sense, though.  If we can conclude from observation that entities within space-time must have causal origins,* how can we simultaneously avoid the conclusion that entities outside of space-time must not have manifest influence on entities within it, since -- as this argument presumes -- everything manifest within space-time has causal origins*?  You can't affirm one idea while rejecting the other; you definitely can't affirm one idea by rejecting the other, as the post I was responding to did.

* - Although not always, as muon notes.

Oh I do think they really mean they believe their own hypothesis is >50% likely to be true when they say they believe it. However, the actual probability and perceived probability is obviously different given the widespread disagreement. I agree that it would not be reasonable for a person to say they believe something they do not think is more likely than not to be true. However, I do not think it is unreasonable for another person to have a different belief about what is more than 50% likely to be true due to our inability to evaluate the ideas' likelihood in a universally understood way. Instead I would consider someone else's stated belief to be reasonable (assuming they think it >50% likely to be true) if the belief is plausible even if I do not think it likely to be true.

I mean, I totally get that sometimes people say "I believe x to be true" as a shorthand for "I believe x is the most reasonable possibility and we should operate under the assumption that x is true."  But I know very few people who characterize their religious beliefs as being merely more probable than other equally reasonable conclusions...and even if they do, they still claim they choose to believe they're certainly true anyway, which is obviously logically incoherent.

I totally understand that it's a natural human tendency to dismiss other people's observations or intuitions in favor of our own.  But we have resounding evidence that it's not rational to do this.  We chronically overestimate our ability to perceive things accurately vs. others', which is totally bizarre, because I don't think any of us believe other people are either less sane or less honest.  Natural, common, but bizarrely irrational -- so much so that I think people can't really even rationalize why they do this.
21  General Discussion / Religion & Philosophy / Re: Why Do You Believe? on: October 16, 2015, 06:11:51 pm
The question that the thread starts with is flawed, and not just in the obvious sense: very few people believe in whatever it is they believe* as a result of sitting down and trying to work out which of the various 'options' strike them as the most plausible. It wouldn't even occur to most people to even think about doing this (again, about anything). Personal beliefs typically reflect someones cultural/family background, their education, their experiences, and often their personalities. This is the case even when someone's beliefs are primarily a reaction against the first and/or second of those two things (i.e. a reaction is still a reflection). If intellectualised defences of one belief or another (including the absence of, etc) often look more like the products of mildly pathetic post hoc intellectual parlour games than the actual reason why the person in question believes whatever they do, then that is because they almost always are.

Or at least that's my view: quite possibly this subject looks very different to other individuals. We are not all alike.

*And this obviously applies to far more things than religion.

How does that make this thread or question flawed?  You're merely pointing out that most people's reason for belief isn't intellectualized, while most responses in this thread (including the OP's) are.  I don't see anything in this thread that stops someone from giving a non-intellectualized answer, besides the embarrassment that comes from overtly stating "I believe this because my parents believed this" or "I believe this because it gives me happy feelings that I like."  Whatever complaint you're getting at, it's not a flawed question.

Let's consider the universe of all unfalsifiable hypotheses. Within this universe some of these hypotheses are contradictory at some level. A paradigm requires some of these hypotheses as the basis of its internal logic, so a subset of the hypotheses will exist in any paradigm. The paradigm uses the hypotheses and applies them along with accepted methods of interaction within the paradigm to make decisions. If the selection of hypotheses is too narrow there will be true but unprovable assertions that are left out, yet if all such unprovably true hypotheses are included there will be internal contradictions. The result is a set of hypotheses that can entertain some, but not too many, internal contradictions. This is true for any rational system of thought, not just science.

Because the paradigm is more than just its set of hypotheses it provides the means to judge the reasonableness of other hypotheses. It has the accepted history of events in the paradigm and accepted procedures for evaluating information in context. If a new unfalsifiable hypothesis is introduced it is interpreted in the paradigm to see if it pushes inconsistencies too far. The farther it pushes inconsistencies, the less reasonable it will seem.

I assume a social paradigm is not the same as one in natural science, but like a scientific field a society has a collection of accepted historical events and accepted norms for evaluating information to make decisions. A field of science has a belief system (ie unfalsifiable hypotheses) that is generally consistent within its paradigm, and it seems to me that a society likewise has a belief system that is generally consistent within its paradigm. Here I use generally to mean that some inconsistencies are permitted to increase the pool of unprovably true statements accepted in the paradigm. If it makes sense to speak of social paradigms, then it seems that a society will adjust to new beliefs in a way that is consistent with its own paradigm. Those beliefs will seem most reasonable that are least contradictory to the existing set of beliefs and to the other features of the paradigm.

