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Member since: Mon Oct 17, 2005, 03:08 PM
Number of posts: 12,231

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Strong Evidence and Strong Convictions

When you begin searching for evidence, how strong is your conviction that it exists and can be found? If you had a strong belief that it cannot be found, then you might be motivated to search if your search were so complete as to itself demonstrate, by failing to find anything, that the evidence doesn't exist. However, if the search process could not itself provide evidence of non-existence, and you had a strong conviction that the evidence being sought cannot be found, then you probably wouldn't be motivated to search.

If all others abandon the search because they weighed the evidence accumulated so far, and they calculated the odds that anything was missed, but you persist, then are you making a mistake?

Perhaps you have insight into subtle qualitative features of reality that aren't captured in the columns of any accounting spreadsheet. If you are ultimately vindicated, then what can we conclude? The evidence that you eventually found is strong evidence, but how can you explain what motivated you to keep looking when everybody else abandoned the search? Obviously you didn't have strong evidence before you had strong evidence!

You had some kind of strong hunch, strong insight, or strong intuition. However, the strength of it isn't something that others can measure. Also, no matter how strong it is, it could be a mistake.

The strength of your convictions isn't something that you can consciously control. If you could control it, then you would be at great risk of self-deception, and isn't that the hazard that you are trying to protect yourself from? Don't you imagine a scenario of believing what is false, and try to prevent that scenario from arising? Isn't that what your focus on evidence is all about?

If your goal is to avoid deceiving yourself, then I encourage you to continue to pursue that goal. There is no substitute for that goal. So, don't accept any substitute! In particular, don't put too much trust in your "strength of conviction should be based on the strength of the evidence" slogan. That slogan cannot in practice be applied because you cannot consciously control the strength of your convictions. The slogan sounds very persuasive, but it cannot replace your dedication to pursuing the truth. How could it?

Non-Partisan Political Parties: Already Exist or Logically Impossible?

Suppose that somebody who has been elected in the past as a Republican is considering ending association with the Republican Party. Maybe that person is not yet comfortable with the idea of running under the Democratic Party, or maybe that person has not yet earned the trust of influential people within the Democratic Party or ordinary people who usually vote for the Democratic Party.

Jumping ship from the Republican Party would in many cases mean almost certain failure to win an election if there are any opponents who are either personally wealthy or connected with a political party.

A non-partisan political party could have the following purposes:

1. Help members get elected.
2. Provide information to people who are contemplating pursuing a political career.
3. Set minimum standards for clarity of communications about policy, and for validity of reasoning relied upon in communications, while not otherwise getting involved in controversies about policy. In other words, there would be communication policies, but otherwise the organization itself wouldn't be at risk of any kind of ideological conflict with any of its members, because the organization wouldn't itself have political policy stances.
4. Maintain a database of questions from the general public that were sent to the non-partisan party for it to pose to members, and pose a past question again if the member to whom the question was directed hasn't replied within the member's own chosen time limits.

Is it essential or non-essential ...

to prevent or discontinue high levels of physical pain experienced by people?

If it's essential, then humanitarian organizations shouldn't waste any money on what is clearly a government responsibility. Imagine spending money to organize a non-governmental rally against torture. You're just making it easier for governments to evade their responsibility to organize those rallies against torture. The right thing to do is to sit back and wait. Eventually governments will get around to ceasing to torture.

If it isn't essential, then charities can raise money to pay for anaesthetics used in hospital emergency rooms. That would be good for the morale of people who operate charities. They will feel that what they are doing is more important than making a museum available for people to visit. Not having a museum in your community is less traumatic than undergoing surgery while you are wide awake.

Part of Reality Cannot be Perceived

It can, however, be conceived.

Science is built of facts the way a house is built of bricks; but an accumulation of facts is no more science than a pile of bricks is a house.
- Henri Poincare

We can make an analogy: grasping is like perceiving. You can say that grasping an idea is like perceiving light or sound. However, it's no more than an analogy. Ideas are neither physical objects nor perceptions of physical objects. Ideas occupy their own realm. So the claim that only what can be perceived is real is self-defeating for people who value science.

Saying that ideas are nothing but electro-chemical processes in human brains isn't a way out. If you say that, then you're going way beyond the old notion of the universe merely physically revolving around the Earth. When alien mathematicians in other galaxies have occasion to refer to the number 3.141592..., they aren't considering the simple idea of a circle that naive people think is available to almost any intelligent being in the universe. No, there aren't any ideas. Those aliens are studying the electro-chemical processes in human brains. We the people of the planet Earth pwn the realm of ideas. All your pi are belong to us.

