"Acceptable" targets

262 posts / 0 new
Last post
Steel Accord Steel Accord's picture
Not his point

The point is having agency has it's costs. Evil is one of them. Really it goes back to the price of freedom. Would you rather be assured in your existence without the ability to affirm what that means for yourself, or accept all the hardships, as well as the gifts of freedom of thought for yourself and everyone else.

You want to see a world without sin? Watch Equilibrium.

Your passion is power. Focus it.
Your body is a tool. Hone it.
Transhummanity is a pantheon. Exalt it!

Leng Plateau Leng Plateau's picture
Natural evils

I'm going to stop posting after this as this if this thread goes on much longer as I think we begin to face the danger of it becoming a spontaneous AI and we don't want that.

But when considering evil please also consider those things that cause horrible suffering and do not occur from human agency (please don't say that these are to teach us or to give us a chance to be good, that leads to a very ugly place where human lives become mere object lessons):
Earthquakes
Tsunamis
Droughts
Flash floods
Necrotizing fasciitis
Ebola
Smallpox
ALS

At least with Lovecraft, nobody pretends the gods are nice. And wherever you end up, there is guaranteed to be tentacles.

otohime1978 otohime1978's picture
Yay, Buddhism

Japanese don't exactly like Buddhists because Buddhist temples and those who run them are rich. They have their fingers in everything, collect money, are one of the few places you can get a funeral performed, etc. They basically have a monopoly on a ton of things. Shintou isn't exactly big on dead bodies. Impure and all that.

Also, everyone goes to hell/hades/yomi/whatever.

Leng Plateau wrote:
This leads to the ugly problem where many Buddhist and Hindu authorities believe and instruct that those who are of low status or who have birth defects are in those positions due to their previous lives. This results in an unwillingness to assist those who are less fortunate and to in fact blame people for circumstances beyond their control.

I'm not particularly fond of Hinduism either. I get called racist whenever I talk about it, but Hinduism is one of the main reasons for the great social disparity and poor conditions in India today. Don't ever try to leave your caste or aspire to be greater than what you are! It's bad karma! Oh, and you're a lower caste, you need medical attention? I'm not going to even talk to you anymore. I know they sorta outlawed the caste system, but, just like "post racial America", it's more in letter than in spirit and institutionalized discrimination is still the norm. I suppose it is getting better, though.

But no, I have to respect their cultural heritage and pointing out that you don't like it because of actual major issues is racist. I do the same thing on western cultures too. I hate american WASPs. Yes, I realise there are a ton of different religions and cultures in india, but the rich political power areas in the south are primarily Hindu.

[=6][i]...your vision / a homunculus on borrowed time

Katya Bio: http://eclipsephase.com/comment/46253#comment-46253

Smokeskin Smokeskin's picture
otohime1978 wrote:Smokeskin

otohime1978 wrote:
Smokeskin wrote:
I do stuff like that to my children all the time. Yeah, when he started on judo he didn't want to go and didn't want to roll, but I forced him (and also motivated him with candy and toys, but it was still very often under strong protest) because of the benefits I believe it will give him in fitness and self discipline. When they begin in school and have to do homework, it's going to get even worse I imagine.

It's not quite comparable, though, now is it? One has an observable effect. One makes us stronger. Allows us to do greater and greater things and push our limits. The other? It only promotes suffering and blind adherence to rules that don't even apply.

I can see the benefits of Judo, self control, and the like. What I cannot see is people adhering to a god whom only punishes his followers while dangling a carrot with vague promises.

But again, are you considering it from their point of view? Beliefs cause behavior, after all.

Imagine that you and I have a person that we care deeply for, and this person is unconscious. I'm convinced there's an infection in his arm and if we don't amputate it he will die. I attempt to cut off his arm, and horrified you try to stop me. You can argue all day how horrible an amputation is, but I will still believe it is worth it to save his life. We have to agree on whether or not there is a lifethreatening infection to come to terms (not to mention the consequences for the patient depending on who is right - either cutting the arm off for no reason or dying).

Doesn't that make sense?

