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.

For something to be right, there needs to be the possibility of it being wrong.

Posted by open_sketchbook on May 10th, 2011

You see it all the time.

"Well, you can't prove that god/angels/faeries/the soul/reptilian aliens aren't real, can you?"

Well, no, you can't. That's how you know they don't exist, after all.

Wait, what?

This is the concept of falsification. Basically, it works like this. An important test for the truth of something is if it can be proven wrong.

For example, the theory of gravity states that objects are attracted to each other based on their relative mass. This theory is easily falsifiable; if I dropped an object, and it shot up towards the moon instead of falling to Earth, clearly the theory of gravity has some problems. Theory falsified, back to the drawing board.

(Interestingly, this actually happened. The theory of relativity was made necessary because Mercury's orbit wasn't correct under Newtonian physics, which required a new theory that took into account more extreme situations. Newtonian gravity as a theory has actually been disproven, though relativity is basically Newtonian Gravity + Corollaries. Crazy, I know.)

People don't tend to start out making non-falsifiable statements, but when people cling to beliefs, they sometimes start to. An excellent and prevalent example is the "God of the Gaps" philosophy many religious people cling to. Essentially, these people claim that wherever there are gaps in scientific knowledge, that is the work of God. The thing is, these same people have been making that claim for hundreds of years. Back in the day, God was supposed to control everything.

- Sun rises in the morning? That's God doing that. Oh, looks like we have a round earth instead, so we don't need God controlling the sun.

- Fine! But God is the reason everything falls! Wait, nope, gravity. It's a natural process.

- Okay! But God is the reason you get sick, to punish you for sin! Germ theory? Dammit!

- Well, God is responsible for biological diversity! Evolution, eh?

- God is your conscious, and provides you with the soul that defines your individuality! Dualism has been disproven by study of brain architecture? Oh dear...

- Well, the universe was still made by God! Huh, what's the Big Bang?

- God keeps time going! Timeless decision theory?

And so on and so forth. The gaps keep getting smaller and smaller. There is less and less room for God. A rationalist would start to question why one should fill the gaps with God at all, considering He has a tendency to get expelled from those gaps within a few decades. They wonder why they can't just fill the gaps with a sign that says "We'll get to it eventually. Love, Science"

The thing is, people really, really hate being proved wrong. They will hold onto beliefs and justify themselves by taken contrary evidence as an attack. When that fails, they do something called Moving the Goalposts; that is, changing the rules so that their theory remains viable.

For example, I claim to have a supernatural creature in a small room. This is an easy enough claim to test because it is easily falsifiable; somebody goes over to the room, goes inside, looks to see if I have the creature, and fails to find it. I guess I was wrong. Theory rejected.

But I really want to belief that this creature exists, so I move the goalposts.

"Oh, it's invisible."

Why didn't the scientist hear it?

"It's in audible too."

Why didn't he bump into it?

"It's intangible, you passed right though.

If it's intangible, invisible, and inaudible, how do you know it's still in the room?

"You just have to have faith."

That comes off really dishonest, doesn't it? Fact is, there are people who not only accept that argument, but value it more than non-fallacious arguments, actually valuing the ability to put faith in the unprovable rather than having to deal with the truth of the improbable.

Don't be one of those people. Understand that there is no point to a test if you can't be wrong.

Post comment Comments
feillyne Staff Subscriber
feillyne May 11 2011 says:

1. God
a. A being conceived as the perfect, omnipotent, omniscient originator and ruler of the universe, the principal object of faith and worship in monotheistic religions.
b. The force, effect, or a manifestation or aspect of this being.
2. A being of supernatural powers or attributes, believed in and worshiped by a people, especially a male deity thought to control some part of nature or reality.
3. An image of a supernatural being; an idol.
4. One that is worshiped, idealized, or followed: Money was their god.
5. A very handsome man.
6. A powerful ruler or despot.
(Source: Thefreedictionary.com )

We are who we are = we are the presence = we are the God you're speaking of. Constantly expanding and learning, like a limited sphere with unlimited possibilities within. There's no God OUTSIDE - only within. A sum of all our knowledge, strength, intelligence, wisdom, love, even HATE (destructive force), awareness (and ignorance) is God. There's only one God.

