Tag: Skepticism (home)

If only God would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit in my name at a Swiss bank.

permalink source: Woody Allen, "Without Feathers"
tags: Apologetics, Atheism, Skepticism

What if everything is an illusion and nothing exists? In that case, I definitely overpaid for my carpet.

permalink source: Woody Allen, "Without Feathers"
tags: Skepticism

Mythology, n.: The body of a primitive people's beliefs concerning its origin, early history, heroes, deities and so forth, as distinguished from the true accounts which it invents later.

permalink source: Ambrose Bierce, "The Devil's Dictionary"
tags: Skepticism, History

Legend, n.: A lie that has attained the dignity of age.

permalink source: H. L. Mencken
tags: Humor, Skepticism, Lying

Skepticism, like chastity, should not be relinquished too readily.

permalink source: George Santayana
tags: Skepticism, Wisdom

Every person who has mastered a profession is a skeptic concerning it.

permalink source: George Bernard Shaw
tags: Skepticism, Success

FROM CHAPTER ONE From Minister to Agnostic Some five hundred miles north of where Billy Graham was staging his Indianapolis campaign, I tracked [John] Templeton to a modern high-rise building in a middle-class neighborhood of Toronto. Taking the elevator to the 25th floor, I went to a door marked "Penthouse" and used the brass knocker. Under my arm I carried a copy of his latest book, whose title leaves no ambiguity concerning his spiritual perspective. It's called Farewell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith. The often-acerbic tome seeks to eviscerate Christian beliefs, attacking them with passion for being "outdated, demonstrably untrue, and often, in their various manifestations, deleterious to individuals and to society." Templeton draws upon a variety of illustrations as he strives to undermine faith in the God of the Bible. But I was especially struck by one moving passage in which he pointed to the horrors of Alzheimer's disease, describing in gripping detail the way it hideously strips people of their personal identity by rotting their mind and memory. How, he demanded, could a compassionate God allow such a ghastly illness to torture its victims and their loved ones? The answer, he concluded, is simple: Alzheimer's would not exist if there were a loving God. And because it does exist, that's one more bit of persuasive evidence that God does not. For someone like me, whose wife's family has endured the ugly ravages of Alzheimer's, it was an argument that carried emotional punch. I wasn't sure what to expect as I waited at his doorstep. Would he be as combative as he was in his book? Would he be bitter toward Billy Graham? Would he even go through with our interview? When he had consented in a brief telephone conversation two days earlier, he had said vaguely that his health was not good. Madeleine Templeton, fresh from tending flowers in her rooftop garden, opened the door and greeted me warmly. "I know you've come all the way from Chicago," she said, "but Charles is very sick, I'm sorry to say." "I could come back another time," I offered. "Well, let's see how he's feeling," she said. She led me up a red-carpeted staircase into their luxury apartment, two large and frisky poodles at her heels. "He's been sleeping . . . ." At that moment, her eighty-three-year-old husband emerged from his bedroom. He was wearing a dark brown, light-weight robe over similarly colored pajamas. Black slippers were on his feet. His thinning gray hair was a bit disheveled. He was gaunt and pale, although his blue-gray eyes appeared alert and expressive. He politely extended his hand to be shaken. "Please excuse me," he said, clearing his throat, "but I'm not well." Then he added matter-of-factly: "Actually, I'm dying." "What's wrong?" I asked. His answer almost knocked me on my heels. "Alzheimer's disease," he replied. My mind raced to what he'd written about Alzheimer's being evidence for the non-existence of God; suddenly, I felt like I had an insight into at least some of the motivation for his book. "I've had it . . . let's see, has it been three years?" he said, furrowing his brow and turning to his wife for help. "That's right, isn't it, Madeleine?" She nodded. "Yes, dear, three years." "My memory isn't what it was," he said. "And, as you may know, Alzheimer's is always fatal. Always. It sounds melodramatic, but the truth is I'm doomed. Sooner or later, it will kill me. But first, it will take my mind." He smiled wanely. "It's already started, I'm afraid. Madeleine can attest to that." "Look, I'm sorry to intrude," I said. "If you're not feeling up to this . . . ." But Templeton insisted. He ushered me into the living room, brightly decorated in a contemporary style and awash in afternoon sunshine pouring through glass doors that offered a breath-taking panoramic view of the city. We sat on adjacent cushioned chairs, and in a matter of minutes Templeton seemed to have mustered fresh energy. "I suppose you want me to explain how I went from the ministry to agnosticism," he said. With that, he proceeded to describe the events that led to the shedding of his faith in God. That was what I had expected. But I could never have anticipated how our conversation would end. The Photograph That Changed a Life Templeton was fully engaged now. Occasionally, I could see evidence of his Alzheimer's, such as when he was unable to recall a precise sequence of events or when he'd repeat himself. But for the most part he spoke with eloquence and enthusiasm, using an impressive vocabulary, his rich and robust voice raising and lowering for emphasis. He had an aristocratic tone that sounded nearly theatrical at times. "Was there one thing in particular that caused you to lose your faith in