A place to discuss rationality (Bayesian or otherwise), science and the scientific method, debunking superstituion, conspiricies, and urban legends, and generally just get away from a world where you're the only one whose learned how not to be crazy. Anyone interested in learning more about rationality, this is the place to ask.

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In order to be right, it has to be possible to be wrong.

Posted by open_sketchbook on Nov 16th, 2010

Lets get right to the meat of it. Rationality is about thinking right, which helps you to come to better conclusions. The fundamental thing that makes a rationalist is the ability to admit when they're wrong. If you don't admit your wrong, you can't figure out what is right.

You gotta give more than lip service to this ideal, though. Whenever you analyze your beliefs (and you should be doing that pretty frequently) you should ask yourself "What would convince you this belief is wrong?" If you can't think of a reason you'd abandon that belief, you may be need to consider looking into other options.

I know. That sounds really wierd, doesn't it?

In science, when a hypothosis is presented, the single most important thing is that there has to be a way of testing the hypothosis, and that means that you have to be able to disprove the hypothosis. Science isn't actually about "proving" one particular angle, it's about disproving things until only the facts remain.

The barrier of falsification is a very important one. It should be the first you check when looking over your own beliefs.

Try this yourself. Pick a belief you hold dear; political, religious, scientific, or simply an opinion. Then, treating the opinion as a scientific hypothosis, do what scientists do, and try to prove yourself wrong. If you like, post your results for discussion and analysis!

NOTE : I plan on trying to post one of these a week, going over some basic rationalist principles. I don't intend for there to be a particular order or progression to them; just little bits and pieces mixed with experiments to try with your own thinking. This one was a little short; others may be longer.

Do remember that the content of the group is open to anyone; if you'd like to post your own experiments or debunkings, post pictures related to science or rationality, or start a discussion, feel free!

Post comment Comments
feillyne
feillyne Nov 16 2010, 8:10pm says:

A book such as the Bible. Written by men or by God?

But what does it mean: written by God?

Men use their hands to write; and the physical (visible) observation shows that it's men who wrote the Bible, obviously.

But who gave the inspiration? Mind? Spirit? That would be harder to prove or disprove. Our own languages are sequences of letters, MERE letters, yet on them rest the whole knowledge, the whole science.

Without a way of communicating knowledge, exchanging information, such as a human language, there is no science. There is only observation that can only watch but not catch anything, neither hold.

So, basically, these sequences of letters can transfer some meanings - deeper (more abstract), shallower (more physical and related to physical things).

The more deeper, abstract the language is, the more spiritual it can be. The more balanced between being abstract and understandable, the more scientific it is.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Blood-Russia-Mk2
Blood-Russia-Mk2 Nov 17 2010, 3:08am says:

OK, here I go...

I am going to rationally look at if it is beneficial to have English (in its current form in my country) as a mandatory subject until the last year of secondary school. I don't know how it works in other countries, so I won't comment on them; but here you need to do it even if you aren't doing it at a TEE (the pre-university exam) level; and you need to get a scaled score of 50% (which is about a low B/ High C) to get into any university.

It is advantageous in teaching the usage of the English Language and creating essay writing skills. However most of the language skills are taught prior to senior school, and essay/report writing skills (while important) are taught equally well by social science subjects, using real world events subject to less opinion based, more practical answers.

This means that after leaving primary school, and because Social Science subjects teach skills for essays and other report formats equally well, if not better; I conclude that English language studies shouldn't be mandatory until the end of secondary school, or be changed to be a more practical and useful subject.

Thoughts?

+2 votes     reply to comment
open_sketchbook
open_sketchbook Nov 17 2010, 3:42am replied:

That's an interesting idea indeed. Perhaps the english "mark" might be spread around the social studies courses and incorperated into required reading lists, with the literary analysis portion handled in a pre-existing social science class?

English class is not an "information heavy" course, so a regular class structure may not be nessesary, but considering how fast information falls out of teenaged brains it seems unwise not to keep it up in the background.

Do you have any idea about how you would test this proposal in a smaller scale to establish viability?