Because there's only ONE "everybody".

So I can prove God and you can. Because we are who we are, we are present, we are the living information. You can't prove yourself? Of course you can, by simply being.... being present.

+5 votes   reply to comment
open_sketchbook Author
open_sketchbook May 11 2011 replied:

An interesting definition, but one that doesn't actually mean anything. Using the word God where Humanity will do just leads to confusion, misinterpretation, and mystical thinking. After all, most people still use the word God as definition a) the invisible sky daddy.

+5 votes   reply to comment
feillyne Staff Subscriber
feillyne May 11 2011 replied:

Yes, only the definition of "everybody" should less or more include all active beings and forces, including e.g. animals, microorganisms and planets, and excluding completely dead items (clothes, tools, wooden/golden symbols or blocks, rituals, etc.).

+3 votes   reply to comment
ferriswheel42 May 11 2011 says:

Falsification doesn't work in all contexts, though. Like in a trial: "The defense's testimony cannot be proven wrong, therefore the defense is guilty!" (or that the testimony is untrue). Generally, if a testimony cannot be proven wrong, it means that the person is *probably* telling the truth ("probably" because a story without holes is fishy, but not uncommon).
OR better yet: The perpetrator pleads guilty, all witnesses claim they saw the perpetrator commit the crime, INCLUDING the arresting officer. Since he cannot possibly be proven innocent, does that mean everyone is lying, and that the man did not actually commit the crime?

Also (side-note time!) I've seen (so-called) rationalists use the falsification statement after ignoring actual evidence (we're talking non-religious, Shakespearean literature debate contexts here). If one side of the argument presents fact (even if it is shaky), the other side cannot say "well, without that evidence, you cannot be proven wrong, so therefore your argument is wrong."

I think most people understand falsification, but I think it's often overused in contexts where it's either inappropriate or incorrectly used to jump to conclusions. I'm still under the impression that 90% of rationalists are morons who use "rationalism" to discriminate against people with opposing viewpoints (Sturgeon's Law, right?). It's like they're a religion or something...
I don't disagree with falsification, I just don't agree that it should be used in certain contexts (see above example).

+4 votes     reply to comment
Commander_RealWar May 11 2011 replied:

I agree with you, Chris. (Sketch, during one paradoxcast, you were wondering why I didn't like "Paul", here's my answer: It was downright discriminatory against non-Athiests, especially towards Christians.
Also, the "potty humor" was funny the first couple of times, but then it got real old, real fast.)

And just to make Sketch think a bit, what if "God" has "superposition"?

+2 votes     reply to comment
open_sketchbook Author
open_sketchbook May 11 2011 replied:

What if God is the interaction between two planar waveforms?

You gotta give me more to go on, dude. That statement is nonsensical. It's like saying "What if the invisible unicorn is actually pink?" Not only is there no evidence for the invisible unicorn, but it's pinkness doesn't make it more or less likely to exist.

+4 votes   reply to comment
feillyne Staff Subscriber
feillyne May 11 2011 replied:

You argue about invisibility, what about a temporary disappearance? Maybe there was a pink unicorn in the room, but it's busy at the moment somewhere else and it'll back in a few moments?

+3 votes   reply to comment
B7Biscuit Jan 19 2012 replied:

Now you've gone about thinking of "the invisible (and likely pink) unicorn" as a part of our universe, rather than its creator. In terms of, God, if he exists, (and I believe that he does) he isn't comprised of what we are or what we expect that he is: no carbon, no oxygen, no chemical bonds, no energy. Nor is he made of pure energy or some amorphous cloud - he is made of nothing. This is because he created everything, and you can't make something out of what you're making when what you're making has never been made before (the end cannot supercede the means).