It is the same with the Yehowa's Witness. The parents believe that letting their child die is worth it to go to heaven instead of hell. You can't convince them to save their daughter by explaining how evil it is to let a child die or the grief it will cause them. You have to convince them that hell isn't real, because until that sinks in, to them the evil act is to give the transfusion.

Smokeskin Smokeskin's picture
otohime1978 wrote:But no, I

otohime1978 wrote:
But no, I have to respect their cultural heritage and pointing out that you don't like it because of actual major issues is racist.

I feel your pain. A relevant excerpt from one of Sam Harris' books:

Quote:

There are very practical concerns that follow from the glib idea that anyone is free to value anything—the most consequential being that it is precisely what allows highly educated, secular, and otherwise well-intentioned people to pause thoughtfully, and often interminably, before condemning practices like compulsory veiling, genital excision, bride burning, forced marriage, and the other cheerful products of alternative “morality” found elsewhere in the world. Fanciers of Hume’s is/ought distinction never seem to realize what the stakes are, and they do not see how abject failures of compassion are enabled by this intellectual “tolerance” of moral difference. While much of the debate on these issues must be had in academic terms, this is not merely an academic debate. There are girls getting their faces burned off with acid at this moment for daring to learn to read, or for not consenting to marry men they have never met, or even for the “crime” of getting raped. The amazing thing is that some Western intellectuals won’t even blink when asked to defend these practices on philosophical grounds. I once spoke at an academic conference on themes similar to those discussed here. Near the end of my lecture, I made what I thought would be a quite incontestable assertion: We already have good reason to believe that certain cultures are less suited to maximizing well-being than others. I cited the ruthless misogyny and religious bamboozlement of the Taliban as an example of a worldview that seems less than perfectly conducive to human flourishing. As it turns out, to denigrate the Taliban at a scientific meeting is to court controversy. At the conclusion of my talk, I fell into debate with another invited speaker, who seemed, at first glance, to be very well positioned to reason effectively about the implications of science for our understanding of morality. In fact, this person has since been appointed to the President’s Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues and is now one of only thirteen people who will advise President Obama on “issues that may emerge from advances in biomedicine and related areas of science and technology” in order to ensure that “scientific research, health care delivery, and technological innovation are conducted in an ethically responsible manner.”25 Here is a snippet of our conversation, more or less verbatim:

She: What makes you think that science will ever be able to say that forcing women to wear burqas is wrong?
Me: Because I think that right and wrong are a matter of increasing or decreasing well-being—and it is obvious that forcing half the population to live in cloth bags, and beating or killing them if they refuse, is not a good strategy for maximizing human wellbeing.
She: But that’s only your opinion.
Me: Okay … Let’s make it even simpler. What if we found a culture that ritually blinded every third child by literally plucking out his or her eyes at birth, would you then agree that we had found a culture that was needlessly diminishing human well-being?
She: It would depend on why they were doing it.
Me [slowly returning my eyebrows from the back of my head]: Let’s say they were doing it on the basis of religious superstition. In their scripture, God says, “Every third must walk in darkness.”
She: Then you could never say that they were wrong.

otohime1978 otohime1978's picture
But that's not quite the same

But that's not quite the same, is it? You can show me there is an infection. You have evidence, and I then get to decide whether or not you are being rash. You can't show them that there is no hell. Again, all work, and still remains dangling carrot.

EDIT: am I the only one who has posts claiming to be replying to themselves instead to the actual post the author intended to link?

[=6][i]...your vision / a homunculus on borrowed time

Katya Bio: http://eclipsephase.com/comment/46253#comment-46253

Smokeskin Smokeskin's picture
otohime1978 wrote:But that's

otohime1978 wrote:
But that's not quite the same, is it? You can show me there is an infection. You have evidence, and I then get to decide whether or not you are being rash. You can't show them that there is no hell. Again, all work, and still remains dangling carrot.

Maybe I could show the infection, maybe not. But the point is that it is the knowledge of the infection that is the point to discuss, not the amputation.

