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1  General Discussion / Religion & Philosophy / Re: Hypothetical: God is disproved on: July 20, 2016, 09:19:51 am
My turn to delay. I've been away for the last few weeks so have only been able to respond now Smiley

Just to put it simply: you complained that this thread was ridiculous on the grounds it suggested it was possible to have "definitive, concrete evidence."  However, you argued that we should presume the term "certain" actually means "less than certain," and that certitude is an entirely individual matter.  It seems like you're being inexplicably flexible with the definition of "certain" considering how inflexible you were with "definitive, concrete."

Unsurprisingly, I don't agree with this representation Tongue. I complained the thread was ridiculous, and it's true, I did also say that God can not be disproved or proved in the way that a statement like "There is a cat sitting on that mat" can be, but that is not why I think the thread is ridiculous. As I said in my very first post:
Of course this is all quite arcane. Whether such a proof or disproof that is comprehensible to humans is not really important to this question, because plenty of things exist but are inconceivable to us and plenty of things that can't exist are conceivable. The real problem with this question is it's like all counter-factuals. The dead body of Jesus of Nazareth being found tomorrow in a grave in palestine is just as silly a counter factual despite being unarguably possible and definitely conceivable.


So I don't see the problem with saying that a 100% proof is impossible while also saying that I can quite happily take the thread in the spirit that it was intended, as a 99.999% proof, and still say the question is a bad one.


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Why does it matter to the analogy if there aren't other witnesses?  The point is two apparently sane, honest people are reporting mutually contradictory things, and you're arguing they'd both be reasonable to be certain their perception was correct, even though they accept the other person is likely just as sane and honest as they are.

Here, just to prove the point that the lack of a witness doesn't matter to the analogy: imagine that two sane, honest people, who reasonably trusted each other's sanity and honesty, thought they saw the same mutual friend at the exact same time, except in two totally different locations.  Would it be reasonable for them to say, "Well, you're sane and honest and I assume your perception is reasonable, but I'm going to ignore that and remain certain that I saw the guy and my perception couldn't have been mistaken"?  No, obviously not.  And if they did assume that certainty was warranted, we know they would be being unreasonable -- because we have evidence about the accuracy of recalled perceptions.

And my analogy involved a concrete issue -- not a metaphysical one, where one assumes a little more uncertainty about our perceptions is probably warranted.

As I was trying to get at (not very successfully, obviously), by phrasing it as an aside rather than as a rejoinder, I don't disagree with you here. What I was saying was that when it comes to religious experiences they are not contradicted by other experiences in quite the same way as more concrete perceptions. If I receive a message from God which says that no one must wear red clothes from now on, you can't see that I did not actually receive that message, you contradict it by receiving a message saying that everyone must wear red clothes.


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Err, dude, in the SPD paragraph you stated "bookies exist for a reason."  That makes absolutely no sense if your SPD point was an entirely separate point from your WW2 outcome point, unless you mean to tell me that cognitive bias was the reason bookies exist, as opposed to unpredictability.  Are you sure you weren't conflating your own arguments a little?

To repost the relevant paragraph:

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Perhaps able isn't the right word though. I suppose I could speculate (which I think is an appropriate word) about it, but I just don't think it's helpful. For one thing there would be a very loose connection between what we think would happen and what actually does, otherwise bookies wouldn't exist. We are all pretty terrible at prognosticating, and when it comes to something as personal as our most important convictions we're even worse at it. The other problem is that when it comes to hypotheticals we invariably lie and give as the answer what we feel we ought to do, rather than what we actually would. There is a reason everyone in this forum claims they would have voted for the SPD in 1932. 

I guess there is a little bit of a conflation (with the  "when it comes to something as personal as our most important convictions we're even worse at it."), but even so I think it's clear overall that I was making two different points there. Namely that we are bad at predicting generally, especially when we want something to happen, and we also tend to be swayed by what is socially desirable. In other words when it comes to predictions we tend to go with what we want to be true and what others want us to want to be true. But even when we have no preference either way we're not very good at it.

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Really, do you think I was only able to consider the emotional and social implications of my friend's death because his involvement in my life is "not particularly interesting"?  Or do you just think it is so difficult to be at all accurate about these thoughts and predictions as to render the thinking pointless?

(This isn't a "gotcha" question at all.  I'm not offended or anything.  That just strikes me as a surprising assertion.)
I think a lot of our disagreement comes down to our interpretations of the question. I am, in most things I do, very (perhaps overly) literally minded. I see this question, as, in the truest sense of the word, amoral. A good answer is one that is accurate or at least (in the case of some of the more constrained hypotheticals) plausible, and a good question is one that has good answers. I don't see any way that an answer to this question can be accurate. That is not to say that you can not discover something about yourself in the answering process, so maybe thinking about what you think you might do if you lost might (or might not) reveal something about what it currently is, but it won't reveal anything about what it would be like if you did happen to lose it.

So I think that the only people who could factually answer the question about what it would be like to lose their religion didn't have much of one in the first place, which is what I mean by it not being of particular interest. Regarding your friend, thinking about the difficult hypothetical obviously helped you untangle how you felt about him at the moment, and was clearly very helpful to you. But, and thankfully, we don't know if your actual thoughts about how you would cope without him were accurate. So I'd distinguish here, again, between something being accurate and something being helpful. And I'd say that hypotheticals can often be helpful in terms of the thoughts they trigger but are very rarely accurate.
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You don't see the question "How do you live your life?" as at all impacted by changes in your moral belief system?

You can't derive an ought from an is Tongue How do you live your life is a factual question, and how that would change if you changed your beliefs, or got a new car, or became ill, or whatever else, are also factual questions.
2  Other Elections - Analysis and Discussion / International Elections / Re: Labour Party (UK) Leadership Election, 2016 on: June 29, 2016, 07:07:34 am
I must admit that I don't care about internal democracy and I don't care about the result of the leadership election. I tend to take the view that the membership of a party in the UK, as you have to pay money to join it, is composed of a relatively small and unrepresentative band of cranks and nutters (including, for disclosures sake, myself) and thus, in an ideal world, would be largely ignored when it comes to electing a leader, especially when that leader loses the the confidence of all of his colleagues except a narrow clique of hard left cultists.
3  Other Elections - Analysis and Discussion / International Elections / Re: Scottish independence referendum 2017? on: June 27, 2016, 06:02:57 am
Looks like Brussels isn't that enamoured with the SNP:

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Another [Brussels source] said: 'The atmosphere here right now is, "F*** the British". They are angry and they will never be willing to let the SNP in on the same terms as the UK had. They would extract a price from an independent Scotland for membership.'
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3660320/NON-EU-slaps-Sturgeon-SNP-leader-dramatically-announces-wants-immediate-discussions-STAY-EU-humiliated-Brussels-says-No-s-not-works.html

This doesn't necessarily mean much, because no one expects Scotland to get all or even most of the UK's many opt outs and they never have. The question is more whether the EU would accept Scotland at all.
4  Atlas Fantasy Elections / Voting Booth / Re: June 2016 Federal Election on: June 26, 2016, 12:12:48 pm

1. Truman/Kalwejt
2. Leinad/Lumine
5  General Politics / International General Discussion / Re: Remain supporters, would you have been comfortable if Remain won on the backs of on: June 25, 2016, 01:14:27 pm
No. The global economy clearly isn't working for a lot of people living outside of London and Scotland, particularly some of the more depressed Labour areas, and it's been this way for a very long time. Although I support Remain from afar, I'm not British and can completely understand why working class people living in these areas -- who normally would have nothing in common with the right wing of the Conservative Party-- would vote this way. It's a cry for help, a desperate appeal to finally get the attention of the elites. A Remain victory for on the back of only London and Scotland would have given said elites excuse to get ignore these "hicks" and slam the door shut on their place in a globslizing future. They said no.