God?" I asked at the outset. He thought for a moment. "It was a photograph in Life magazine," he said finally. "Really?" I said. "A photograph? How so?" He narrowed his eyes a bit and looked off to the side, as if he were viewing the photo afresh and reliving the moment. "It was a picture of a black woman in Northern Africa," he explained. "They were experiencing a devastating drought. And she was holding her dead baby in her arms and looking up to heaven with the most forlorn expression. I looked at it and I thought, 'Is it possible to believe that there is a loving or caring Creator when all this woman needed was rain?'" As he emphasized the word rain, his bushy gray eyebrows shot up and his arms gestured toward heaven as if beckoning for a response. "How could a loving God do this to that woman?" he implored as he got more animated, moving to the edge of his chair. "Who runs the rain? I don't; you don't. He does - or that's what I thought. But when I saw that photograph, I immediately knew it is not possible for this to happen and for there to be a loving God. There was no way. Who else but a fiend could destroy a baby and virtually kill its mother with agony - when all that was needed was rain?" He paused, letting the question hang heavily in the air. Then he settled back into his chair. "That was the climactic moment," he said. "And then I began to think further about the world being the creation of God. I started considering the plagues that sweep across parts of the planet and indiscriminately kill - more often than not, painfully - all kinds of people, the ordinary, the decent, and the rotten. And it just became crystal clear to me that it is not possible for an intelligent person to believe that there is a deity who loves." Templeton was tapping into an issue that had vexed me for years. In my career as a newspaper reporter, I hadn't merely seen photos of intense suffering; I was a frequent first-hand observer of the underbelly of life where tragedy and suffering festered - the rotting inner cities of the United States, the filthy slums of India, Cook County Jail and the major penitentiaries, the hospice wards for the hopeless, disaster sites. More than once, my mind reeled at trying to reconcile the idea of a loving God with the depravity and heartache and anguish before my eyes. But Templeton wasn't done. "My mind then went to the whole concept of hell. My goodness," he said, his voice rising in astonishment, "I couldn't hold someone's hand to a fire for a moment. Not an instant! How could a loving God, just because you don't obey him and do what he wants, torture you forever - not allowing you to die, but to continue in that pain for eternity? There is no criminal who would do this!" "So these were the first doubts you had?" I asked. "Prior to that, I had been having more and more questions about things like, for instance, unanswered prayer. I had preached to hundreds of thousands of people the antithetical message, and then I found to my dismay that I could no longer believe it. To believe it would be to deny the brain I had been given. It became quite clear that I had been wrong. So I made up my mind that I would leave the ministry. That's essentially how I came to be agnostic." "Define what you mean by that," I said, since various people have offered different interpretations of that term. "The atheist says there is no God," he replied. "The Christian and Jew say there is a God. The agnostic says, 'I cannot know.' Not do not know, but cannot know. I never would presume to say flatly that there is no God. I don't know everything; I'm not the embodiment of wisdom. But it is not possible for me to believe in God." I hesitated to ask the next question. "As you get older," I began in a tentative tone, "and you're facing a disease that's always fatal, do you - " "Worry about being wrong?" he interjected. He smiled. "No, I don't." "Why not?" "Because I have spent a lifetime thinking about it. If this were a simplistic conclusion reached on a whim, that would be different. But it's impossible for me - impossible - to believe that there is any thing, or person, or being that could be described as a loving God who could allow what happens in our world daily." "Would you like to believe?" I asked. "Of course!" he exclaimed. "If I could, I would. I'm eighty-three years old. I've got Alzheimer's. I'm dying, for goodness sake. But I've spent my life thinking about it and I'm not going to change now. Hypothetically, if someone came up to me and said, 'Look, old boy, the reason you're ill is God's punishment for your refusal to continue on the path your feet were set in' - would that make any difference to me?" He answered himself emphatically: "No," he declared. "No. There cannot be, in our world, a loving God." He locked eyes with mine. "Cannot be." The illusion of faith Templeton ran his fingers through his hair. He had been talking in adamant tones, and I could tell he was beginning to tire. I wanted to be sensitive to his condition, but I had a few other questions I wanted to pursue. With his permission, I continued. "As we're talking, Billy Graham is in the midst of a series of rallies in Indiana," I told Templeton. "What would you say to the people who've stepped forward to put their faith in Christ?" Templeton's eyes got wide. "Why, I wouldn't interfere in their lives at all," he replied. "If a person has faith and it makes them a better individual, then I'm all for that - even if I think they're nuts. Having been a Christian, I know how important it is to people's lives - how it alters their decisions, how it helps them deal with difficult problems. For most people, it's a boon beyond description. But is it because there is a God? No, it's not." Templeton's voice carried no condescension, and yet the