I'm not sure whether you're simply describing a phenomenon that happens, or advocating for accepting traditional beliefs or social norms as a paradigm and then accepting unfalsified hypotheses that are consistent with those beliefs/norms.  It doesn't necessarily follow, though, that any given paradigm necessarily justifies affirming unfalsifiable hypotheses.  I understand (loosely) why mathematical paradigms would justify that -- because we have clearly, manifestly identifiable ways in which mathematics function that require certain preconditions/hypotheses to be true.  So I "get" why we accept unfalsifiable hypotheses for mathematics.  But why would we give that treatment to a social paradigm, and how do we decide which one?
22  General Discussion / Religion & Philosophy / Re: Why Do You Believe? on: October 16, 2015, 05:56:09 pm
I think the key distinction here is not just whether the claim is substantiated by our observations rather than our lack of observations (though the latter would be a less compelling claim all things being equal) but also is in what domain we would expect the laws to apply. We would expect something as fundamental to our understanding of our universe as causality to apply throughout. On the other hand, we would not expect to observe something out of our space-time so the fact that we don't observe it doesn't tell us anything other than it's not a falsifiable hypothesis.

Right, but the nature of an uncreated entity is not a falsifiable hypothesis either.  We don't know what would prompt an uncreated entity to come into existence, so the assumption that it would recur in a manifest way later on isn't based on a falsifiable claim, either.  The problem with "____ of the gaps" article is that you can fill any gap with just about anything.

And, again, either way, recall that my original post on this subject would still hold up to even the revised version.  The argument was that it must be true something exists outside of space-time, because everything within space-time must have cause.  However, that requires holding that it must be true that, if there are things that need not have cause, we would have observed them by now.  Accepting a world in which things can exist outside of space-time is accepting a world in which there are things that do not operate by the observed rules -- or at least happen beyond our observed rules.  If you argue that God can exist out of space-time and impact something within space-time, you're arguing that something outside of the rules of space-time (including causality) can manifest within those rules.  As such, it's logically incoherent to argue that it's impossible that something not have a cause, and therefore God must have influenced the world's creation from outside space-time; opening up the gate for God opens up the gate for the very hypotheses he was rejecting to affirm the necessity of God.

The particular challenge here is that these sorts of claims have probabilities that can't be evaluated in a way that isn't completely arbitrary. I guess we disagree on the definition of "reasonable" here. For instance I wouldn't consider someone's beliefs unreasonable for believing in Hinduism on the basis that I think its odds of being true are less than 50%. I guess I see "reasonable" meaning something along the lines of "plausible".

Sorry, but I don't buy that's how people use "believe."  When someone says "I believe x is true," do you really think they mean "I think x is more probable than other hypotheses, even if I don't even think x is likely?"  It would be like me saying "I believe, if I pick a random person off of Earth, their name will be Muhammad."  I simply don't think that's ever how we use "believe."  Also, if you asked what people mean when they claim they have religious beliefs, I really doubt they'd say anything like this definition of "believe."

For why people have a high level of certitude about deductive claims while coming to a wide array of conclusions I have several hypotheses to offer up. I will let you subjectively decide if you think they are reasonable Tongue :

Do you think any are reasonable?  I appreciate the attempt to explain the behavior, and your hypotheses line up with the ones I've thought of, but I'm really interested in debating what's logical, not what people do.  People are the worst Tongue.

1. Despite believing that others' experiential claims are true, people still believe their own and think others who disagree are merely misinterpreting their own experience. These sorts of ideas are so deeply ingrained in the way we view the universe that we simply can't see how everyone else doesn't agree.

That's not reasonable.  It suggests that you, for some reason, are correct, while other people with the exact same methodology aren't.  This is how people behave, but it doesn't make sense.

2. A sort of Pascal's Wager comes into play here. (Yes I know there are a lot of philosophical problems with using Pascal's Wager as an argument to actually prove anything.) But the options posed by it still may inform people's decision making process.

Not reasonable, since there's no reason to assume that wanting to believe something has any effect on whether it's true.

3. The inherent assumptions behind the deductive arguments are sufficiently abstract that our view of which are most plausible is mostly determined by our experiential views of the universe. For instance I don't see the universe coming into existence uncaused as a very compelling answer though obviously others disagree. Yet it is abstract enough that I wouldn't at all think they're lying if they say it best matches their experiences.