It's something you have to keep in mind when discussing morality with people who have beliefs that are different from your own. If they're sure there's an lethal infection in people's arms, they will go around chopping arms off and think they're doing good deeds. Telling them amputations are harmful won't change anything, they already know that.

For some religious people it is the same with worldly suffering in general. Someone who believes we only have a short time here on earth and it is a preparation for an eternal afterlife, they're not going to be primarily concerned with wordly suffering. It pales in importance to what comes next. They may literally see it in the same way as we see disciplining children - it is good parenting to make children sad in order to teach them proper behavior. (Interestingly you could even stretch this to compare the modern parent who punishes with time outs to the probably often also well-meaning beatings children got in the past).

I'm an atheist, and I'm not a moral relativist, so I don't believe even the slightest that this makes suffering acceptable. I'm just saying that given certain beliefs, accepting or even causing suffering is not internally inconsistent or malevolent. From their point of view calling god malevolent or abusing is missing their big picture, just like calling a parent cruel for making their child cry by taking away its iPad rights because it didn't eat the vegetables is.

Lorsa Lorsa's picture
MAD Crab wrote:Steel, you're

MAD Crab wrote:
Steel, you're not a christian. I don't know WHAT you believe, but it's apparently infinitely flexible, and doesn't require a perfect being to be perfect. You take bits of doctrine that you like and leave the rest behind.

There are probably as many defitions of being Christian as there are people in the world. The one I feel best describes what being Christian is would be "to believe that Jesus Christ was the son of God (and also God incarnate), that he died for our sins and that he rose again from the grave". Even in that definition, it is only really the first bit that is THE most important one. There isn't, and has never been, a definition of being a Christian that says you need to believe ever literal word of the Bible.

The best way to discuss with Steel Accord might be to ask him first of what he actually believe and then find faults and inconsistencies in that.

Smokeskin wrote:
I agree, but what you're saying comes with implications. I will simply quote "Rational Choice in an Uncertain World" By Hastie and Dawes, pg 15-16:

"A rational choice can be defined as one that meets four criteria: 1. It is based on the decision maker's current assets. [...] 2. It is based on the possible consequences of the choice. 3. When these consequences are uncertain, their likelihood is evaluated according to the basic rules of probability theory. 4. It is a choice that is adaptive within the constraints of those probabilities and the values or satisfactions associated with each of the possible consequences of the choice.

[...]

If any are violated, the decision maker can reach contradictory conclusions about what to choose - even though the conclusions are based on the same preferences and the same knowledge."

The proof of this is too large to post, but it has been known since Morgenstein and von Neumann published it in 1947 and it has been subjected to tons of scrutiny since then.

If you want to avoid contradictions, you have to obey the laws of probility, and that includes updating your beliefs through probabilistic inference.

From what I understand, that quote refers to rational choice, not rational belief. A rational belief I think (I'm hardly an expert on rationality) is one such that the reason for the belief is applied in all other areas where it could also logically be applied and thus the total formation of beliefs held do not contain any internal contradictions (or as few as possible).

When making a rational choice, indeed you have to consider the probability of your action reaching the desired outcome.

For example, if you want eternal life, the probability of that happening increases by practicing a religion which offers just that. As long as there's a tiny percentage that the religion is true, and since there's currently no technological ways to achieve immortality, the rational choice is to practice a religion.

Of course, by sending funds to, or engage in, transhuman research you also increase the probability of you achieving eternal life.

Doing both seems the most rational choice really.

Also, even if it's just a tiny chance that Christianity can offer eternal life, the risk/reward ratio tilts heavily on the side of being religious.

I am NOT saying that this is the reason why I am a Christian or even that I believe you should be it because of this reason, but if we simply DO measure it in a rational way I don't see how you would improve your chance of eternal life by not practicing religion.

Smokeskin wrote:
Of course, there ARE ways to be rational and be religious according to such a formal definition (I will use "being religious" instead of "belief in god" to distinguish between the traditional use of belief as in your evalution of the truth of a statemen)t. If you place sufficient value on being religious that it trumps other values affected by it, then being religious is rational. However, this is a purely psychological god. It is very much unlike how we normally understand the world and form beliefs about how it works, where these beliefs are consequences of placing value on understanding and truth in itself, having mental models that predict what will happen, being able to construct complex objects, etc.