implications of what he was saying were thoroughly patronizing. Is that what faith is all about - fooling yourself into becoming a better person? Convincing yourself there's a God so that you'll become motivated to ratchet up your morality a notch or two? Embracing a fairy tale so you'll sleep better at night? No, thank you, I thought to myself. If that's faith, I wasn't interested. "What about Billy Graham himself?" I asked. "You said in your book that you feel sorry for him." "Oh, no, no," he insisted, contrary to his writings. "Who am I to feel sorry for what another man believes? I may regret it on his behalf, if I may put it that way, because he has closed his mind to reality. But would I wish him ill? Not for anything at all!" Templeton glanced over to an adjacent glass coffee table, where Billy Graham's autobiography was sitting. "Billy is pure gold," he remarked fondly. "There's no feigning or fakery in him. He's a first-rate human being. Billy is profoundly Christian - he's the genuine goods, as they say. He's not very bright, but he is what he seems to be. He sincerely believes - unquestionably. He is as wholesome and faithful as anyone can be." And what about Jesus? I wanted to know what Templeton thought of the cornerstone of Christianity. "Do you believe Jesus ever lived?" I asked. "No question," came the quick reply. "Did he think he was God?" He shook his head. "That would have been the last thought that would have entered his mind." "And his teaching - did you admire what he taught?" "Well, he wasn't a very good preacher. What he said was too simple. He hadn't thought about it. He hadn't agonized over the biggest question there is to ask." "Which is . . ." "Is there a God? How could anyone believe in a God who does, or allows, what goes on in the world?" "And so how do you assess this Jesus?" It seemed like the next logical question - but I wasn't ready for the response it would evoke. The allure of Jesus Templeton's body language softened. It was as if he suddenly felt relaxed and comfortable in talking about an old and dear friend. His voice, which at times had displayed such a sharp and insistent edge, now took on a melancholy and reflective tone. His guard seemingly down, he spoke in an unhurried pace, almost nostalgically, carefully choosing his words as he talked about Jesus. "He was," Templeton began, "the greatest human being who has ever lived. He was a moral genius. His ethical sense was unique. He was the intrinsically wisest person that I've ever encountered in my life or in my readings. His commitment was total and led to his own death, much to the detriment of the world. What could one say about him except that this was a form of greatness?" I was taken aback. "You sound like you really care about him," I said. "Well, yes, he's the most important thing in my life," came his reply. "I . . . I . . . I," he stuttered, searching for the right word, "I know it may sound strange, but I have to say. . . I adore him." I wasn't sure how to respond. "You say that with some emotion," I said. "Well, yes. Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus. Yes . . . yes. And tough! Just look at Jesus. He castigated people. He was angry. People don't think of him that way, but they don't read the Bible. He had a righteous anger. He cared for the oppressed and exploited. There's no question that he had the highest moral standard, the least duplicity, the greatest compassion, of any human being in history. There have been many other wonderful people, but Jesus is Jesus." "And so the world would do well to emulate him?" "Oh, my goodness, yes! I have tried - and try is as far as I can go - to act as I have believed he would act. That doesn't mean I could read his mind, because one of the most fascinating things about him was that he often did the opposite thing you'd expect - " Abruptly, Templeton cut short his thoughts. There was a pause. He glanced up, he looked across the room, he seemed to want to focus anywhere but on me. He was suddenly self-conscious, almost embarrassed, apparently uncertain whether he should continue. He sighed. "But, no," he said slowly, "in my view. . . ." Now there was a catch in his voice; he inhaled deeply to try to stop from crying. But as he turned toward me, I watched as tears flooded his eyes. "In my view," he struggled to say, "he is the most important human being who has ever existed." His voice cracking, he uttered the words I never expected to hear him say: "And if I may put it this way - I . . . miss . . . him." With that, he broke down sobbing. He turned his head and looked downward, raising his left hand to shield his face from me. His shoulders bobbed; his right hand wiped away tears. What was going on? Was this an unguarded glimpse into his soul? I felt drawn to him and wanted to comfort him; at the same time, the journalist in me wanted to dig to the core of what was prompting this reaction. Missed him why? Missed him how? In a gentle voice, I asked, "In what way?" Templeton fought to compose himself. I could tell it wasn't like him to lose control in front of a stranger. He breathed deeply. After a few more awkward moments, he waved his hand dismissively. "Well," he whispered, as much to himself as to me. Again he halted, then drew a deep breath. "Enough of that." He sniffed and cleared his throat, then leaned forward to pick up his coffee. More quietly and yet more adamantly, he murmured again: "Enough of that." He took a sip, holding the cup tightly in both hands as if drawing warmth from it. It was clear that he wanted to pretend this unvarnished look into his soul had never happened. But I couldn't let it go. Nor could I gloss over Templeton's pointed but heart-felt objections about God. Clearly, they demanded a response. For him, as well as for me.

