4 COMMENTS

  1. I think Peter is used to debating philosophers. I think most debates I have had go something like this:

    “What you say sounds right, but I am a mere Christian/Cretin. How am I to know if what you are saying is true? The devil is persuasive. I would have to check that out with an overseerer (JW clergy). I am too ignorant to have an opinion of my own. I am sure they have some rebuttal. The bible is inerrant. Any error or inconsistency must be an illusion.”

    or

    “Logic does not apply. I know what is true in my heart”.

    or

    “You are a spiritual baby. Only if you were spiritually mature like me could you understand.”

    or

    “You are spiritually blind. You hate god. If you stopped hating him, the scales would fall from your eyes. It makes sense only to true believers.”

    or

    “You are just looking for an excuse to sin.”

  2. Yes it isn’t just about religion. I’m always putting my foot through the window of other peoples desire for the irrational. I watched a tear-jerker film recently called Hachiko based on a “true” story about a dog in Japan that waited for nine years outside a railway station for it’s dead owner to return. After it finished I foolishly pointed out that the dog was probably just turning up at the station because someone was giving it sausages. The next thing I know I’m being attacked, accused of being inhuman and only believing what “scientists” say. I get the impression that most people feel this way, not just religious people. That to be irrational is to be Human. I don’t know how to deal with it because many people seem to deeply disslike it when you apply common sense to instinctive opinions.

  3. This is a very good discussion and covers about one third of what Peter has in his book. One area in which I take a different position is that I try not to go into the concept of “belief” but instead put things in terms of “reasonable expectations.” Beliefs include assertions about how things “are” as well as how things are going to be. Expectations are more limited to what you think is going to happen or not happen. So when my religious friends accuse me of having “faith” or “beliefs” I counter with a claim of having reasonable expectations based on prior evidence.

    Peter talks about this subject starting around 19 min in this video. I don’t have to go into the issues around a “belief” that the Sun is going to rise tomorrow, because I simply have a reasonable expectation that will happen, based on the prior evidence of all the mornings I know about, and that it is reasonable to expect not to be hit by a big asteroid in this time frame. Someone will argue with me that I could be wrong and that really we are in a big computer simulation and everything I think I know is wrong, to which I answer, yes, I can be completely wrong about how everything is, but that does not change my reasonable expectation that I will see the Sun rise tomorrow. Physicists often find, many times in their careers, that they are wrong about their ideas about how things are (Feynman liked to talk about that) even though they can come to have a very good track record about predicting what is going to happen in their experiments.

    Sometimes it might not seem to make a difference, but it does change the nature of the discussion. For example, someone might say to me “So, you don’t believe that Jesus was divine; how do you know?” I could answer, that there is no reason to believe that, but then I will open him or her up to going through all the personal ‘evidence’ he or she has to justify that belief. However, if I answer, “I have a reasonable expectation never to find that to be true.” I have made their personal observations pointless unless they can show me objective evidence that it is true. Yes, you can well guess that such a person, in frustration, will end with something like, “You’ll find out it’s true after you die!” But that opens up the discussion of how experiencing anything is dependent on proper operation of our physical biology, and as such, being dead (non-existence) is not experienceable (literally unthinkable). That discussion, I am happy to have.

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