Thinking that all of Scotland (I say all because places like Edinburgh and East Renfrewhire would have been for remain no matter where in the UK they were located) voted remain because it's a beneficiary of global capitalism, unlike the rest of England is really ignorant. A quick tour of a remain place like Dundee or Motherwell would be enough to dispel it. Scotland, all of Scotland, voted remain for much the same reason that an economic basketcase like Belfast West voted remain, an aversion to English nationalism.
6  Other Elections - Analysis and Discussion / International Elections / Re: United Kingdom Referendum on European Union Membership on: June 24, 2016, 07:36:44 am
If the people of Scotland wish to leave the UK and Join the EU, then that's their democratic will, after all they voted by over 60% to stay and it's not right to be pulled out if they didn't want to.

Hmm, on the other hand, when you go down that route, it also begs the question of why Mole Valley Local Authority isn't allowed to do the same? Or what would have happened if the Moray Local Authority in Scotland has voted to leave (which it almost did)?

Thinking that Scotland's situation is comparable to the Mole Valley Local Authority (or hell, Lambeth), is precisely the type of thinking that makes so many scots want independence.
7  Other Elections - Analysis and Discussion / International Elections / Re: Scottish independence referendum 2017? on: June 24, 2016, 06:24:22 am
I genuinely don't know how I'd vote in this, and I hate the SNP and never even considered yes for a moment last time round.

Bit of conflation there. And that was part of the problem last time round. I think this time round Yes will be more cross party. I think Labour might come round this time.

Come on.  You can't take a referendum campaign in a vacuum. In a yes vote the SNP would have been the ones negotiating  and pretty much every election since then shows a 1 to 1 correspondence between SNP support and independence support. Besides, I didn't even conflate them, it's not like I said "I hate the SNP and because of this never even considered yes for a moment", if anything it was the other way round, I never considered yes and because of this (although actually because of a lot of other reasons to) I hate the SNP.

Anyway I don't think Labour will back independence, or even be officially neutral, but I imagine they will be much less gung ho than last time around, especially because most of the people left in the scottish labour party will be very very pro european, so the winds will be taken out of their (and, if I'm, honest, my) sails.
8  Other Elections - Analysis and Discussion / International Elections / Re: Scottish independence referendum 2017? on: June 24, 2016, 06:06:37 am
I genuinely don't know how I'd vote in this, and I hate the SNP and never even considered yes for a moment last time round.
9  Other Elections - Analysis and Discussion / International Elections / Re: United Kingdom Referendum on European Union Membership on: June 22, 2016, 06:02:25 am
The New York Times brought up a good point by pointing out that voters are expecting Remain to win by a clear plurality, which is reportedly a better indicator than a normal poll of voting intentions:
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/21/upshot/telling-sign-many-supporters-of-brexit-expect-defeat.html

A plurality?  Aren't there only two options on the ballot?

Yeah, though some people spoil their ballots by voting for both options or drawing a penis or whatever (0.09% in the scottish independence for example, although I expect it to be a wee bit higher given both campaigns have been even worse than the ones for that referendum) so a plurality is technically possible, but very very unlikely.
10  Atlas Fantasy Elections / Voting Booth / Re: Northern Voting Booth: June 2016 Senatorial Elections on: June 11, 2016, 07:08:43 pm

CLASS I SENATE
Blair2015

CLASS II SENATE
cxs018

1st AMENDMENT
AYE

2nd AMENDMENT
AYE
11  General Discussion / Religion & Philosophy / Re: Hypothetical: God is disproved on: May 30, 2016, 02:34:40 pm
Hey, sorry, but I'm swamped by work things and don't want to reply while out of my mind.  Will ASAP!

Take as long as you need, I'm looking forward to continuing the discussion when you can Smiley
12  Atlas Fantasy Elections / Voting Booth / Re: May 2016 House of Representatives Elections on: May 28, 2016, 01:34:28 pm

[ 4 ] 1184AZ of Washington
Labor Party

[11  ] ClarkKent of Conneticut
Federalist Party

[  ] Classic Conservative of Texas
Federalist Party

[ 3 ] cxs018 of Massachusetts
Labor Party

[ 5 ] darthebearnc of Wisconsin
Labor Party

[ 6 ] Dkrolga of Massachusetts
Labor Party

[ 1 ] evergreen of Illinois
Independent Green

[ 10 ] Haslam2020 of Tennessee
Federalist Party

[ 9 ] JohanusCalvinusLibertas of Indiana
Federalist Party

[ 2 ] NeverAgain of Virginia
Labor Party


[ 8 ] Republitarian of Oregon
Federalist Party


[ 7 ] rpryor03 of Hawai'i
Civic Renewal

13  General Discussion / Religion & Philosophy / Re: Hypothetical: God is disproved on: May 27, 2016, 09:07:30 am

Not trying to be a jerk, but that's not really responsive to what I just said.  I didn't accuse you of being inconsistent about certainty and near-certainty being the same.  I said I think it's inconsistent to give a non-literal interpretation to "certain" and then a literal interpretation to "definitive, concrete evidence."

I've sort of lost the thread here, I'm not entirely sure what I'm being accused of Tongue  What I was trying to get at was that, for me, the discussion about the question in the OP and the discussion about whether a undeniable 100% proof/disproof of God were possible were entirely separate.

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I'm not sure it's a completely different discussion, because it goes pretty directly toward whether it's possible for proof to be "concrete" in any meaningful way.  No problem if you want to separate out our conversation on this, though.

I'm not arguing for "rejecting outright" one's own personal perceptions.  I'm arguing that it makes no sense to dismiss or nearly completely discount perceptions of other people's perceptions.  That is, if we perceive other reasonable, honest people as having different and highly variable intuitions and perceptions (as they do), it makes no sense to affirm our direct observations.  If two sane, honest people viewed the same crime, and had two different, strongly-held perceptions about what happened, would it make sense for one to believe their perception is more likely?  Sure, because there's always the (small) chance that the other person is dishonest or deluded and you don't know it.  However, does it make sense to affirm your own perception with certitude, dismissing your perception of their perception?  That seems obviously unreasonable to me.
I don't disagree with this. I would say that most "religious experiences" don't really lend themselves to this type of contradiction though. With mental, interior experiences there are no other witnesses.

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Again, you're forgetting that I was responding particularly to your analogy about Nazi Germany, under the belief that you were invoking that particular analogy because there was a systematic bias to answers on that question.  I think that was a totally fair interpretation, considering the original quote: There is a reason everyone in this forum claims they would have voted for the SPD in 1932.  If you were just talking about layering a lot of independent variables, why would you be using an example thatís clearly about systemic skew?  

Perhaps I confused you by conflating two separate examples. Looking back I definitely did use the SPD example to show the problem with hypotheticals with one option more socially desirable than an other. But I did also use other examples like "What would happen if the Nazis had won
World War II?" as examples of the problems of lots of variables.