permalink source: Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith (chapter 1)
tags: Apologetics, Skepticism

Moore's Law The immorality of the Ten Commandments. By Christopher Hitchens Posted Wednesday, August 27, 2003, at 2:04 PM PT The row over the boulder-sized version of the so-called "Ten Commandments," and as to whether they should be exhibited in such massive shape on public property, misses the opportunity to consider these top-10 divine ordinances and their relationship to original intent. Judge Roy Moore is clearly, as well as a fool and a publicity-hound, a man who identifies the Mount Sinai orders to Moses with a certain interpretation of Protestantism. But we may ask ourselves why any sect, however primitive, would want to base itself on such vague pre-Christian desert morality (assuming Moses to be pre-Christian). The first four of the commandments have little to do with either law or morality, and the first three suggest a terrific insecurity on the part of the person supposedly issuing them. I am the lord thy god and thou shalt have no other ... no graven images ... no taking of my name in vain: surely these could have been compressed into a more general injunction to show respect. The ensuing order to set aside a holy day is scarcely a moral or ethical one, unless you assume that other days are somehow profane. (The Rev. Ian Paisley, I remember, used to refuse interviewers for Sunday newspapers even after it was pointed out to him that it's the Monday edition that is prepared on Sunday.) Whereas a day of rest, as prefigured in the opening passages of Genesis, is no more than organized labor might have demanded, perhaps during the arduous days of unpaid pyramid erection. So the first four commandments have almost nothing to do with moral conduct and cannot in any case be enforced by law unless the state forbids certain sorts of art all week, including religious and iconographic art—and all activity on the Sabbath (which the words of the fourth commandment do not actually require). The next instruction is to honor one's parents: a harmless enough idea, but again unenforceable in law and inapplicable to the many orphans that nature or god sees fit to create. That there should be no itemized utterance enjoining the protection of children seems odd, given that the commandments are addressed in the first instance to adults. But then, the same god frequently urged his followers to exterminate various forgotten enemy tribes down to the last infant, sparing only the virgins, so this may be a case where hand-tying or absolute prohibitions were best avoided. There has never yet been any society, Confucian or Buddhist or Islamic, where the legal codes did not frown upon murder and theft. These offenses were certainly crimes in the Pharaonic Egypt from which the children of Israel had, if the story is to be believed, just escaped. So the middle-ranking commandments, of which the chief one has long been confusingly rendered "thou shalt not kill," leave us none the wiser as to whether the almighty considers warfare to be murder, or taxation and confiscation to be theft. Tautology hovers over the whole enterprise. In much the same way, few if any courts in any recorded society have approved the idea of perjury, so the idea that witnesses should tell the truth can scarcely have required a divine spark in order to take root. To how many of its original audience, I mean to say, can this have come with the force of revelation? Then it's a swift wrap-up with a condemnation of adultery (from which humans actually can refrain) and a prohibition upon covetousness (from which they cannot). To insist that people not annex their neighbor's cattle or wife "or anything that is his" might be reasonable, even if it does place the wife in the same category as the cattle, and presumably to that extent diminishes the offense of adultery. But to demand "don't even think about it" is absurd and totalitarian, and furthermore inhibiting to the Protestant spirit of entrepreneurship and competition. One is presuming (is one not?) that this is the same god who actually created the audience he was addressing. This leaves us with the insoluble mystery of why he would have molded ("in his own image," yet) a covetous, murderous, disrespectful, lying, and adulterous species. Create them sick, and then command them to be well? What a mad despot this is, and how fortunate we are that he exists only in the minds of his worshippers. It's obviously too much to expect that a Bronze Age demagogue should have remembered to condemn drug abuse, drunken driving, or offenses against gender equality, or to demand prayer in the schools. Still, to have left rape and child abuse and genocide and slavery out of the account is to have been negligent to some degree, even by the lax standards of the time. I wonder what would happen if secularists were now to insist that the verses of the Bible that actually recommend enslavement, mutilation, stoning, and mass murder of civilians be incised on the walls of, say, public libraries? There are many more than 10 commandments in the Old Testament, and I live for the day when Americans are obliged to observe all of them, including the ox-goring and witch-burning ones. (Who is Judge Moore to pick and choose?) Too many editorialists have described the recent flap as a silly confrontation with exhibitionist fundamentalism, when the true problem is our failure to recognize that religion is not just incongruent with morality but in essential ways incompatible with it

