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Dec. 2002 - What do you mean,

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Dec. 2002 - What do you mean,

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This thread is for discussing Massimo Pigliucci's Rationally Speaking article entitled What do you mean, "rationally speaking"?Quote:N. 31, December 2002What do you mean, "rationally speaking"?From time to time I receive a letter in response to this column that accuses me of being an intellectual snob. Often the writer refers to the very title of the column, "rationally speaking." The argument of my correspondents goes something like this: (unstated premise) since rationality equals truth, and (obvious statement of fact) you call your columns "rational," then (first conclusion) you are so arrogant as to claim that what you write must be the truth, and (second conclusion) therefore imply that anybody who disagrees with you is wrong.Let's carefully analyze the unstated premise and the two conclusions (no sense in denying the fact that the column is, indeed, called "rationally speaking"), because I think this will shed some light on both my goals in writing these pieces and, more importantly, on some common misconceptions about rationality and truth. First off, the unstated premise that rationality necessarily leads to truth is clearly false, and acknowledged by philosophers since the time of Plato. Don't get me wrong, Plato did think that the best path to the truth is indeed rational thought, but he also acknowledged that one can arrive at the truth by other means (e.g., by sheer luck, as in guessing). More importantly for our discussion, Plato's dialogues are full of examples of people rationally arguing different positions, of which at most one can be correct! Since there is no necessary equation between rationality and truth, this takes care of the second conclusion from the above piece of reasoning: I cannot possibly be implying in my columns that those who disagree with me must be wrong. At best, these columns present an argument in favor of a particular conclusion or position. Their value is in laying down that argument as clearly as the writer can manage, to then let the reader decide how that argument measures up against others. It is all part of the ongoing discourse among human beings that is such a central part of any desirable society. As far as the first conclusion of the above reasoning is concerned (I am arrogant enough to think that I am right), surely that is a straw man. Anybody defending a particular position, in writing or in person, must be doing so because they think they are right (okay, perhaps with the exception of sophists and some lawyers and politicians). It simply makes no sense to accuse somebody who disagrees with you of being convinced of being right. You are too, or you would not argue with them! Of course, just because people are convinced of being right, it doesn't follow that they are. But that is precisely the value of continued rational discourse: I present my best arguments, you read them, think about them, come up with your best counter-arguments, and so on. Does this back and forth actually lead somewhere? Do people ever change their mind? Of course they do. Why, I've changed my mind more than once just this year! What may seem to make the enterprise of rational dialogue a desperate one is that people seldom acknowledge their change of mind. There are good reasons for this, other than simple human pride. To begin with, if you have thought hard about something, and have formed an opinion over years of reading and listening, you will not change your position overnight, and you probably shouldn't. Instantaneous conversions are the stuff of religious experience, not of rational discourse. Second, research on critical thinking and human cognition has shown that the human brain is naturally resistant to changing its patterns, and does so only after repeated exposure to contrasting information (which increases the so-called "cognitive dissonance" between one's own beliefs and the reality that one perceives). That is why one rarely wins debates with other people, and yet debates
bernt

