[ExI] Beliefs (was: , Re: extropy-chat Digest, Vol 199, Issue 86)

William Flynn Wallace foozler83 at gmail.com
Sun Apr 26 15:37:50 UTC 2020

 And, to become something good and useful, religion would have to transform
so radically that to continue to use the word 'religion' for it would be
misleading to say the least.  Ben

I am going to stay out of this one except for this quote from you:  there
are plenty of religions that do good in observable ways.  One of them is
the Salvation ARmy.  They often beat the Red Cross to disasters.  They are
a good example of people putting their faith into actions.  They do not try
to gain supporters from the people they are helping - they just help with
food, shelter, linens etc.

Granted:  they are exceptions, but I do know of local churches that serve
food to the homeless.    bill w

On Sun, Apr 26, 2020 at 5:39 AM Ben Zaiboc via extropy-chat <
extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:

> On 26/04/2020 08:42, Jason Resch wrote:
> The above seems to equate belief with blind faith (a belief based on no
> evidence). I disagree with that equivalence.
> Do you not think it's important (if not essential) to be able to
> distinguish between the meanings of "I believe in God" and "I believe it
> will rain this afternoon"? Nobody expects that someone who's said the
> latter will insist that it really is raining when no rain appears in the
> afternoon, that the rain is invisible, undetectable, but nevertheless
> really there, etc.
> Personally, I try to avoid the word 'believe' unless it clearly means
> 'think' from the context (as in the rain example above), and even then I
> prefer not to use it, because it's far too easy to confuse the two
> meanings. The classic example is the arguments people get into about
> atheism. Atheists do not believe in the existence of gods. But if you're
> not careful, and use the word belief in the 'weak' sense, the statement
> 'Atheists think that gods don't exist' (which is generally true) can become
> 'Atheists believe that gods don't exist', which is not the case, at least
> for most atheists, as previously discussed on this list.
> If I think something, that's just my opinion, which is subject to
> revision. If I use the word 'believe', its far too easily (in many cases),
> interpreted as the 'strong' version of the word, the blind faith version.
> This is why I'm so insistent on challenging people when they say 'Atheists
> believe there are no gods'. They may *mean* 'Atheists think there are no
> gods', but that's not what they're saying. Especially as we're talking
> about gods, the word 'believe' is almost certain to be taken the same way
> as religious people mean it when they say they do believe, rather than the
> way someone means it when they say 'I don't believe it will rain this
> aftenoon'.
> I think that magic is not real. I do not *believe* that magic is not
> real. It's not that I think there's a likelihood that it is, but if
> sufficient good evidence was presented that it is, I would change my mind.
> You say you disagree with the equivalence of 'belief' with 'blind faith'.
> Then you need to persuade religous believers to stop using the word, and
> refer to their blind faith in gods, etc., instead of belief.
> Otherwise, the equivalence is a fact.
> When you say "we all have beliefs", you are saying "we all have blind
> faiths", unless you qualify it to mean "we all think certain things are
> true".
> Jason: "Why are you a transhumanist (forgive me if this assumption is
> incorrect, I am assuming you are as you are active on this list)?
> Does transhumanism not for some of us provide hope of a brighter future?
> Perhaps in the past this role was served by such promises found in
> religious texts--especially if you consider living in an era where people
> saw little to no technological or cultural progress in their lifetime."
> Indeed I am a transhumanist. Yes, it does provide hope of a brighter
> future. Whether or not the same hope has anything to do with religion, I
> don't care. If it's true, that doesn't have any bearing at all on the
> validity or truth of religious texts, or any religious opinions.
> The reason I am a transhumanist is because it specifies that the
> improvement in the human condition is to be achieved via the rational
> application of science and technology, which in my experience, works, and
> not via superstitious means (magic, religion, wishful thinking, etc.),
> which in my experience, doesn't work.
> Jason: "Perhaps you can only see religion as it is and not for what it
> can be"
> I can certainly imagine religion transforming into something that it isn't
> today. People can imagine all sorts of things. I don't think that confusing
> what something could potentially be for what it actually is in the present,
> is very helpful, though. And, to become something good and useful, religion
> would have to transform so radically that to continue to use the word
> 'religion' for it would be misleading to say the least.
> Jason: "is it possible to apply science to ideas normally considered the
> exclusive domain of religion?"
> You have to be careful here. Science can only be applied to things that
> are falsifiable. Many things that are the domain of religion are not. But