permalink source: http://slate.msn.com/
tags: Atheism, Skepticism, Morality, Ten Commandments

Statistically speaking, my bout with Evangelicalism was probably unremarkable. For white Americans with my socioeconomic background (middle to upper-middle class), it's an experience commonly linked to one's teens and moved beyond before one reaches 20. These kids around me at Creation—a lot of them were like that. How many even knew who Darwin was? They'd learn. At least once a year since college, I'll be getting to know someone, and it comes out that we have in common a high school "Jesus phase." That's always an excellent laugh. Except a phase is supposed to end—or at least give way to other phases—not simply expand into a long preoccupation. Bless those who've been brainwashed by cults and sent off for deprogramming. That makes it simple: You put it behind you. But this group was no cult. They persuaded; they never pressured, much less threatened. Nor did they punish. A guy I brought into the group—we called him Goog—is still a close friend. He leads meetings now and spends part of each year doing pro bono dental work in Cambodia. He's never asked me when I'm coming back. My problem is not that I dream I'm in hell or that Mole is at the window. It isn't that I feel psychologically harmed. It isn't even that I feel like a sucker for having bought it all. It's that I love Jesus Christ. "The latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose." I can barely write that. He was the most beautiful dude. Forget the Epistles, forget all the bullying stuff that came later. Look at what He said. Read The Jefferson Bible. Or better yet, read The Logia of Yeshua, by Guy Davenport and Benjamin Urrutia, an unadorned translation of all the sayings ascribed to Jesus that modern scholars deem authentic. There's your man. His breakthrough was the aestheticization of weakness. Not in what conquers, not in glory, but in what's fragile and what suffers—there lies sanity. And salvation. "Let anyone who has power renounce it," he said. "Your father is compassionate to all, as you should be." That's how He talked, to those who knew Him. Why should He vex me? Why is His ghost not friendlier? Why can't I just be a good Enlightenment child and see in His life a sustaining example of what we can be, as a species? Because once you've known Him as God, it's hard to find comfort in the man. The sheer sensation of life that comes with a total, all-pervading notion of being—the pulse of consequence one projects onto even the humblest things—the pull of that won't slacken. And one has doubts about one's doubts. http://men.style.com/gq/features/full?id=content_301&pageNum=17

permalink source: Upon This Rock, John Jeremiah Sullivan
tags: Skepticism, Jesus, Teenagers, Youth Ministry

The Anvil Last eve I passed beside a blacksmith's door And heard the anvil ring the vesper chime: Then looking in, I saw upon the floor Old hammers, worn with beating years of time. "How many anvils have you had," said I, "To wear and batter all these hammers so?" "Just one," said he, and then, with twinkling eye, "The anvil wears the hammers out, you know." And so, thought I, the anvil of God's word, For ages skeptic blows have beat upon; Yet though the noise of falling blows was heard, The anvil is unharmed . . . the hammer's gone.

permalink source: Author unknown
tags: Skepticism, Bible

There are two ways to slide easily through life: to believe everything or to doubt everything. Both ways save us from thinking.

permalink source: Alfred Korzybski
tags: Skepticism

If you keep your mind sufficiently open, people will throw a lot of rubbish into it.