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I agree that having a lot of independent variables makes this harder to answer.  I donít think the independent variables are enough that itís a ďstupidĒ question, especially since it also offers the potential for moral reasoning that involves a lot fewer independent variables than predicting behavior or emotional reactions.  Itís cool if other people donít find that feasible or worthwhile, but again, my objection is to the hostile reaction that forwarding the question has received.  

Well, and maybe this is part of the disagreement, I don't read this as a moral question. I see it as simply a fact based one. "How ought you react to losing your religion?" actually strikes me as a much more interesting and much more answerable question. Regarding variables, I think we'll have to agree to disagree. I think there simply are too many variables. What I would say though is that there are more variables the more embedded religion is in someone's life, which I think renders the question answerable only to the people whose answers aren't particularly interesting.

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Iím not disagreeing, but Iím surprised to hear that.  Youíve never been right (or at least insightful) about theory-of-mind analysis of yourself, enough to justify doing it?  Iím also surprised by the disinterest in reasoning through moral conclusions that require premises you donít believe in.  Unlike what DFB claims, I donít have a problem with it, but Iím surprised.

I said it was never accurate, not that it was never justified Tongue Again, as I mentioned above, I don't see the question as moral, so I wouldn't describe it like that.

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(And thanks Ė hell of a month, but things are fine.  Antidepressants can work magic when you stop abusing alcohol and let them work!)

Glad to hear it Smiley

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Sorry, just to be clear, I donít actually think the main reason people are dodging this question is because it requires them to accept undesirable premises.  Although that is definitely something people do Ė I can dig up some research, but people are very bad at reasoning through the implications when they donít like a foundational premise.  Our brains try to shut that down.  However, I honestly think the reason people are dodging the question here is because they think itís gotcha bait (which is fair).

I was saying that the only major desirability bias I could see would be not wanting to accept the question's premise.  That doesn't imply I think the the main reason people are rejecting the question is desirability bias Smiley.

OK, I get you. I don't think that is the only desirability bias, I'd say there are many, although unlike in the SPD example they aren't pointing in the same way and vary from person to the person depending on their own experiences with religion.

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Thatís the sort of stuff I think is worth exploring here!  (Again, not arguing people have to be interested in doing so; I just donít think the question is ďstupid.Ē)

Agreed, which, I'd say, is what makes the "How ought you react to losing your religion?" a much more interesting question Smiley

14  General Discussion / Religion & Philosophy / Re: Hypothetical: God is disproved on: May 25, 2016, 12:29:00 pm

I agree with your analysis of the nature of reasonable near-certainty, although I think you're over-thinking the amount of logic most people apply.  I expect if you asked theists, a lot (possibly most) would unequivocally say that they're certain, period, and it's a matter of faith.  At least, a significant proportion would say intellectual certainty of any degree is moot in the presence of faith.  Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm pretty confident it's very common.

But it doesn't really matter.  My objection was not to you being inconsistent about conflating 99.9999% with 100% and near-certainty with certainty.  My objection was with you reading "certain" to reasonably mean 99.9999%, and yet not reading the topic question to be getting at, as you put it, "very suggestive evidence."  That seems inconsistent to me.

I've been very clear, from my first post in this thread that, for the purposes of this question, near certainty and certainty are the same thing. Nevertheless whether such a 100% proof could exist was being discussed before I posted as a separate discussion, and I also gave my views that such a thing is not possible.

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Not to start a separate discussion, but unless you have reason to believe that those with different intuitions/experiences than you are being dishonest, or are unknowingly deluded, why would you remain "near-certain" that your intuitions/experiences are correct if others' are strongly different?  Applying that to the witness example, if my honest friend reported being quite sure he saw something else (as often happens in witness situations), I wouldn't maintain near-certitude about my own perception.  That wouldn't be reasonable.  We know it wouldn't be reasonable, because we know how inaccurate perceptions of concrete events are.  Deferring to one's own religious intuitions seems to be treating metaphysical perception as more accurate than our perception of concrete, manifest events.  That doesn't seem crazy to you?

Yeah, this is a completely different discussion, but I would say that it depends. We obviously need to keep in mind the limitations of our senses, and that they are generally greater than we care to admit. But nevertheless if we have experienced something that we know can not be explained by any other means, then it would be silly to reject it just because others disagree. This is the sort of question that does not lend itself to generalities though. Perhaps as a rule I'd say that we should be very sceptical towards our own experiences, but we should certainly not reject them outright just because others contradict them.

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It does -- and if I got the impression your only issue was that it's a difficult question to answer because there are a lot of variables, I wouldn't be objecting.  However, you said: "There is a reason everyone in this forum claims they would have voted for the SPD in 1932."  You're right.  However, that reason is about the systematic skews I discussed, not merely that there are a lot of variables.  If the problem were primarily about many variables, as opposed to desirability effects, you'd expect the error to be more randomly distributed (as unskewed errors would usually be).  That's not the case, for the reasons I mentioned.  As such, that example is poor proof that having a lot of variables makes a question "stupid" and unanswerable.

I disagree that having a lot of variables makes a question "stupid" and unanswerable.  There are thousands of variables involved in any probabilistic evaluation of human behavior, and we make them all the time.  Moreover, even if we are wrong about our own theory of mind, it's interesting and useful to parse how we'd expect ourselves to handle a situation.  It tells us a lot about our belief system, our emotions, our morals, everything.

For example: Just last month, my closest friend had a sudden onset of suicidal depression and alcohol abuse.  I spent a lot of time thinking about how I would handle losing him and learning to live with the grief.  It's something I've never been through before, so there were a ton of unknown variables to consider.  But did I have intelligent, useful thoughts about how I might process it emotionally and intellectually?  Definitely.  It's really hard for me to believe that this is somehow impossible to do with something like changing religious belief.  Complicated, multi-variable questions and theory-of-mind thinking are such a ubiquitous part of life.  They're a ubiquitous part of politics, social sciences, and this forum.  It's hard for me to believe the reticence to respond to this question is merely concern about the complexity of the theoretical.

The thing about the variables is they aren't measures of the same thing, they're each measures of a different thing. What I mean by this is all of the variables I've suggested (take, for example, social life and taste in music) are largely independent. What this means is if you're wrong about one in a positive direction and wrong about one in a negative direction they won't cancel out, you're just wrong in two different ways.

I will concede that answering hypotheticals can tell us a lot about how we are now (Think of trolley problems, for example) But I think that, even there almost universally, the more variables the less useful it is. For instance "Could there have been a revolution in Russia without the First World War?" is a useful historical question "What would Russia have looked like without the First World War?" is not.  This is because the more variables, the harder it is for us to actually grasp and put ourselves inside the situation.

I'm sorry to hear about your friend, and I'm glad that this type of question helped you through what must have been a very difficult time. I, too, when faced with problems (though none as bad as yours) go through in my mind various hypotheticals, and it can be quite cathartic for me, personally. But I would say that it's only cathartic if you want to do it, and, also, when I've tried doing it I've never actually been right about the future.