There seem to be no way to go from a set of values that don't explicitly include being religious to actually forming beliefs about the existence of god.

Doesn't the general idea that people's value system itself containts ontological statements about how the world really is? Could we imagine that people placed value on believing that heavier objects fall faster in a vacuum, or that the sun circles the earth, and consider their opinions on it relevant, in any way?

There certainly ARE people that place value on these things. One of them is even possible to believe, namely that the Sun circles the Earth. Such a model would mean that the law of conservation of energy is no longer valid but hey, it's certainly possible to construct a model from that. It would probably be rather messy and make just about no predictions on future events.

I would say that the normal way people go to form religious beliefs were none where held before is through personal experience (sensory input if you will). There are people who were once atheists that later "convert" and become religious. So there ARE ways to go from values that do not include being religous to forming beliefs about the existence of God.

Smokeskin wrote:
The existence of an objective universe that is outside of my own perception of such: I can't reject something like the simulation hypothesis (especially when you consider the observer selection effect), if that's what you mean. Are you really 100% sure of this?

I'm not 100% sure on any of my beliefs. That's why they are beliefs and not absolute knowledge. I usually keep a very high epistemological standard, so to knowledge I only count the things I AM 100% sure of. So I don't know that there is an objective universe, but I certainly believe such.

Smokeskin wrote:
That acting in a moral way holds value in and of itself: That's a value, not a belief about something that exists in the world, isn't it?

A belief about the existence of a value is still a belief is it not?

Smokeskin wrote:
My ability to make decisions: What do you mean? Don't you make decisions all the time?

Didn't we just recently have a large discussion on this forum about neuroscience proving (or soon to be proving) that our minds are completely deterministic? A deterministic mind can not make decisions, at the very least not by our current definition of a decision. So the question about if I make decisions all the time is certainly open for debate.

I believe that I do. In fact, this belief is probably the most important one as if it was proven false then almost all of my values would shatter.

Smokeskin wrote:
That was not my argument (and I don't consider it an argument anyway - why couldn't god exist AND be responsible for untold suffering?).

You said (my bolding): Since everyone is different it is quite logical to assume that God chose many different methods and religions in order to reach as many people as possible.

My argument is this: the Christian god that reveals the truths to christians, and they then through their own human failings wage war on non-christians, that I can understand as the benevolent-but-not-100%-meddling god. Or that god just gives of a general impression and the humans through their own failings make up a bunch of different religions and wage war over that. But the god that deliberatedly makes humans believe in different religions so they will believe better, he either has exceptionally poor insight into human psychology, or he deliberatedly set a plan in motion that would cause untold suffering just so we would be inspired more by faith. Isn't that saying he's ignorant or cruel?

Ah, I see what you are saying now. I didn't quite understand what you were getting at before.

Your argument certainly holds true as long if you think that without religion humans wouldn't wage war. I think that we would've gone to war with each other at least as much in the absence of religion as in the presence of it. This is something that is just about impossible to test so I guess it will come down to personal opinion of the human psyche. I think that God does know a lot about human psychology, realised that our warmongering wouldn't be affected one way or the other by different religions but that it would increase both individual and societal value in the world.

There certainly are bad things that have the cause in religious ideology, but I would argue there are plenty of good things too. That would be a very long debate thought and YES this is where we could use science!

So I reject your argument on the basis of not believing that the absence of religion would have reduced the amount of war in the larger historical context. I would be happy to accept it should you be able to provide enough evidence that the opposite is true.

Lorsa is a Forum moderator

Red text is for moderator stuff

Pyrite Pyrite's picture
Lorsa wrote:

Lorsa wrote:

I am NOT saying that this is the reason why I am a Christian or even that I believe you should be it because of this reason, but if we simply DO measure it in a rational way I don't see how you would improve your chance of eternal life by not practicing religion.