permalink source: William Orton
tags: Education, Skepticism

The West is like Judas Iscariot, who ate with Yesu, only to later deny him. The West ought to fear the fate of Judas, lest it hang itself on the tree of learning.... Once when I was in the Himalayas, I was sitting upon the bank of a river; I drew out of the water a beautiful, hard, round stone and smashed it. The inside was quite dry. The stone had been lying a long time in the water, but the water had not penetrated the stone. It is just like that with the "Christian" people of the West. They have for centuries been surrounded by Christianity, entirely steeped in its blessings, but the Master's truth has not penetrated them. Christianity is not at fault; the reason lies rather in the hardness of their hearts. Materialism and intellectualism have made their hearts hard. So I am not surprised that many people in the West do not understand what Christianity really is.

permalink source: Sundar Singh, The Wisdom of the Sadhu, 182-183
tags: Skepticism, America

It took almost twenty-five years of brooding over observations in the laboratory, Mayan huts, and American homes, as well as reflection on writing in anthropology, philosophy, and history, to release me from the dogma I had been taught at Yale. The ideas indoctrinated during graduate training can limit the conceptions the mature investigator entertains. I used to begin the first meeting of my graduate seminar by telling the dozen or so students that much of what I had been taught at Yale turned out to be mistaken, so they should remain skeptical of everything I said over the next four months.

permalink source: Jerome Kagan, An Argument for Mind, 112
tags: Skepticism, Assumptions, Graduate School

There is a fable of a king who asked his wisest advisers to reduce to one word all the knowledge in the many volumes in the palace library. After years of toil the scholars brought the king a piece of paper on which was written the single word "maybe."

permalink source: Jerome Kagan, An Argument for Mind, 248
tags: Skepticism, Humility, Graduate School

“Why do we cross our fingers during turbulence, even the most atheistic among us?” asked Atran when we spoke at his Upper West Side pied-à-terre in January. Atran, who is 55, is an anthropologist at the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris, with joint appointments at the University of Michigan and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. His research interests include cognitive science and evolutionary biology, and sometimes he presents students with a wooden box that he pretends is an African relic. “If you have negative sentiments toward religion,” he tells them, “the box will destroy whatever you put inside it.” Many of his students say they doubt the existence of God, but in this demonstration they act as if they believe in something. Put your pencil into the magic box, he tells them, and the nonbelievers do so blithely. Put in your driver’s license, he says, and most do, but only after significant hesitation. And when he tells them to put in their hands, few will. If they don’t believe in God, what exactly are they afraid of?

permalink source: Darwin's God, New York Times Magazine, 2007-03-04, by Robin Marantz Henig, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/04/magazine/04evolution.t.html?ei=5090&en=43cfb46824423cea&ex=1330664400&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss&pagewanted=all
tags: Apologetics, Skepticism

Knee-Jerk Skepticism Counterproductive

There are two mistakes you can make when you read a scientific paper: You can believe it (a) too much or (b) too little. The possibility of believing something too little does not occur to most professional scientists, at least if you judge them by their public statements, which are full of cautions against too much belief and literally never against too little belief. Never. If I’m wrong — if you have ever seen a scientist warn against too little belief — please let me know. Yet too little belief is just as costly as too much. It’s a stunning imbalance which I have never seen pointed out. And it’s not just quantity, it’s quality. One of the most foolish statements that intelligent people constantly make is “correlation does not imply causation.” There’s such a huge bias toward saying “don’t do that” and “that’s a bad thing to do” — I think because the people who say such things enjoy saying them — that the people who say this never realize the not-very-difficult concepts that (a) nothing unerringly implies causation, so don’t pick on correlations and (b) correlations increase the plausibility of causation. If your theory predicts Y and you observe Y, your theory gains credence. Causation predicts correlation. This tendency is so common it seems unfair to give examples. If you owned a car that could turn right but not left, you would drive off the road almost always. When I watch professional scientists react to this or that new bit of info, they constantly drive off the road: They are absurdly dismissive. The result is that, like the broken car, they fail to get anywhere: They fail to learn something they could have learned.

permalink source: Seth Roberts, "How To Be Wrong", http://www.blog.sethroberts.net/2008/02/06/how-to-be-wrong/
tags: Logic, Skepticism, Epistemology

Flight Lands On Time, News at 11:00

Airplanes and Christians are two things that the media seem to cover only when they fall.

permalink source: Bradley Wright, Missionary Deconversion, http://brewright.blogspot.com/2008/02/missionary-deconversion.html
tags: Pessimism, Skepticism