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I think I basically responded to this objection in the portion you're quoting.  Yes, of course Americans overreport church attendance.  That's because of social desirability bias, and because people tend to remember their own actions in more favorable terms than actually occurred.  My point was that I'm asking you to continue a hypothetical situation where the premise is not desirable.  Considering that accepting the premise itself is "undesirable," why are social desirability effects destroying your ability to think through the implication of accepting the premise?  The only problem there would be if people found accepting the premise of the question so "undesirable" that they consciously refused to engage it in even a theoretical sense.

Which is exactly what most people in this thread are doing.

Which is exactly my point.

See, I don't think this argument works. Yes, there are many people who find the premise undesireable, but I don't see why that makes them unlikely to answer the question. You could fill whole libraries with fiction where the character is in a bad situation. There are an almost infinite number of books where we are asked to judge how the protagonist reacts in a tight spot. The thing is, even where the situation is one we would rather not be in, there are still "right" and "wrong" choices. Those of us who are religious may not wish to imagine a Godless universe, but we'd still like to imagine that we wouldn't collapse into hedonism. Or, vice versa, we would rather not say that our religion was just a fig leaf and did not shape us in any way.
15  General Discussion / Religion & Philosophy / Re: Hypothetical: God is disproved on: May 24, 2016, 03:35:50 pm

I'm not sure I'm talking about proof dependent on experience, since I think everything we're talking about is based on observation, which is derived from experience.  Beyond that, we're on the same page, but what I said still stands.  I do not think most people would deny that they're "certain"; they would say they're absolutely certain because of their faith, and claim it's not remotely equivocal.  I think this is illogical, and you probably agree.  But if you ask me to take "certain" to mean "less than certain," why are you not applying similar latitude to interpreting the "concrete proof" part of this question as the "very suggestive evidence" you mention?

At this point, I think that the interpretive difference here is kind of pedantic.  My point is that people are reacting with hostility to this question, interpreting it with very little flexibility, and yet you're being very deferential toward those who take "certain" to mean "very slightly uncertain."  That seems inconsistent.

I don't think that when people say they're certain they actually mean they're almost certain. That strikes me as arrogance, to think that I alone can say what people really mean. What I do think is that certain to the person who's had an experience does not mean certain for everyone else. Take the example of me saying that I've witnessed an assault. I can be certain that I've witnessed an argument, but if I told you about this, you would not be certain that this had happened, because, for instance, I might be a liar. So what is certain for an individual is not certain for everyone. I'm saying that a disproof of God could never, by it's very nature, be like the proof that there are infinitely many prime numbers, rather, it would be something like my claim to witnessing a argument.

So seeing as I don't conflate certain with very nearly certain, there is no inconsistency with me not conflating 99.999999% and 100%. That said, we both agree that for the purposes of this question they give the same results.

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You have some fair points here, but I think your analogy to analyzing past events doesn't work at all.  That's because considering how you would have reacted to a past event introduces a much larger set of variables, and those variables play into cognitive bias much more effectively.   Those aren't issues with the question in this thread.  Let me explain.

Larger set of variables first: In this thought experiment, we hold everything else constant except the change in the input about God's existence.  When people are asked to consider how their 1940 analogue would have voted, they are forced to consider the million variables that would change, were they an analogous person in 1940 -- personal background, surroundings, knowledge, etc.  The reason people say they wouldn't have supported Nazi Germany is because they fail to consider the variables that would have changed.  Instead, they hold them constant, using information, background, and context they have now.  That's errant if you're trying to predict if your analogous past-self would have supported the Nazis.  It's perfectly fine if you're trying to present whether your current self would support the Nazis if transported into the past.  The question we're asking here asks people to hold all other variables constant, so the fact that people are bad at retrospective analysis is not a concern with the question in this thread.  In this case, failing to adjust for those variables is correctly answering the question.

Now for the cognitive bias issue.  You might protest that there's another factor with the Nazi analogy, in that people are biased toward giving desirable answers, so their answers on theoreticals can't be trusted.  That is, you could argue that even if the question where "with the background and context you have today, would you have supported the Nazis in 1940?", a lot of people would say no, wanting to think themselves less susceptible to being swayed by something bad.  However, again, that's not relevant here.   There is no desirability bias associated with predicting what would happen if you changed your mind to a belief you find unpleasant (that God doesn't exist).  If anything, the desirability bias is toward not engaging the premise, because it's accepting the premise that is undesirable, not considering the implications of doing so.  That would be consistent with people's total dodging in this thread -- it would not be consistent with this question being fatally flawed.

(There is also, in the retrospective analysis, a bias toward believing you'd be an accurate predictor/evaluator.  That's definitely a problem in the historical analysis analogies you give.  It's not a problem in this case, since you're asked to talk about how you process something you currently think is inaccurate anyway.)

In sum, I think your analogy fails to reject this as a reasonable and productive question, because the things that make the historical questions unreasonable/unproductive aren't a problem here...in some cases, they're actually good for this question.  A lot of my argument here is intuition-based, so let me know if you disagree with anything I'm saying.

Unsurprisingly, I disagree Tongue

The thing is this question is asking those of us who are theists to imagine ourselves as atheists. Now for most theists religion is about more than just a set of abstract beliefs-it, for want of a better word, inserts itself everywhere. Your religion can shape your morals, your politics, your employment, your entertainment, your grieving, your celebrating, how you spend your free time, your engagements with your family and so on. Trying to imagine how your religion being shown as false would change you therefore requires you to accurately evaluate, in a similar way to the Nazi question, thousands of variables- because such a revelation could change everything.

The other point, about cognitive bias, again, I think applies to this scenario, albeit in (obviously) a much more nuanced way than with the nazi example. It's difficult not to see some people downplaying the role of religion in their life, because they don't think it's cool or whatever. Similarly there will be some people who exaggerate the effects of this revelation because they want to present themselves as more pious than they actually are.  We already know, from decades of religious data, that it is a nightmare even getting truthful simple details right (americans massively exaggerate how often they attend church, for instance). I don't see why those same biases wouldn't be at play here, especially as, unlike in those cases, there's simply no way for anyone to call you out, because the whole thing is hypothetical.
16  General Discussion / Religion & Philosophy / Re: Hypothetical: God is disproved on: May 24, 2016, 10:35:45 am

I'm not sure I'm talking about proof dependent on experience, since I think everything we're talking about is based on observation, which is derived from experience.  Beyond that, we're on the same page, but what I said still stands.  I do not think most people would deny that they're "certain"; they would say they're absolutely certain because of their faith, and claim it's not remotely equivocal.  I think this is illogical, and you probably agree.  But if you ask me to take "certain" to mean "less than certain," why are you not applying similar latitude to interpreting the "concrete proof" part of this question as the "very suggestive evidence" you mention?

At this point, I think that the interpretive difference here is kind of pedantic.  My point is that people are reacting with hostility to this question, interpreting it with very little flexibility, and yet you're being very deferential toward those who take "certain" to mean "very slightly uncertain."  That seems inconsistent.

I think something can be certain for an individual but not certain for everyone else (which strikes me as a good definition of a proof by experience). So I don't think that when people claim to be certain about God they actually mean they're nearly certain. Take the example of me witnessing an assault. I can say for certain that this assault happened, but then if I told you about it you'd be less sure because I might be lying or whatever. What I mean by a concrete proof is something that is not limited by someone's experience, like, as a mentioned above, the prime numbers example. So I don't see either how I combine "certain" and "very slightly uncertain" or why I should combine 99.99999999% and 100% (at least on the subject of the possibility of such a disproof, we''re both agreed that it doesn't matter for the purposes of the thread question), when there is a qualitative difference between the two.