This argument is a rebranding of Pascal's wager, and fails on the same groud: by cutting out all the variables that make it seem like more than a simple choice.

Of all the religions advertizing an exclusive claim to eternal life (over a dozen by my count) how do you choose any one over any other? Just go with what your parents practiced? Play 'spin the bottle'?

Or will you try to use logic and evidence to evaluate each religi.on's truth claims? If so, how do you propose to do that? what if no religion passes basic scrutiny?

This also assumes that 'practicing religion' has a trivial cost. I and many atheists would say that it does not; that it has costs in time, in effort, in feelings of misplaced guilt and unworthiness, in mistaken actions based on mistaken beliefs, in a failure to prioritize human suffering in this life because of an expectation of its relief in the next, and possibly a cost in money expected as donations or tithes.

Is even the most infinitesimal chance at eternal life worth any cost? If so, I'm sure there are several people with elixers to sell you. Should I base the decision of what religion to patronize on which one offers the afterlife that most appeals to me? If so, based on my love of the computer game Black & White I should become a devout mormon to secure the best chance of becoming God of my own planet when I die. (I'm white and male, so I'm already halfway there!)

Pascal's wager was unconvincing when it was written ages ago, and it remains unconvincing today.

'No language is justly studied merely as an aid to other purposes. It will in fact better serve other purposes, philological or historical, when it is studied for love, for itself.' --J.R.R. Tolkien

Lorsa Lorsa's picture
Pascal's wager

I actually wasn't familiar with Pascal's wager, believe it or not. Very interesting.

My answer would of course be that you practice all of them. Or at the very least as many as possible.

I would not argue that an infinitesmal chance is worth any cost, but practicing Christianity IS trivial in effort all things considered. If we strip it down to the bare essentials it requires only 30 seconds of your life.

In many times and places through history, Christians have been the ones most involved in the ease of human suffering. Even today here in Sweden, the Church offers some help to people who fall outside of the social security system. While there certainly are religions that actively seek to avoid decreasing suffering, Christianity is not one of those.

So yes, obviously you need to weight the effort vs. the potential reward. I personally see the effort being minimal, at least as far as Christianity goes. Scientology on the other hand, is NOT trivial.

Lorsa is a Forum moderator

Red text is for moderator stuff

Smokeskin Smokeskin's picture
Lorsa wrote:Smokeskin wrote:I

Lorsa wrote:

Smokeskin wrote:
I agree, but what you're saying comes with implications. I will simply quote "Rational Choice in an Uncertain World" By Hastie and Dawes, pg 15-16:

"A rational choice can be defined as one that meets four criteria: 1. It is based on the decision maker's current assets. [...] 2. It is based on the possible consequences of the choice. 3. When these consequences are uncertain, their likelihood is evaluated according to the basic rules of probability theory. 4. It is a choice that is adaptive within the constraints of those probabilities and the values or satisfactions associated with each of the possible consequences of the choice.

[...]

If any are violated, the decision maker can reach contradictory conclusions about what to choose - even though the conclusions are based on the same preferences and the same knowledge."

The proof of this is too large to post, but it has been known since Morgenstein and von Neumann published it in 1947 and it has been subjected to tons of scrutiny since then.

If you want to avoid contradictions, you have to obey the laws of probility, and that includes updating your beliefs through probabilistic inference.

From what I understand, that quote refers to rational choice, not rational belief. A rational belief I think (I'm hardly an expert on rationality) is one such that the reason for the belief is applied in all other areas where it could also logically be applied and thus the total formation of beliefs held do not contain any internal contradictions (or as few as possible).

When making a rational choice, indeed you have to consider the probability of your action reaching the desired outcome.

But doesn't beliefs follow from choice? I can choose to study decision psychology, realize how flawed our thought processes are, study probability theory and Bayesian inference, and internalize it and actually use it for updating my beliefs. Or I can go with gut feeling.

And it works in the opposite direction too. If I don't use inference I will form flawed beliefs, and these will make my choices equally flawed.