OK, you're basically making an argument that it's reasonable to prefer your intuition over other people's intuitions.  Of course.  But does it make sense to have certitude about your intuition?  To be clear, there are some cases in which there are unfalsifiable claims that are so narrow, specific, and ridiculous ("God actually a hedgehog in a tutu and he only responds to 'Chesney'") that I think it's reasonable to find them so counterintuitive that they shouldn't be entertained as possibilities.  But when other reasonable, intelligent people come to strong, conflicting intuitions using the same mental methodology, completely dismissing these conclusions and maintaining certitude doesn't make sense.  That's not just me saying that -- it's based on the fact, outside of religion, people don't really behave this way in any other contexts.

4. The arguments get very complicated very quickly, so much so that the majority do not actually understand their opponents' views as well as they think they do. Understanding their own much better, they of course see them as the most reasonable.

Also true, and I accept that someone can reach unreasonable or illogical conclusions for reasonable and logical reasons (for instance, they might not care enough to spend the mental energy analyzing their beliefs).
23  General Discussion / Religion & Philosophy / Re: Why Do You Believe? on: October 15, 2015, 06:08:04 pm
I'm doing a little bit of thinking on this while I'm grading qualifying exams. I want to make sure we are on the same page about paradigms. A paradigm is more than just a consistent set of hypotheses, observations, and knowledge derived from them. It also importantly includes a framework for thought that specifies the types of questions one might reasonably ask and proper methods for discerning the answers to those questions. For example it is grammatically correct to ask "How many centimeters are in a pound?", but that is a nonsense question to a scientist, because there is no framework in our scientific paradigm to compare a measurement of length to one of weight.

From what I've read the famous question about the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin is a similar example that seems nonsensical to modern western thought. Yet it meant something entirely different in the paradigm of the medieval scholar. We would view it as something that should be answered with a physical counting. The ancient scholar would not have thought about it that way, but instead would look at the question as a way to understand the nature of the immaterial world of the divine.

OK, but how do we determine what are reasonable unfalsifiable hypotheses to believe in the social paradigm?  I understand the reason (more or less) why we accept and proceed with unfalsifiable hypotheses in mathematics -- they're necessary for consistency with observable phenomena.  I assume you agree that there are some beliefs, in the social paradigm and elsewhere, that aren't reasonable...or do you think that all beliefs, if unfalsifiable, are equally reasonable to hold?
24  Forum Community / Off-topic Board / Re: How Many Genders Are There? on: October 15, 2015, 05:57:15 am
I decided to look up the origin of gender and sex, as a non-native speaker maybe there was a sublety I didn't get.

c. 1300, "kind, sort, class," from Old French gendre, genre "kind, species; character; gender" (12c., Modern French genre), from stem of Latin genus (genitive generis) "race, stock, family; kind, rank, order; species," also "(male or female) sex," from PIE root *gene- (see genus). Also used in Latin to translate Aristotle's Greek grammatical term genos. The grammatical sense is attested in English from late 14c.

The "male-or-female sex" sense is attested in English from early 15c. As sex (n.) took on erotic qualities in 20c., gender came to be the usual English word for "sex of a human being," in which use it was at first regarded as colloquial or humorous. Later often in feminist writing with reference to social at

Nope I seem to use it in the way it's usual used outside a small niche in academia, who seem to use it as shorthand for gender identity out of some kind of lazyness, and now insist the rest of us should use it the same way.

I'm with Tik on this one.  It's nice to learn that the word "gender" has such a dumb origin.  But, considering I think we're comfortable saying "sex" in 2015, I'd rather "gender" describe something useful (gender identity) than just be a useless synonym.

Again, I say this as someone who (like Tik) kind of cringes at people who invent ridiculously arcane terms for this kind of thing, as if every possible permutation of human feeling or experience needs its own named subculture.
25  General Discussion / Religion & Philosophy / Re: Why Do You Believe? on: October 15, 2015, 05:32:41 am
Doing my best to sort this by topic to try to keep this contained.  Hopefully I didn't botch the ordering in the process.


The point in appealing to something outside of our space-time is not that is better matches our understanding of physical laws but as a statement that our physical laws are not in principle capable of answering the "uncaused cause" question. The argument rests on the idea that the physical laws are incapable of answering the question (ie. where did the universe come from) not because the laws are incomplete but they cannot in principle answer that question (incompleteness being another variety of 'God of the Gaps') because the problem at hand is to explain an uncaused cause whereas causality is one of the assumptions we use to determine the physical laws. People have postulated partial solutions to this problem (the origin of the universe) with multiverses and quantum fields in a vacuum but these partial solutions simply move the problem back another step and we're left, at best, with an infinite regress. (Which is the key difference between the misconstruction of the argument for God's existence from causation and the corrected one is that the corrected one avoids the infinite regress.)