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You have some fair points here, but I think you r analogy to analyzing past events doesn't work at all.  That's because considering how you would have reacted to a past event introduces a much larger set of variables, and those variables play into cognitive bias much more effectively.   Those aren't issues with the question in this thread.  Let me explain.

Larger set of variables first: In this thought experiment, we hold everything else constant except the change in the input about God's existence.  When people are asked to consider how their 1940 analogue would have voted, they are forced to consider the million variables that would change, were they an analogous person in 1940 -- personal background, surroundings, knowledge, etc.  The reason people say they wouldn't have supported Nazi Germany is because they fail to consider the variables that would have changed.  Instead, they hold them constant, using information, background, and context they have now.  That's errant if you're trying to predict if your analogous past-self would have supported the Nazis.  It's perfectly fine if you're trying to present whether your current self would support the Nazis if transported into the past.  The question we're asking here asks people to hold all other variables constant, so the fact that people are bad at retrospective analysis is not a concern with the question in this thread.  In this case, failing to adjust for those variables is correctly answering the question.

Now for the cognitive bias issue.  You might protest that there's another factor with the Nazi analogy, in that people are biased toward giving desirable answers, so their answers on theoreticals can't be trusted.  That is, you could argue that even if the question where "with the background and context you have today, would you have supported the Nazis in 1940?", a lot of people would say no, wanting to think themselves less susceptible to being swayed by something bad.  However, again, that's not relevant here.   There is no desirability bias associated with predicting what would happen if you changed your mind to a belief you find unpleasant (that God doesn't exist).  If anything, the desirability bias is toward not engaging the premise, because it's accepting the premise that is undesirable, not considering the implications of doing so.  That would be consistent with people's total dodging in this thread -- it would not be consistent with this question being fatally flawed.

(There is also, in the retrospective analysis, a bias toward believing you'd be an accurate predictor/evaluator.  That's definitely a problem in the historical analysis analogies you give.  It's not a problem in this case, since you're asked to talk about how you process something you currently think is inaccurate anyway.)

In sum, I think your analogy fails to reject this as a reasonable and productive question, because the things that make the historical questions unreasonable/unproductive aren't a problem here...in some cases, they're actually good for this question.  A lot of my argument here is intuition-based, so let me know if you disagree with anything I'm saying.

Unsurprisingly, I disagree Tongue

I think there's a huge amount of variables in someone's religion being exposed as not true (And I know that not all theists are religious but there's a huge overlap and for those who literally just believe in a Creator and nothing else all that while change is they no longer believe in that Creator). Maybe they're not variables in exactly the same way, but it''s analogous because we're so bad at accounting for multiple variables that the exact specifics don't really matter. To see this you can just think of all the areas religion touches. It shapes people's moral views, it shapes how they celebrate and grieve, it shapes how they spend their time, it shapes who they socialise with, it shapes how they entertain themselves, it shapes how they interact with their family, it may even shape their employment. The variable overload, like with the Nazi question, still occurs here.

Regarding the positive bias, this one I think is a wee bit more complicated. But even so I think it is clear that there are answers that would be received much better than others. For instance there would be a denunciation in this thread if someone said  something like "I would *something which everyone, atheist or theist, agrees is wrong* because there would be no meaning any more". Yet I don't think it's unrealistic to think that some (not many at all, but definitely some) people would react like that. As has been alluded to before, with these sort of counterfactuals people say they'd do what they want to think that they'd do. And on this question you can definitely imagine a lot of people wanting to pretend that religion isn't important to them  and people wanting to pretend it's more important than it is. But both would lead to serious errors in answering the question.
17  General Discussion / Religion & Philosophy / Re: Hypothetical: God is disproved on: May 23, 2016, 12:52:11 pm

The pre-assumption that god is omniscient and omnipresent is itself a hypothetical based on a particular theistic interpretation of the concept of god in a dichotomy where a god has to present itself as an option (despite different ontologies existing that donít require the concept of god-v-no god) You canít resort to your base hypothetical construct of the nature of god to then explain over a series of different posts, why you find engaging in hypotheticals meaningless. Because you clearly engage with hypothetical concepts already!

I'm sorry but I have no idea what this is supposed to mean.

I'm saying that questions of the format "If X happens, what happens next" where  X is some event in human history may be fun, but they're fundamentally unanswerable and aren't really a serious debate.

You're saying that because God might not exist or might not be how I think He is (so is hypothetical) this is a hypocritical suggestion?  (I might be wrong because as I said I am having difficulty parsing this) But that's a ridiculous argument. It's perfectly possible to argue, for example, about whether, say, Jesus was entirely fictitious or based on a real person and then turn around and say that discussing how the world would have turned out without him (or, if you like, the idea of him) is pointless. The two are entirely unconnected.


So if god is not a hypothetical concept (as much as no god is), then what concept is it?

Define hypothetical concept. If you mean that God may or may not exist than sure. I agree with that.
It's a hypothetical concept. But so what? What does that have to do with the matter at hand? Where is the hypocrisy?

Take the debate over whether there is life on Mars. There might or there might not be. It's a hypothetical concept. You can debate that for as long as you like. But surely it's obvious that the question "If life was discovered on Mars how would that change the course of the history?" and whether you think that's a meaningful debate is unrelated.


Because if the existence of god is hypothetical, where is the value, where is the 'meaningfulness' in arguing forit or a condition under which it might exist, whether because you believe it exists, or thinking it's worthwhile talking about even if you don't?

So for example in saying this;

The reason that it doesn't make sense is that the conventional, orthodox belief right across (most) different faiths is that God is Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing, Why Anything At All Exists, He's not some person who is basically like us but also has some pretty neat superpowers. What this means for proof and disproof is that you can't just find him by looking throughout the universe and taking some readings,

You're making a hypothetical assumption that the 'means for proof and disproof' is founded on broadly agreed theistic notions of an omnipotent omipresent god. 'You can't just find him by looking through the universe and taking some readings'. Why not? Who said you can't? That was what I was talking about in my earlier effort post.

What you end up with is, amongst most of those who have contributed so far, is believers arguing against the relevance of this particular hypothetical and those who don't believe arguing it has merit as an exercise in cognitive science. It has merit as an exercise for the same reason dealing with god (nominally a Christian god) as a hypothetical 'start point' and engaging with it (which is the basis of 90% of posts on this board)

What has piqued my interest, and I think Alcon's is exactly why 'what if god was disproved' has seemingly less merit among some as a hypothetical than the equally as hypothetically based assumption that 'god is proven (at least in my understanding as a believer)', which leads people to discuss whether pets go to heaven, whether the church should welcome female deacons or where did humans acquire original sin?

Two broad points:

1. I'd be happy to amend my earlier comments of the impossibility of such a disproof existing to "It is impossible for there to be a binding, incontestably proof that God, by which I mean the creator of the universe who is omniscient, omnipotent and incorporeal" I agree (along the lines of what Al was talking about earlier on) that there could concievably be a disproof of another type of deity, be it the divine watchmaker or Zeus or Odin or whatever. But as long as the God we are discussing is outside of time and space and the creator of time and space then such a 100% disproof (or proof) is impossible because our methods of knowing are limited by time and space.  I didn't see the need to use that qualifier in the rest of the thread because, frankly, very few people actually believe in God as a finite bounded creature.