Still, God made everything that exists out of something, and we found out what: carbon, oxygen, bonds, etc. But if we are supposed to be made in God's image, should he not also be made of these things? Well, if I am the only thing that exists, and I mean the only thing; not only no other people, but no planets, no universe, no energy, no forces - nothing but me, then I am infinitely powerful: I am unbound by things like gravity and EM energy and can create anything without limitation, reserve or cost. Furthermore, what I make doesn't change me, nor does it affect me, as it is all bound by my will, while I am bound by nothing.
"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." – Isaiah 55:9

Overall, God isn't bound by what we are; he exists above everything we understand (if he exists) and even what we're still trying to understand. He may even be beyond our comprehension - even if we find evidence of his existence, we may not be able to understand it.

[Sorry for the overall disorganization.]

+1 vote     reply to comment
open_sketchbook Author
open_sketchbook May 11 2011 replied:

Legalism has different rules (for a reason) which make falsification less valid; after all, the point is to "prove" a set of events occured, with limited evidence. This is why having a good lawyer matters so much in court cases, because they can basically take a hopeless case and run it through a gauntlet of logical fallicies to manipulate the jury.

The legal system. It has some problems.

Also, Sturgeon's Law indeed. Most rationalists don't even know what Bayesian Rationality actually is, and just think their secular worldview makes them better than everyone else. Anyone who would discard evidence as part of a rational argument is typically not arguing rationally.

+3 votes   reply to comment
Commander_RealWar May 11 2011 says:

The cake is a lie...

+2 votes     reply to comment
feillyne Staff Subscriber
feillyne May 11 2011 replied:

The cake never existed. It seems that there was an actual (existent) cookie that claimed to be the cake, though.

+3 votes   reply to comment
ferriswheel42 May 11 2011 replied:

Did you never beat Portal? There quite clearly was a cake. (Sorry for the spoiler, but this is like not knowing that Rosebud is Kane's sled, or that Luke is Darth Vader's son, or that Snape kills Dumbledore!)

+3 votes     reply to comment
open_sketchbook Author
open_sketchbook May 11 2011 replied:

There was cake, but it wasn't for you. Also, spoiling Citizen Kane is roughly on the same moral level as punching a baby. Please don't do it.

+3 votes   reply to comment
PsychoticLoner May 11 2011 says:

This is funny; I'm against a troll on an unrelated Youtube video who's sure that the world will end in 2012. His proof is that I'm a "***", and that it's my responsibility to disprove his theory. I just told him that I'd play by his rules; thus, dogs have fur, and since dogs have fur, the world won't end in 2012, and now HE has to disprove it. I fully expect him to move the goalposts.

+6 votes     reply to comment
feillyne Staff Subscriber
feillyne May 11 2011 replied:

First of all, "the world" is a funny term. What's that world? The Earth, our planet? Our solar system? The whole ******* universe? :-)

"The world" doesn't apply here, unless it's a "human" world - nations, borders, and great human or natural disasters occurring etc and thus influencing our "world" i.e. our affairs and daily life.
"An end of the world" as in the first or second WW.

So if "the world" as in regular human affairs and the ******* religions (such as Catholicism) and similar ending in 2012, yes, it's very probable.

There's no evidence for it.

Only predictions, such as Malachy's one about the end of the papacy (and thus one of the largest pseudo-Christian religions), the one below is a fragment about the last person managing the (un)Holy See when Ratzinger is assassinated or abolished:

"In the last persecution of the Holy Roman Church, Peter the Roman will hold the see (lit. "sit"),
who will pasture his sheep in many tribulations:
and when these things are finished, the city of seven hills will be destroyed,
and the terrible judge will judge his people.
The End."

which translates directly into:

"In the last avengement of millions murdered and tortured by the Unholy Roman Church, a person nicknamed Peter the Roman will manage the Vatican,
who will pasture his sheeple in many tribulations:
and when these things are finished, Rome will be destroyed,
and the terrible judge will judge people that claimed to be his.
The end - the end of papacy."

0 votes   reply to comment
open_sketchbook Author
open_sketchbook May 11 2011 replied:

Yo, be careful with that tactic. Though turning a fallacy around can be a powerful tool, you run the risk of looking little better than your opponent. Try to avoid being the one making the extraordinary claim, basically, lest you be called out.