+3 votes     reply to comment
Blood-Russia-Mk2
Blood-Russia-Mk2 Nov 17 2010, 7:24am replied:

I was thinking of asking around here, maybe dropping a quick survey to some random people to see if I get anything suggesting my idea has any truth about it.

+2 votes     reply to comment
BluishGreenPro
BluishGreenPro Nov 17 2010, 5:47pm replied:

Indeed, there is little to "learn" in English beyond technical writing skill and what you mentioned.
Given that English is indeed a course that is "light" on content, what teachers at my school do is use the spare time for other purposes.
One way to learn is through observation, so if they really want to teach us, they should expose us to incrementally higher levels of English "media". Basically, we should be reading or watching media which uses words and expressions that come from a great variety of sources. I think a great goal for an English course is to produce students who don't think Lord of The Rings is "too long and boring". Or something of the like.
Basically, in art class we learn as much about art creation as art "appreciation", we learn what aspects of a work of art make it "art".
The same should be done with English, we should learn to appreciate what makes something well written, and badly written, from a technical perspective.
Sure, whether you like or dislike something is ultimately subjective, what you think based on your personal taste, you can at least learn to appreciate how difficult it is to make something on the technical side.
Another thing that English courses should be doing more of is, (in my opinion) debates. Pick a philosopher, any philosopher, and pick one of their ideas and let students debate it.
Maybe not a philosopher's idea, but something like the death penalty. There are a lot of concepts that it would be irresponsible for people to remain indecisive about, and in my personal experience, nothing can draw your true opinion out of you like hearing it discussed in a debate, especially by those who have already formed an opinion.
I think the world would be a lot better off if English classes were producing more free thinkers, the teacher should encourage this above all!We are human beings, and cannot let our lives be decided by anyone else, not our parents or our teachers, (anyone see Dead Poets Society?).
Thoughts on my thoughts?

+3 votes     reply to comment
CommanderDG
CommanderDG May 5 2011, 11:05pm replied:

Oh yes indeed. I agree with you more subtance and less blah blah, as one might say. This is which mostly composed my english class. A lot of worthless reading and little educational litterature. And it suppose to be pre-university level. For example, at the end of the year we must write an essay. Me, being ambitious, I written a research paper. Which is in the end, a longer and a better essay. My teacher did agree but she wasn't so thrilled about it though. Quote:"It was too long". Sadly,one more problem is the topics are more important than the quality of writting. To conclude, I agree with you they should allow a greater spectrum of ideas and deliver and teach more important notion than thing such as "an adaptation of shakepear's play Romeo and Juliet in the 20th century". Which in the long term is irrelevant to the vast majority of studdent exept the one that want to follow a graduate litterature course or something in that category. I think that vocabulary, expression, creativity and syntax are by far more important.

+1 vote     reply to comment
CommanderDG
CommanderDG May 5 2011, 11:10pm replied:

I believe, I have gone lightly off topic. Sorry about that.

+1 vote     reply to comment
BluishGreenPro
BluishGreenPro Nov 17 2010, 5:59pm says:

An idea of mine that I hold dear and that I must prove wrong... I can't think of one at the moment.
But I'd like to take this opportunity to perhaps expand a bit on what Sketch said.

"The unexamined life is not worth living" ~Socrates
Take a moment to think about that,...

What does it mean? It's open to interpretation, so here's one idea:
By examining our lives, learning from our mistakes, we can live better lives. Is not a scientific method of disproving hypotheses this in essence?
Let's look at another perspective. I'm sure you're all aware of "trial and error"? well here's something that you probably consider without even thinking of it:
In the process of trial and error, if you find an answer that doesn't work, do you ever try that again? No. You have proven that it doesn't work and therefore you don't need to test it again.
What about if you find something that does work? Do you try anything else? Probably not.
That works best if you are dealing with math, but in actuality, we use the concept of trial and error in every aspect of our lives.

Tying this back to the quote from Socrates;
How will you live if you do not examine life?
How can you learn how to do something if you do not try it?

If there is no trial, there is no error. And if there is no error, there is no learning. If there is no learning, there is ignorance. If there is ignorance, then life is not worth living.

Thoughts on my thoughts?