I don't see the idea that we're free to believe what we want as something scientific or rational. It is an idea we have instituted because the alternative is oppression and strife, but it does not make all ideas equal. If you value internal consistency and to have your mental map match the actual territory of the real world, to the best of our knowledge there is only one choice.

You can still be both rational and religious - that depends on your utility function, on how you compute expected value.

Quote:

For example, if you want eternal life, the probability of that happening increases by practicing a religion which offers just that. As long as there's a tiny percentage that the religion is true, and since there's currently no technological ways to achieve immortality, the rational choice is to practice a religion.
[...]
Also, even if it's just a tiny chance that Christianity can offer eternal life, the risk/reward ratio tilts heavily on the side of being religious.

Eternal life does not give infinite utility. You have to apply a discounting factor to future experiences to get the expected utility, so this is merely the sum of a geometric series which converges because the discounting factor is <1.

Since the probability of a given religion being true is infinitely small, the expected utility of eternal life from following it is 0.

Quote:

Smokeskin wrote:
Of course, there ARE ways to be rational and be religious according to such a formal definition (I will use "being religious" instead of "belief in god" to distinguish between the traditional use of belief as in your evalution of the truth of a statemen)t. If you place sufficient value on being religious that it trumps other values affected by it, then being religious is rational. However, this is a purely psychological god. It is very much unlike how we normally understand the world and form beliefs about how it works, where these beliefs are consequences of placing value on understanding and truth in itself, having mental models that predict what will happen, being able to construct complex objects, etc.

There seem to be no way to go from a set of values that don't explicitly include being religious to actually forming beliefs about the existence of god.

Doesn't the general idea that people's value system itself containts ontological statements about how the world really is? Could we imagine that people placed value on believing that heavier objects fall faster in a vacuum, or that the sun circles the earth, and consider their opinions on it relevant, in any way?

There certainly ARE people that place value on these things. One of them is even possible to believe, namely that the Sun circles the Earth. Such a model would mean that the law of conservation of energy is no longer valid but hey, it's certainly possible to construct a model from that. It would probably be rather messy and make just about no predictions on future events.

This is exactly my point. Some people do have ontological beliefs as part of their value system. We all know of the insanity of the heliocentric belief system, the battle against evolutionary theory, etc.

But we don't take the beliefs of such people seriously. We KNOW that their understanding of the world is poisoned by having ontological beliefs in their value system.

Quote:

I would say that the normal way people go to form religious beliefs were none where held before is through personal experience (sensory input if you will). There are people who were once atheists that later "convert" and become religious. So there ARE ways to go from values that do not include being religous to forming beliefs about the existence of God.

I meant in a rational way. If you get an idea of how things might be, you try to disprove or verify it. We all get all sorts of ideas and internal experiences all the time. I always use the example of games of chance, since most of us can relate to rolling a dice, playing roulette or buying a lottery ticket and feeling like we can predict or affect the outcome, or "feel lucky". But we all know that we don't actually have prescience or telekinetic powers.

Quote:

Smokeskin wrote:
That acting in a moral way holds value in and of itself: That's a value, not a belief about something that exists in the world, isn't it?

A belief about the existence of a value is still a belief is it not?

I think we're mixing up terms here.

Do people hold moral values? Absolutely.

Does moral values exist outside of the minds of humans (and other sentient beings?). No.

Quote:

Smokeskin wrote:
My ability to make decisions: What do you mean? Don't you make decisions all the time?

Didn't we just recently have a large discussion on this forum about neuroscience proving (or soon to be proving) that our minds are completely deterministic? A deterministic mind can not make decisions, at the very least not by our current definition of a decision. So the question about if I make decisions all the time is certainly open for debate.

I believe that I do. In fact, this belief is probably the most important one as if it was proven false then almost all of my values would shatter.

I'm not really into the dualistic definition you're using here, and I don't agree that it reflects our current definition. We all make decisions all the time, and whether or not the processes in our brains are deterministic doesn't change that.

Btw, I'm in the camp that thinks we've shown that our brains are deterministic long ago, but that neuroscience isn't even close to tackling the hard problem, which makes it all a bit meh in regards to explaining consciousness.

Pages