Is the belief that Texas is warmer than Alaska innate or a product of social conditioning?

I don't think that it's innate. There are probably a lot of illiterate people in Sierra Leone who spend their whole lives without knowing where Texas is, without knowing where Alaska is, and without having any opinion about their relative temperatures.

We can conclude that the belief is a product of social conditioning. If we change the conditioning then we can change the belief. The only reason that people in Alaska are spending a lot of money on heating, blankets, and such things is that they believe that it's cold there. All we have to do is revise their social conditioning and they could save a lot of money.

Could Creationism Help Bring an End to Global Warming?

The impact that human beings have on the world is enormous. To understand that impact, it's enough to understand two things: what human beings want and what they do in an effort to obtain what they want. Fortunately, human beings are rational, so what they want is very simple: more money. It's more difficult to understand what people do. If they saw the world as it really is, then they would simply make the choices that will bring them closer to achieving their goal. To understand their actual choices, you need to know about the gap between the world as they see it and the world as it really is. That human beings have misconceptions is an actual fact about the world, and a very important fact about the world. To understand the world, you need to understand those misconceptions.

We can think of the world as consisting of two envelopes. The first envelope contains the slip of a paper with a number on it. The second envelope contains a slip of paper with a number that is our best guess of the number in the first envelope. Long ago, we tried to make a good guess, but we were cold. As human beings make progress in better understanding the world, the guess in the second envelope gets warmer and warmer. Evidently, this progress is causing global warming. A step backwards to mythic conceptions of biology could help reverse the trend, and put a stop to global warming.

Politics is a popularity contest, and the losers might have something positive to contribute

There's a House of Representatives and a Senate. That's two spaces. Why not add a third space? I mean a space for people who, like most people who vote and like most people who serve on juries, haven't won any election.

Election finance law could specify that, unless a donor specifies otherwise, some of the donated money can be transferred to the third space to pay a salary to a candidate who didn't win and who nevertheless wants to make a political contribution (starting immediately after losing an election) such as by assisting ordinary people who don't know how to communicate with their official, elected representatives.

How many businesses have an opportunity to hire people who previously did enough fundraising to cover the cost of their own wages for the next several years, so that the employer doesn't have any payroll expense? I think that this would be a good deal for taxpayers. What do you think?

How much peer review are we talking about?

Your criterion seems to make the meaning of the concept "science" depend on sociological events, but the sociological events depend upon specific people.

If it takes a hundred years after a paper is first distributed to reviewers before the paper can achieve peer-reviewed status, and if the reviewers belong to a diverse spectrum of cultures, philosophies, ideologies, political views, etc, then your criterion might be okay.

However, what if a paper simply accords with a short-lived fad that lasts for a couple of years, or appeals to the biases of some narrow dogma or ideology (such as Behaviorism, which had institutional influence for more than a few years)?

When will the people who are involved in the occupy movement be satisfied?

We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of laws against financial activities that are profitable in the short-term, but endanger the whole economy in the long-term, "When will you be satisfied?"

We can never be satisfied as long as occupy movement people are the victims of unspeakable police brutality. We can never be satisfied when billions of dollars are paid in bonuses in one year to people who make decisions at investment banks that would have fallen like dominoes if there had been no government bailout. We can never be satisfied as long as the financial activities that created the financial crisis of 2008, and the economic crisis of today, remain legal.

Note: some elements of style were borrowed from this speech:

"If the company gets in trouble ..."

A company continues to make interest payments associated with any loans from a bank, unless the company can continue to operate after the bank repossesses collateral. Perhaps workers could use their own money to make loans, with the company providing collateral consisting of equipment that the workers can seize using the same procedures that a bank would use to seize the same equipment. The important innovation would be giving workers a right of first refusal to make the loan before the company is permitted to get the loan from a bank or from a potential investor in bonds.

Perhaps this seems to be a solution in the absence of any problem. However, if there were deflation as there was during the Great Depression, then unionized workers might experience an effect as though their wages were rising. It's not clear what is the basis for the entitlement to receive what are in effect rising wages while others remain unemployed and legally barred from offering to compete with the unionized workers by working at wages that are constant in real terms. If you have in mind any strategies for reaching the desired conclusion (that unionized workers earned everything they have and are entitled to all of their privileges), then I would like to know what those strategies are. If similar strategies could be used to provide rhetorical support for various dogmas of social darwinism, then it would be interesting to investigate exactly where and how the rhetorical support fails to be sound logical support.

In my proposal, unionized workers would be helping to finance the creation of their own jobs, and would be taking the same kind of risk that banks take, with the associated entitlement to seize collateral if the terms of the loan aren't fulfilled by the debtor.
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