Re: Dec. 2002 - What do you mean,

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One of our Zoologist in his latest book come up with a teaser re being rational in one's reasoning when it comes to physical and emotional survival. In societies with a very high pressure to be conforming to the groups norm its "rational" to be able to assent to the group in a way they themselves perceive as an honest commitment cause to fail doing it genuinly could make them kill you when they see you as someone who only pretend or fake true faith. Its a bit like passing as a true native. You test if its a native by talking in accent to see if they really are from your part fo the region. Such accents differ in as small geogrphical areas as villages only a kilometer away. same with differing varieties of religious traditions. Try to describe teh differences between teh three major groups of Quakers in 18 century Philadelphia. They even practised to not marry outside of their groups. So identity get tested by teh nuances of how you refered to the Inner Light of Christ Jesus. Coded words that showed if you did belong to the group or not. So there to be able to "truly fake it" even not being able to know about oneself that one fake ones faith iwas essential for survival. That was his way fo explaining "blind faith" in supernatural things. The groups religious tradition kind of sign that its a "norm" that the group expect to not be intellectually questioned. To challenge the dogmas the group used as a test of loyalty was looked upon as a challenge of the authority of the group. You will be seen as being a troublemaker and not loyal to the group. Blind faith is more like a test of loyalty and has very little to do with the factual claims of the faith. One may even see the "silliness" of the dogma as a clear sign to your sub-conscious that this is not to be questioned. Look irrational behavior superficially but the hidden meaning is that it should be transparent to people intuitivly getting that its a test of loyalty. Only nerds??? wil flunk and thus outcasted. It is like a kind of rigged security check. Your a potential defector if you fail to intuitively get that despite you finding the faith's arguements totally lacking in logical consistency, you still get intuitively that that was not their function, the function was to see if you are able to be loyal and by actually believing in the religious claims you pass the test to the price of you compromising with your intellectual integrity. A small price for saving your life and the future of your whole family and relatives due to tribe wars going on for hundred of years. Now very few of the true believer get aware of this rigged construction cause it all get accomplished unconsciously. They do feel honestly that they beleive in God until they wake up and find their faith not tenable anymore. Very few who de-convert are able to make use of their prior knowledge as true believers though. The de-conversion set up an interior barrier to their former identity. Their former identity feels very alien to them now when they are not within the spell of its power anymore. Bernt
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Re: Dec. 2002 - What do you mean,

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Good point BerntSome people think it a great test of their spirituality to believe in something without evidence. The most devout, and pious of all believers are those who are capable of belief in something even when there is a considerable weight of evidence against it.
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Social Group Identity--Survival value.

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Bernt made an excellent point. I will add to it. This is not an original idea as I have read it elsewhere and do not remember the source.Males who encumber themselves with the most ridiculous and utterly defenseless beliefs and who also manages to succeed well in society despite the encumbrance will be proven very fit by women seeking a mate, such as the encumbrance of a male peacock's wild display of feathers.Being that females flock around a successor (minister? Religious Business man?), other males will show up in that crowd to show their 'belief' feathers. Notice how often men switch their faith to attract a woman! Notice how churches are attended more by women than men, and men come because the women are there.So men are like the male birds who decorate their turf with adornments, do a fancy dance, and sing a tune much too close to successful males around them.Natural selection obviously culled out women who were attracted to qualities in males that did not increase the fitness of their children (The Red Queen--Matt Ridley), so the question is what fitness does religion provide? Bernt suggest it is a security code to keep the group from mixing and to identify outsiders. This may work since the modern human groups are too large to identify by face, so, a cultural 'secret code' may work.So the survival value of women who are sensitive to the dominant belief systems and cultural norms of their society to judge their potential mate by may be in allowing their group to grow in size. Larger groups overpower smaller groups. First comes the tribe, then religious affiliation (much larger tribe less related to each other), then communities, and finally nation-states. It is very beneficial for a women to be associated with the most powerful state of all, the United States, and to acquire wealth from another nation-state, Iraq. It is no surprise that the current president is so popular with women today who in the past were liberal.So the survival quality of 'religion' and 'patriotism' is the ability to unite ever larger groups together against other groups. The stories that unite (myths) do not need to be true or rational to be effective.But now for the tension: Nation-states recognize that the most powerful of them have the most advanced technologies. Technologies are developed by science. Science is lead by people who challenge the status quo of beliefs. So societies that learn to tolerate 'quacks' and 'nerds' and differing opinions succeed over those that do not. So we will experience eternal tension from the need for one group or nation to differentiate itself from other nation-groups, and resisting the unifying effects of science that finds us all very similar and living in a coherent universe while at the same time harvesting the results of this science for lethal and beneficial technologies for nation-group superiority. So women recognize the powerful contribution of science and may be attracted to successful ones, but also commit themselves to culturalize or 'save' their irreverent husbands.Have I said it all?Sincerely,Monty [email protected] Box QBellingham, WA 98227-0599The Questarian Societyhometown.aol.com/questarians/tqs.html
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