2. I'm speaking for myself, but I would find a question along the lines of "For all you atheists, if God was conclusively proven how would you react?" similarly problematic. I think the same about the Who would you support in the American Civil War thread in FC at the moment.  I just don't think such questions have much merit, except as a fun exercise. It's not the fact we have to make assumptions to have a falsifiable debate on this question which troubles me, we have to make such assumptions for every debate. It's that for this debate, there are no assumptions you can make that make them falsifiable.
18  General Discussion / Religion & Philosophy / Re: Hypothetical: God is disproved on: May 23, 2016, 11:46:24 am

The pre-assumption that god is omniscient and omnipresent is itself a hypothetical based on a particular theistic interpretation of the concept of god in a dichotomy where a god has to present itself as an option (despite different ontologies existing that donít require the concept of god-v-no god) You canít resort to your base hypothetical construct of the nature of god to then explain over a series of different posts, why you find engaging in hypotheticals meaningless. Because you clearly engage with hypothetical concepts already!

I'm sorry but I have no idea what this is supposed to mean.

I'm saying that questions of the format "If X happens, what happens next" where  X is some event in human history may be fun, but they're fundamentally unanswerable and aren't really a serious debate.

You're saying that because God might not exist or might not be how I think He is (so is hypothetical) this is a hypocritical suggestion?  (I might be wrong because as I said I am having difficulty parsing this) But that's a ridiculous argument. It's perfectly possible to argue, for example, about whether, say, Jesus was entirely fictitious or based on a real person and then turn around and say that discussing how the world would have turned out without him (or, if you like, the idea of him) is pointless. The two are entirely unconnected.


So if god is not a hypothetical concept (as much as no god is), then what concept is it?

Define hypothetical concept. If you mean that God may or may not exist than sure. I agree with that.
It's a hypothetical concept. But so what? What does that have to do with the matter at hand? Where is the hypocrisy?

Take the debate over whether there is life on Mars. There might or there might not be. It's a hypothetical concept. You can debate that for as long as you like. But surely it's obvious that the question "If life was discovered on Mars how would that change the course of the history?" and whether you think that's a meaningful debate is unrelated.
19  General Discussion / Religion & Philosophy / Re: Hypothetical: God is disproved on: May 23, 2016, 10:45:41 am
The difference is that it's proven history the Nazis lost and that Stalin died in 1953. I'm an atheist. I truly don't think there is a God or a higher power and it's a serious debate. Knowing that there's no higher power might change people's line of thinking.

That's a distinction without a difference. They are all questions about what would happen if some event X occurred. But of course event X (be that Stalin living longer, the battle of hastings being won by Harold, God being disproved or whatever) has not happened, so we simply can't say with any degree of accuracy what it's effects would be, for the simple reason that history and people are just too complex. They change rapidly and in unforeseen ways. We can of course speculate, but we'll never even come close to knowing. Any response is quite literally unfalsifiable, so it's not really serious.

As a side note someone will probably raise the fact that I seem to be saying the same thing about pretty much everything upthread, so this isn't a good objection. And there may be some truth to that. But I'd say that I'm arguing that pretty much everything is unfalsifiable in the most general sense (we can't prove that the earth was created a few moments ago with the appearance of age, for instance), but hypotheticals aren't even falsifiable in a more limited cases that we actaully use in our day to day lives. For instance if we accept a few basic axioms of science (that things are repeatable and so on) then an experiment  can be used to falsify something, if we accept that documents can tell us about the past in some sense then we can use them to falsify historical statements,  if we accept that the Bible is a revelation from God than we can use it to falsify theological statements. My point is that for all these things we accept a set of assumptions and then we use them to discuss and prove and disprove various statements. But for hypotheticals, how can we even attempt to do that?

The pre-assumption that god is omniscient and omnipresent is itself a hypothetical based on a particular theistic interpretation of the concept of god in a dichotomy where a god has to present itself as an option (despite different ontologies existing that don’t require the concept of god-v-no god) You can’t resort to your base hypothetical construct of the nature of god to then explain over a series of different posts, why you find engaging in hypotheticals meaningless. Because you clearly engage with hypothetical concepts already!

I'm sorry but I have no idea what this is supposed to mean.

I'm saying that questions of the format "If X happens, what happens next" where  X is some event in human history may be fun, but they're fundamentally unanswerable and aren't really a serious debate.

You're saying that because God might not exist or might not be how I think He is (so is hypothetical) this is a hypocritical suggestion?  (I might be wrong because as I said I am having difficulty parsing this) But that's a ridiculous argument. It's perfectly possible to argue, for example, about whether, say, Jesus was entirely fictitious or based on a real person and then turn around and say that discussing how the world would have turned out without him (or, if you like, the idea of him) is pointless. The two are entirely unconnected.
20  General Discussion / Religion & Philosophy / Re: Hypothetical: God is disproved on: May 23, 2016, 09:14:01 am
The difference is that it's proven history the Nazis lost and that Stalin died in 1953. I'm an atheist. I truly don't think there is a God or a higher power and it's a serious debate. Knowing that there's no higher power might change people's line of thinking.

That's a distinction without a difference. They are all questions about what would happen if some event X occurred. But of course event X (be that Stalin living longer, the battle of hastings being won by Harold, God being disproved or whatever) has not happened, so we simply can't say with any degree of accuracy what it's effects would be, for the simple reason that history and people are just too complex. They change rapidly and in unforeseen ways. We can of course speculate, but we'll never even come close to knowing. Any response is quite literally unfalsifiable, so it's not really serious.

As a side note someone will probably raise the fact that I seem to be saying the same thing about pretty much everything upthread, so this isn't a good objection. And there may be some truth to that. But I'd say that I'm arguing that pretty much everything is unfalsifiable in the most general sense (we can't prove that the earth was created a few moments ago with the appearance of age, for instance), but hypotheticals aren't even falsifiable in a more limited cases that we actaully use in our day to day lives. For instance if we accept a few basic axioms of science (that things are repeatable and so on) then an experiment  can be used to falsify something, if we accept that documents can tell us about the past in some sense then we can use them to falsify historical statements,  if we accept that the Bible is a revelation from God than we can use it to falsify theological statements. My point is that for all these things we accept a set of assumptions and then we use them to discuss and prove and disprove various statements. But for hypotheticals, how can we even attempt to do that?
21  General Discussion / Religion & Philosophy / Re: Hypothetical: God is disproved on: May 23, 2016, 07:32:44 am

Your main argument, which is reasonable, is that God is not knowable based on empirical observation.  I'm not sure if you're arguing for certitude-via-faith or belief-in-absence-of-certitude, but it doesn't really matter.  The thing is, though, that the majority of Christians (at least in the polling I've seen) do, in fact, express certitude.  You might (rightly) argue that these Christians may believe in certitude-via-faith.  But if you believe in certitude-of-faith, and believe that's reasonable (I don't), how is any leap to attribute (via certitude-of-faith) metaphysical meaning to something concrete?  It's not really that hard to imagine a religion that has faith in the metaphysical significance of a concrete thing or observation.  That's why I reject calling this question "stupid," even if adding the "concrete" part was an unnecessary distraction; it's not inherently inconsistent with the thinking/belief system of most theists.

