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Religion and Spirituality, Science and Philosophy Use this forum to discuss what you believe in. This is a place where everyone may share their views freely.

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Thumbs up Reasonable Belief - August 11th 2014, 08:49 PM

With all of the false explanations of the natural world, it is important to discern the difference between beliefs that are reasonable from those that are not reasonable. People do not learn how to use critical thinking skills when it comes to examining many of these beliefs, and that concerns me.

I would define belief as "an acceptance that a claim is true or likely true. Those that hold a belief are convinced, and therefore belief is not actually a choice. For example, if somebody is convinced that 1+1=2, they can't all of a sudden chose one day that they want 1+1=3. They'd still be convinced that 1+1=2.

Reasonable, on the other hand, is a little bit more difficult to define for some people when it comes to belief. I would define reasonable as having sound judgement, or relating to sound reason/logic.

With those definitions in mind, it is easy to see that there are many people that hold beliefs that are unreasonable.

For example, there is a correlation between a decreasing number of pirates in the world and an increase in global temperatures (global warming). It would be unreasonable to claim that pirates are the cause of global warming. Although there is a correlation, we know that correlation doesn't imply causation, so it's not a logically sound belief to hold.

However, there are claims that are logically sound, that are still not backed up by evidence. These beliefs are also unreasonable. For example, somebody could claim that the flying spaghetti monster loves everybody named George. My friend is named George. Therefore the Flying Spaghetti Monster loves my friend. That statement is logically sound, but it is not supported by any evidence. We cannot verify that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is real, so it's unreasonable to belief that the flying spaghetti monster loves George.


So how do we go about determining if evidence is good enough to warrant a belief? Again, for people that don't have experience examining evidence critically, that can be hard to do. Sometimes it can even lead to people getting tricked. For example Uri Geller went on national TV many years ago and showed people that he had the so called "power" to bend spoons and keys with his mind. He claimed at the time to be psychic, and a lot of people were convinced. It was REALLY convincing, but there are magicians that pointed out how he did his "tricks". They had the experience looking for the slight of hand. Uri Geller no longer calls himself a psychic. The reason I bring up Uri Geller is because (The amazing) James Randi actually managed to back him into a corner. Whenever Uri Geller was tested under a controlled environment his so called "powers" didn't work on that day. There are many types of evidence that are quite bad when it comes to discussing the natural world.

Here are some things that you might hear about that could suggest a poor quality of evidence for claims about the natural world:
  • case studies when it comes to statistical significance
  • anecdotal evidence or evidence based on personal experience
  • "Scientific studies that have failed to be peer-reviewed or that do not have a control group
  • inherent lack of empirical evidence

So there could be 100,000 case studies on homeopathy that show positive results, but that doesn't mean it works at all. Case studies do not help when it comes to trials for medications, because there is not a large enough sample size. A case study uses exactly one person, and sometimes you need tens or hundreds of people. Actually, when we look at systematic reviews of studies on homeopathy, it is pretty obvious that it doesn't work at all beyond a plecebo effect.

So what about supernatural or spiritual claims? Well we currently have no evidence that there even IS a supernatural. It's not that we should dismiss these claims outright, but rather that those making supernatural claims or god claims have the burden to prove that they are true. Most of the time people are convinced of spiritual claims for bad reasons. For example, somebody could be born into a Christian family and be convinced because it's what they grew up with. Somebody could be convinced that Karma is real because they're really uncomfortable with the idea that evil people can have very good lives. One might believe in ghosts because they experienced something creepy and attributed it with ghosts rather than looking into a natural cause. So are all spiritual beliefs unreasonable? I don't know. I haven't heard of any that are logically sound and supported by evidence. I'd be happy to be proven wrong, but as of right now, I'm not convinced.
   
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Re: Reasonable Belief - August 11th 2014, 09:02 PM

We don't have the evidence about existence of "supernatural" things because this is the main trait that defines if something is supernatural or not. If we could find evidence about everything, there wouldn't be even such a term in our dictionaries.

Also, when you put things like spirituality and religion and think about reason, you're just showing that you have no idea what are you talking about.

"Actually, when we look at systematic reviews of studies on homeopathy, it is pretty obvious that it doesn't work at all beyond a plecebo effect."

That's the purpose. It's SUPPOSED to work only as a placebo effect.


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Re: Reasonable Belief - August 11th 2014, 09:28 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Most Likely View Post
We don't have the evidence about existence of "supernatural" things because this is the main trait that defines if something is supernatural or not. If we could find evidence about everything, there wouldn't be even such a term in our dictionaries.
I disagree with you there. I think supernatural refers to something that is somehow beyond the scientific laws of nature, not that something supernatural can't have evidence to support it. I don't think it is possible to "give traits" to something supernatural until you can prove that it exists. How would you prove that it exists? With evidence, of course.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Most Likely View Post

Also, when you put things like spirituality and religion and think about reason, you're just showing that you have no idea what are you talking about.
How so? You'd have to explain that one. When I say that we need to apply reason to spirituality I mean the power of the mind to think, understand, and form judgments. If we apply this to everything else, but not spirituality, that's unreasonable. If you're interested in the specific logical fallacy, it's special pleading, by the way.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Most Likely View Post

"Actually, when we look at systematic reviews of studies on homeopathy, it is pretty obvious that it doesn't work at all beyond a plecebo effect."

That's the purpose. It's SUPPOSED to work only as a placebo effect.
I don't think you understand homeopathy, or the placebo effect. I'll go through this really quickly, for your benefit. A placebo is a substance that has no therapeutic effects. It is used as a control in medical studies. This might sound contradictory, but some placebos have a stronger effect, because of the expectation of the person taking it. Homeopathy is the idea that a dilute solution of something that causes the same effect as an ailment can be used to cure it. The solutions are so dilute that there is often no trace of the original substance. The idea behind it is not the same as a placebo, but the effect is similar.
   
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