> science has been applied to several things that are claimed by various
> religions (search for 'Does prayer work?', for instance), and found them to
> be false. Not that this deters any religious people, as they usually just
> squirm their way to an interpretation of their claims that can't be
> falsified.
> Jason: "Did I cherry pick?"
> Yes.
> You selected quotes from the large body of literature available from the
> religion in question that related to the relevant idea. But your claim was
> that these ideas are 'core themes'. I could claim that a core theme of
> entomology is interference patterns, and quote research on the colours of
> butterfly wings. I won't convince anybody, though.
> I don't know much about Hinduism, and maybe hindus aren't concerned about
> their gods rewards and punishments, perhaps there aren't any, in which
> case, good for them. I can't help wondering, though, where all those taboos
> come from. If someone eats a cow, what will (supposedly) happen? What's so
> bad about feet, or menstruation?
> Jason: "We all hold fundamental beliefs concerning reality"
> If you replace the word 'beliefs' with 'ideas', then I agree. In fact,
> things would be a lot clearer if, everywhere the word 'belief' was used, it
> was replaced with 'idea', and 'believe' was replaced with 'think', with
> appropriate qualifiers to distinguish between blind faith and rational
> thought.
> It seems that by 'religious belief', you mean 'world-view'. Use that term,
> and I'd agree that this encompasses atheism. Again, using the term
> 'religious belief' instead just causes confusion and resentment (and gives
> religious apologists ammunition).
> Jason: "What if we do find evidence for or against any of those
> fundamental concepts which today you call religious? Then, given that we
> now have evidence, such beliefs (under your definition) would no longer be
> religious beliefs"
> Correct.
> You've heard of 'the god of the gaps', haven't you?
> As soon as something mysterious is shown to have a rational explanation,
> there's no longer a need for the 'goddiddit' explanation any more. Nobody
> thinks that Thor or Zeus is the cause of lightning bolts anymore, because
> we now know how they really work.
> But maybe you mean something different when you say 'fundamental
> concepts'. The key question is: Are they falsifiable? If so, they can be
> disproved, and fall out of the realm of religion (there's no longer any
> need to 'believe' them (blind-faith version), they have been demonstrated
> to be true or false), but if not, science can't address them. Which usually
> means they aren't real, but anyway, they remain in the magical realm of the
> gods.
> The simulation argument is not a religious concept. It's a
> thought-experiment that, as far as we know, can't be proven. So, while it
> is (probably) unfalsifiable, neither is it a subject of blind faith. The
> people who think it's probably true, just assign a high probability to it,
> those who think it's probably false, don't. And there are plenty of people
> who think it's irrelevant anyway, so don't worry about it at all. The
> difference between a simulator and a god is clear, though. One is logically
> consistent with the laws of physics, the other is supernatural.
> Jason: "In what category would mathematical beliefs, such as the belief
> that "1 + 1 = 2" fall into? Are true mathematical beliefs falsifiable,
> subject to revision, eternally true?"
> I don't know the full answer to that, I'm not  a mathematician. But there
> are no such things as 'mathematical beliefs'. There are Axioms. Things that
> are held to be true because other things depend on them. 1 + 1 = 2 is not a
> belief. You don't have to have blind faith in it, you can prove it. There
> are other systems of mathematics with other axioms, I think. I don't know
> anything about them, so someone who actually knows maths might want to
> comment on that, but my understanding is that maths is an (approximately)
> self-contained logical system. Gödel shows that this is not quite true, of
> course, but I'm way out of my depth there.
> I think you're just asking the wrong question, here, to be honest.
> Jason: "Given the evidence and examples I provided regarding the
> scientific theory of the mechanistic description of the mind, have you
> changed your own opinion regarding the physical possibility of
> reincarnation, resurrection, and the continuance of a mind beyond the death
> of one of its bodies?"
> I think you misunderstand my position. I'm a materialist, and fully accept
> the 'mechanistic description of the mind'. I think that uploading,
> diverging identity, mind backups and possibly even merging of different
> versions of a mind are all theoretically possible, and have done for a long
> time.
> There's one important thing about materialism: It excludes the
> supernatural.
> I don't use the terms 'reincarnation', 'resurrection' etc., because these
> are words that come from the world of magical religious thinking (the
> supernatural), and give completely the wrong impression. There's a huge
> difference between saying "I believe in reincarnation" and "I think that
> uploading is theoretically possible".
> --
> Ben Zaiboc
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