I'm not sure I get your point. Of course many people are convinced that God exists, and many other people are convinced that He doesn't. It's worth noting that convinced does not mean mathematical proof though, it basically just means 99.9999999%. You might argue that the distinction is meaningless, and in all practical circumstances it is, but I don't care about practicalities, I'm a mathematician. I'm making a narrow point that the question of God's existence is not something that can be established as an unambiguous 100% proof, even in principle. The actual experience of believing is neither here nor there.

Let me distill the arguments as clearly as I can, since I went a bit overboard on making them precise:

1. Most practicing Christians in the United States do identify as "certain."  I do not think many of these people are rounding 100.00% up to certitude; many of them belief that faith is genuinely sufficient for certitude.  If they can have certitude based on faith in that metaphysical question, I do not see why they can't have similar faith-based certitude that a concrete, observable reality could also justify metaphysical certainty.

2. Even if that's not the case, and you think the premise (certainty about metaphysical truth) is dumb, this still seems interesting as a pure thought experiment.  I doubt it's functionally different from asking people what would happen if they were convinced God doesn't exist; I expect most people would react similarly (if not identically) to a 99.9% certainty their beliefs were wrong vs. a 100.0% certainty. [/quote]
Here's where I see the difficulty. I'm talking about a proof independent of experience and you're not. What I mean by that is something like the proof that there are infinitely many prime numbers. It is undeniably true for all people. A person can not deny the premise by saying "Well actually I don't believe that prime numbers exist" .I'm saying that a proof like that about God can not exist, for the simple reason that the premises are about the world and they do not have to be accepted. I don't doubt that many people wholeheartedly accept or wholeheartedly reject the premises, but my point is that if you want you can deny them without contradiction. Therefore no such proof or disproof of God is possible. At most you could get a sort of Goldbach's Conjecture situation, where every indication we have is in favour of God not existing, but it can still be rejected without doing damage to logic.

As you note in your second point though and as I noted before, this is something of a tangent. For the practical purposes of this question it doesn't really matter if it's 99.99........9% or 100%.  And while maybe these sorts of arguments can't be given direct percentage scores, I don't doubt that there could emerge very suggestive evidence that God doesn't exist.
You misunderstand me. Of course my mind has been changed and of course I'm probably mistaken about many things I believe now. My argument is emphatically not (because, let's be honest, it's such a ludicrous argument that no one serious can believe it) that people's views don't change, nor that it happens rarely, nor that it shouldn't happen.

My argument is that we can't know how they will change until they do change, so talking about how they might change if thing X happens is about as likely to be accurate as astrology.

...Really?  You don't have strong enough theory of mind that you can think through your likely reaction to theoretical situations?  You can't think about the implications a change in belief would have on your philosophy and emotional investments?  I just read your (very nice) post on why you're a Christian, and you came to a strong conclusion through various intuitions, including the sense that Jesus "must be" Lord and Savior...and yet you're unwilling to speculate on a non-metaphysical question involving your theoretical emotional, behavioral, or intellectual reaction to a change in beliefs?  Your post also indicated that you "came to" a belief in God and Christianity, which makes them even more puzzling to me.

I'm not trying to be presumptive, but I've never seen so many people on this forum dodge a hard-to-answer or hypothetical question.  Normally, people here love this sort of thing.  It makes me wonder if it's a counterfactual people dislike considering for some reason.
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Yes, really Tongue 

I'm perfectly happy to give things that would make me at the very least doubt christianity, and maybe turn theism more generally. Things like the laws of the universe breaking down, Jesus's body being found, other gospels being discovered, the discovery of a babelfish and so on. But I'm not able to say how I would react to becoming an atheist until it happens.

Perhaps able isn't the right word though. I suppose I could speculate (which I think is an appropriate word) about it, but I just don't think it's helpful. For one thing there would be a very loose connection between what we think would happen and what actually does, otherwise bookies wouldn't exist. We are all pretty terrible at prognosticating, and when it comes to something as personal as our most important convictions we're even worse at it. The other problem is that when it comes to hypotheticals we invariably lie and give as the answer what we feel we ought to do, rather than what we actually would. There is a reason everyone in this forum claims they would have voted for the SPD in 1932. 

My take on this is that the question in the OP is the philosophical equivalent of "What if the Nazis won?" or "What if Stalin died in 1960 instead?" It can be fun to wile away a few hours discussing it but you won't learn much because you'll never know if you're right. In other words, it's not serious history. And this question isn't serious philosophy.
22  General Discussion / Religion & Philosophy / Re: Hypothetical: God is disproved on: May 22, 2016, 05:37:08 pm
Nah, there's no doubt that this is a stupid question (which doesn't mean it's not fun to debate and think about but it does mean we won't get anything serious out of it), and to try and pretend that it's actually got us religious people quaking in out boots is silly.

The reason that it doesn't make sense is that the conventional, orthodox belief right across (most) different faiths is that God is Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing, Why Anything At All Exists, He's not some person who is basically like us but also has some pretty neat superpowers. What this means for proof and disproof is that you can't just find him by looking throughout the universe and taking some readings, He isn't holed up in a flat in Croydon. He is not simply one more thing in the universe, if you had a list of all the things that are, you wouldn't add God to that list as a separate entity. This means that you can only prove God doesn't or does exist by a logical argument, and in a logical argument  you make some assumptions, then you show what these logically imply and you keep on doing this until you reach a conclusion. But of course those assumptions are just that, assumptions. They might be right and they might be wrong, but we can never, fully, know which one they are.

Your main argument, which is reasonable, is that God is not knowable based on empirical observation.  I'm not sure if you're arguing for certitude-via-faith or belief-in-absence-of-certitude, but it doesn't really matter.  The thing is, though, that the majority of Christians (at least in the polling I've seen) do, in fact, express certitude.  You might (rightly) argue that these Christians may believe in certitude-via-faith.  But if you believe in certitude-of-faith, and believe that's reasonable (I don't), how is any leap to attribute (via certitude-of-faith) metaphysical meaning to something concrete?  It's not really that hard to imagine a religion that has faith in the metaphysical significance of a concrete thing or observation.  That's why I reject calling this question "stupid," even if adding the "concrete" part was an unnecessary distraction; it's not inherently inconsistent with the thinking/belief system of most theists.

I'm not sure I get your point. Of course many people are convinced that God exists, and many other people are convinced that He doesn't. It's worth noting that convinced does not mean mathematical proof though, it basically just means 99.9999999%. You might argue that the distinction is meaningless, and in all practical circumstances it is, but I don't care about practicalities, I'm a mathematician. I'm making a narrow point that the question of God's existence is not something that can be established as an unambiguous 100% proof, even in principle. The actual experience of believing is neither here nor there.
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Of course this is all quite arcane. Whether such a proof or disproof that is comprehensible to humans is not really important to this question, because plenty of things exist but are inconceivable to us and plenty of things that can't exist are conceivable. The real problem with this question is it's like all counter-factuals. The dead body of Jesus of Nazareth being found tomorrow in a grave in palestine is just as silly a counter factual despite being unarguably possible and definitely conceivable.

The thing is, the only honest answer to any variation of "What if I'm wrong?"is "I don't know". We all think we're right, and all of our interactions with the world are shaped by these underlying beliefs. If one of these beliefs is proven wrong then our interactions with the world will have to change, but these are so foundational that we just can't predict what these changes will be.