But my point was that avoiding the infinite regress isn't necessary.  You can simply declare that, in the case of God, the infinite regress doesn't apply.  It is true that we operate under the assumption that everything has a cause -- but we also operate under the assumption that entities exist within space-time.  My point was that it's unsound to argue that all things must have a cause, because that fits our observations of how things work, and then to use that to argue that God must be an entity that exists out of space-time.  That inference requires asserting that, because one possibility (something without a cause) does not match our observations about how the world works, we should infer some other possibility (something out of space-time) that also doesn't.

(I don't want to overcomplicate things, but I recognize there's a distinction between "everything has a cause" -- which is 'substantiated' by our observations -- and "nothing exists out of space-time" -- which is instead 'substantiated' by our lack of observations.  However, the correct parallel is between the claims "nothing lacks a cause" and "nothing exists out of space-time."  If you think that distinction is important, I can explain why I think the correct parallel matters.)


It also depends somewhat on how you define 'reasonable', which turns into a semantic game. For instance believing the next card is the ace of spades is certainly more reasonable than believing it is the 17 of spades.


I don't think we're really disagreeing on substance here; I was merely pointing out the same distinction you are with this example.

It gets semantic at a certain point, but not at the point I was describing.  I think we can logically say the cut-off line for "reasonable belief' starts somewhere above a 50% probability that the belief is true.  It makes absolutely no sense to believe something is true, if the probability it's true is less than 50%, or less than or equal to the probability that some competing claim is true.


This example is distinct from religious belief because it contains a falsifiable hypothesis with probabilities that are known whereas religious beliefs contain unfalsifiable hypotheses.


A better analogy to religion would be a person giving their belief on what the next card is when that person thinks someone they think they know has stacked it. The situation has a lot more contingencies but more information to it than simply picking a card at random.


Level of certitude is an extremely difficult thing for people to grasp about something as simple as a prediction for who will win a sporting event and that typically has a predictable nature to its outcome from prior games. If we try to apply a probabilistic analysis to something like religion, we would be basically making up numbers or at best making very dubious assumptions about the likelihood of a particular belief being correct. Again, the vast majority of people simply don't think that way. They have experiences that they link to beliefs and tend to be very convinced they accurately perceived the experience and accurately interpreted it. Given the number of people and the nature of the induction process it's not at all surprising that we come to different conclusions (you meant induction not deduction here, right?)

I actually meant "deduction."  I just forgot how I was going to finish that sentence Tongue

Anyway, I must not have been clear, because you're reading my analogy (and overall claim) as being about probability.  Not really.  The point of the card analogy is merely that just because something is true does not mean believing it is reasonable.  Whether it's knowable (the distinction you point out) is not relevant to the analogy.  The point is that a belief can be non-contradictory with presented facts, and even turn out to be true (if it's knowable), and yet that belief can be totally unreasonable.  Why?  If you can't even explain why the belief is more compelling than all other hypotheses (as in the card analogy), it is not reasonable to believe it.  That's the case in the card analogy.  And that's all the card analogy was meant to demonstrate.

I hope it's clearer now that my analogy was not implying that I think all religious claims are equally compelling, which seems to be how you've taken it.  Like I said above, I don't think it's unreasonable to find a given religious claim more compelling than others.  However, most people's religious convictions go way, way, way beyond "I intuitively and subjectively find this metaphysical explanation of the world more compelling than other competing explanations."  And that's not because people don't know the difference between intuition-driven operating assumptions, and certitude.

Here's why it's really weird to me that certitude is so common.  You are right that most people assume that they accurately perceive and interpret experiences.  However, I also assume that other people reasonably believe they accurately perceive and interpret experiences, as well.  I don't think that others are secretly crazy or dishonest, and I doubt you do either.  It is not surprising, of course, that people come to different inductive conclusions.  Because experiences and processes vary, you'd expect even a few reasonable people exposed to the same stimuli to come to conclusions that are "outliers" in the larger group.  Like, if a big group of people observes a fight in public, a small number of people are probably going to completely misinterpret the events that occurred.  It's not surprising to me that perceptions and interpretations can vary.  It's surprising to me that perceptions and interpretations can vary so much, and yet certitude remain so widespread.

If a large group of reasonable, intelligent people saw an event and had an array of wildly different perceptions of what occurred, I wouldn't expect them to all maintain their interpretation with certitude.  Thinking that their interpretation was the most likely interpretation?  Sure.  Operating under the assumption that their interpretation was accurate, for lack of a more compelling interpretation?  Quite possibly.  Widespread certitude, in the face of many wildly different observations and interpretations from apparently reasonable, honest people?  Like I said, that would be baffling to me.
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