+2 votes   reply to comment
feillyne Staff Subscriber
feillyne May 11 2011 replied:

In any kind of experiment everything (along with definitions and terms) should be explained with no allowance for a move of goalposts.

Just like in that bet - assassination of Ratzinger without any official successor, not a mere abolishment. It's either condition fulfilled or unfulfilled.

+1 vote   reply to comment
PsychoticLoner May 12 2011 replied:

If anyone calls me out for using an obvious tactic on an obvious troll, than that person is also a troll. Especially since that means said person sat and watched while the troll whined and cringed, but only acted once I got into the action.

+2 votes     reply to comment
feillyne Staff Subscriber
feillyne May 11 2011 says:

BTW, what if there were already thousands of Big Bangs and we're just long after one of them?

+1 vote   reply to comment
CommanderDG May 11 2011 says:

Hmmm what about existence. Yours, mine or whatever. You see, from my perpective all this could be a simulation and thus the only assumption I can make out of this is; I am alive. All the rest are a possibility. Can you falsified that? And maybe "physical" or concrete object can be falsified but not a concept which is independent of your observation. Something like 1+1=2 can't be falsified. Does it make it untrue? Although, I agree with your perception of god.

+2 votes     reply to comment
BluishGreenPro May 11 2011 says:

I'm not afraid of being wrong, and I'd love to learn more about rationality. Right now, I believe in the existence of a soul, God, and I am technically Catholic (by upbringing, not practice).
Because of the aforementioned Catholic upbringing, I have heard things like St. Thomas Aquinas' "first mover" argument for the existence of God. (Since nothing gives what it hasn't got, there must have been some first cause that caused all other things). On a personal level, I accept that this first cause was God (as I understand God) due to personal experience. (I believe you would call this a "leap of faith")
But I wouldn't mind being proven wrong about any of these things. No need to be harsh, don't shatter my paradigm, guide me out of it if you are determined to do so.

+2 votes     reply to comment
Battle8111 Subscriber Online
Battle8111 May 11 2011 says:

ok, aliens are real, it just us government cover up, :)

+2 votes     reply to comment
feillyne Staff Subscriber
feillyne May 11 2011 replied:

They are fictional and false or perhaps they are just like science fiction that is yet to become and be proven real.

There were many testimonies of British police officers and other public servants that they saw a spaceship or other unspecified flying object in proximity. First, they are people who are supposed to be 1) highly responsible, 2) give accounts and report the reality (facts) exactly as they are (be reliable).

However, they may have been lying or were sober. Still, why are there so many reports of them? To complicate it further, these objects are supposed to be moving and at high speeds, and controlled by intelligent beings that may like to avoid detection, and appear very rarely. Comparing it to pink unicorns is out of place, especially taking into the consideration the level of the current (our own) technology and its possible future development.

Ufos.nationalarchives.gov.uk (various docs along with hoaxes or seemingly hoaxes)

+1 vote   reply to comment
feillyne Staff Subscriber
feillyne May 12 2011 says:

Anyway, damn, regarding "reptilian aliens", have you heard about such organisms as dinosaurs? No?

So I suggest you to check them out. They also are said to be real?

So what's the probability factor for a bit smaller two-legged lizards existing in the nature? Zero? Really? On what basis?

+1 vote   reply to comment
Galgus May 14 2011 says:

I agree that there has been too much of a rush to claim certain "gaps" mean God had to do it- but saying that God will fill all the gaps takes equally as much faith as saying that science will.

To me the the complexity of nature as well as the numerous factors required to be as they are for life to exist point to, but do not prove the existence of a god.

Some things as of now cannot be proven wrong or right by science. Does this mean that they are wrong? No.

Does it prove them right? Not that either- its just beyond science as of now.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Post a Comment
click to sign in

You are not logged in, your comment will be anonymous unless you join the community today (totally free - or sign in with your social account on the right) which we encourage all contributors to do.

2000 characters limit; HTML formatting and smileys are not supported - text only

Nov 2, 2010
Open to all members
Send Message
Join this group
Group Watch
Track this group
Post news
Report Abuse
Report article
Related Groups
Rationalists of Moddb
Rationalists of Moddb Educational with 25 members