I think one thing which is helpful to keep in mind whenever having debates about religious belief in general and whether we should hold them is to compare them to political beliefs.  Because so many (but not all) popular arguments against religious belief in the abstract work just as well against political beliefs in the abstract, but no one ever mentions it, and in fact the proposers of the arguments would be horrified with those conclusions. Ask yourself, then, if your politics were disproved, how would you react, and then you might see why the question in the OP isn't really helpful.

See, that's the weird thing: why are you so confident you're right and that your beliefs won't change?  Have you not been presented with reasonable counterarguments by reasonable people with different, reasonable intuitions?  If people's disagreement is not a function of unreasonableness, or stupidity, how can you not have a degree of uncertainty about whether your beliefs are wrong?  How is it so hard to imagine a world in which your intuitions change enough to agree with other reasonable people with different intuitions?

I have had people present arguments that challenged my fundamental beliefs.  A few of those arguments have been more consistent and reasonable than those I had -- so I changed my beliefs.  I don't know how this hasn't happened to anyone who has ever been a dumb teenager.  There are some fundamental value propositions I have (that, all else being equal, suffering should be avoided; that, all else being equal, autonomy is good).  Those would be hard to change, mostly because they're based on assumptions so loose I wouldn't even call them "assumptions" (why not let people live the life they prefer?  It's what I would want.)  But those aren't really good analogues to religious belief, which actually asserts a truth about reality, which is presumably based in more contestable logic and is believed "true."

tl;dr: I don't see the idea of changing your mind on a fundamental belief fantastical, and I don't see how it's so hard to think through, conceptually or emotionally.  If you allow it to be that difficult, doesn't that risk making it incredibly difficult to change your mind about fundamental beliefs even when doing so is reasonable?

You misunderstand me. Of course my mind has been changed and of course I'm probably mistaken about many things I believe now. My argument is emphatically not (because, let's be honest, it's such a ludicrous argument that no one serious can believe it) that people's views don't change, nor that it happens rarely, nor that it shouldn't happen.

My argument is that we can't know how they will change until they do change, so talking about how they might change if thing X happens is about as likely to be accurate as astrology.
23  General Discussion / Religion & Philosophy / Re: Hypothetical: God is disproved on: May 22, 2016, 01:08:31 pm
Nah, there's no doubt that this is a stupid question (which doesn't mean it's not fun to debate and think about but it does mean we won't get anything serious out of it), and to try and pretend that it's actually got us religious people quaking in out boots is silly.

The reason that it doesn't make sense is that the conventional, orthodox belief right across (most) different faiths is that God is Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing, Why Anything At All Exists, He's not some person who is basically like us but also has some pretty neat superpowers. What this means for proof and disproof is that you can't just find him by looking throughout the universe and taking some readings, He isn't holed up in a flat in Croydon. He is not simply one more thing in the universe, if you had a list of all the things that are, you wouldn't add God to that list as a separate entity. This means that you can only prove God doesn't or does exist by a logical argument, and in a logical argument  you make some assumptions, then you show what these logically imply and you keep on doing this until you reach a conclusion. But of course those assumptions are just that, assumptions. They might be right and they might be wrong, but we can never, fully, know which one they are.

Of course this is all quite arcane. Whether such a proof or disproof that is comprehensible to humans is not really important to this question, because plenty of things exist but are inconceivable to us and plenty of things that can't exist are conceivable. The real problem with this question is it's like all counter-factuals. The dead body of Jesus of Nazareth being found tomorrow in a grave in palestine is just as silly a counter factual despite being unarguably possible and definitely conceivable.

The thing is, the only honest answer to any variation of "What if I'm wrong?"is "I don't know". We all think we're right, and all of our interactions with the world are shaped by these underlying beliefs. If one of these beliefs is proven wrong then our interactions with the world will have to change, but these are so foundational that we just can't predict what these changes will be.

I think one thing which is helpful to keep in mind whenever having debates about religious belief in general and whether we should hold them is to compare them to political beliefs.  Because so many (but not all) popular arguments against religious belief in the abstract work just as well against political beliefs in the abstract, but no one ever mentions it, and in fact the proposers of the arguments would be horrified with those conclusions. Ask yourself, then, if your politics were disproved, how would you react, and then you might see why the question in the OP isn't really helpful.
24  Atlas Fantasy Elections / Constitutional Convention / Re: Committee on Style ***(FINAL VOTE!)*** on: May 11, 2016, 07:06:39 am
Aye
25  Other Elections - Analysis and Discussion / International Elections / Re: Scottish Parliament election - 5th May 2016 on: May 06, 2016, 07:57:59 am
There is no getting around the fact that this was a terrible night for labour and an exceptional one for the tories. But I still think that people are overstating what happened at least from a conservative perspective. Despite everything, for example, labour still received slightly more constituency votes than the tories, the tories did about 3 points better on the list, but even so that doesn't quite fit the narrative. Similarly, 22% is impressive for the tories in scotland, but it's only impressive for tories in scotland (and, like, sunderland) and we shouldn't forget that. Perhaps the most important issue event of the election is the gradual return of the tartan tories to the party in paces like northeast scotland and perthshire, and I think, when the froth of a terrible labour performance and a very popular SNP and Green Party has faded from scottish politics, the lasting impact of this election will be a significantly increased tory share (albeit lower than in most areas in england) based on these votes.

Scattered predictions and hot takes to brag about if I'm right and never mention if I'm wrong:

A mixed bag of predictions, obviously I trusted the polling a bit too much and in particular underestimated tory support in the constituencies.

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Labour will gain my seat of Edinburgh Southern, and lose every other seat.  Though they will be close in East Lothian, Edinburgh North and Leith and Coatbridge and Chryston (this is the odd one out because the SNP candidate is so terrible.
Right about Edinburgh Southern, wrong about the result but right that East Lothian would be very close unlike most labour seats, wrong about Coatbridge and Chryston and very wrong about Edinburgh North and Leith (Hinds was obviously nowhere near as popular as Lazarowicz). Didn't see Dumbarton coming at all.
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The Conservatives will have the night they always have in scotland and get about 20 seats. Labour will be comfortably ahead with roughly 27, the SNP will get around 70, the lib dems around 7 and the greens around 7. UKIP will be almost non existent and RISE (lol) will be even worse.
I slightly overestimated the SNP and labour (but in seats my prediction wasn't bad), was basically right about the lib dems and the greens, ukip and RISE (lol). The tories were obviously underestimated.
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The SNP will hold Edinburgh Central (due to a split field) and Glasgow Kelvin comfortably (although Harvie will be in a strong 2nd place)
Right about Kelvin, wrong about Central, although a split field does mean anything can happen. While Edinburgh Central is an impressive gain for the tories, 30% is still a very low winning share by most standards.
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The Greens will gain 2 seats on the glasgow list and only 1 on the edinburgh list they will get 1 in most other areas of the country too.

Switch Glasgow and Edinburgh, but otherwise right. Both votes SNP really screwed the greens in glasgow.

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The Lib Dems will gain Edinburgh West and hold orkney and shetland.

Correct, although I didn't see Northeast Fife (but who did?)
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The tories will hold all their constituencies apart from Ayr.

Wrong about Ayr, and I didn't see the gains.
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