+2 votes     reply to comment
feillyne
feillyne Nov 18 2010, 2:34pm replied:

Hmmmm, if one answer doesn't work, but it doesn't work by itself, but because of a mistake/error/miscalculation of some sort on the part of the doer, the very person who did it?

Should that person desperately try to make it work, or should he rather try to see it from another perspective, or try to comprehend what actually happened and what went wrong?

Also, learning something without trying. Let's take poison. Would you try it if you absolutely knew it to be poisonous and harmful to you? But then somebody must be the first to discover it... either by his error or by dragging something or somebody to test it, for example, an animal.

+1 vote     reply to comment
BluishGreenPro
BluishGreenPro Nov 18 2010, 3:41pm replied:

You're right that my idea doesn't take into account the possibility of error, which I did consider, but I was running low on the character limit.

Also, in the example of poison you are right that you don't learn by your own experience, but you do learn from another person's (or animal's) experience right? If someone had not at one time taken the risk, ran the trial and made the error, then you would have no knowledge as to whether or not the berry was poisonous. It would also have taken someone's observation to see that animals do not eat poisonous things. It would also have taken someone's observation to find that there was such a thing as poison.
If you didn't know that poison existed, then would you ever have anything to fear when eating? (Other factors such as nutrition aside).
I hope you see what I mean.

+2 votes     reply to comment
feillyne
feillyne Nov 18 2010, 7:28pm replied:

Well, not only by somebody else's, but both your own and those of other people. Plus people who were before you, those who left truthful information.

Lies and false information is worthless. Still, one should discern between lies / false information and "information" that can't be directly verified - i.e. beliefs. You don't believe that a berry can be poisonous or not - you can only think/consider it not to be, because you can easily check it.
Beliefs concern rather more intangible matters.

Hmmm, you mean somebody didn't know about the poison, and took it without knowledge? Or didn't even think about / fear it?

That has something to do with awareness. Humans have that beautiful and fearful ability to reason and figure things out. So even contact with a poisonous substance (e.g. tasted with a tongue) can give them an idea what its nature and effect are.

There are many different methods to test everything. One doesn't necessarily need to swallow the whole thing to know or recognise it.

+1 vote     reply to comment
BluishGreenPro
BluishGreenPro Nov 19 2010, 3:21pm replied:

Certainly. The second you tasted something on your tongue that was poisonous your body would probably identify it as such, and send the appropriate signals to make you gag or cough so that you don't ingest the whole thing.

Man, this has certainly become quite a tangent from Sketch's original post...

+2 votes     reply to comment
BluishGreenPro
BluishGreenPro Nov 22 2010, 9:04pm says:

Well I've finally come across a belief of mine which I will now analyze.
I've realized that I seem to live my life in a very orderly and sheltered in fashion, rarely moving beyond my sphere of comfort. This has been okay because I've been rather good at expanding my sphere of comfort gradually, but I'm certainly not the type to do something completely new just for the heck of it, or even something that's just a bit too far outside the sphere.
This has worked for me because the past has been good to me, and so I am happy to live in it.
Reasons why this doesn't work? Like I said, I'm living in the past. I'm thinking back to old summers where none of my friends nor I had a job and we could play Super Smash Bros. Melee all day long. But as I live today, I've experienced the issues with not growing out of this. See, we all got summer jobs, and now we have precious little time to ourselves. Yet I still compare my life now with what it used to be, and I have found the comparison, to say the least, lacking.
So there, I'm admitting (perhaps not outright) that I was wrong to think this way, but that I've had clear issues with doing so. Only this is how I've structured my life so changing will likely be difficult.
(Just a note, I'm thinking as I write this and I actually FEEL different now than when I started writing. COOL!)
Also, the sameness which I so cling to causes all time to blend together; I remember grades 2-8 very distinctly and remember how long they felt. Grades 9-12 really felt like they went by much faster, because so many of my days were so similar to each other that they all melted together in my memory.
So take this little self-inspection as you will, perhaps examine your own life to make sure that you are not getting too attached to your sphere of comfort. I'll finish by saying this;
There have been a few times in my life where I've broken from my sphere of comfort, and I REMEMBER those times.

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