Re: virus: Faith, Logic and Purpose

David McFadzean (
Wed, 05 Nov 1997 17:15:34 -0700

At 06:15 AM 11/6/97 +0100, Reed Konsler wrote:

>Are you familiar with the practice known as "arbitrage"?
>On what basis are currency traders, at least in theory, able
>to make a profit on the trading of currencies?

You tell me.

>Have you read Jane Eyre? I want to be happy and I


>want to obey all the social norms. Who "sets" these
>core goals? The problem with being prescriptive
>is that, like Popper, you often end up describing
>an idealized system with little relationship to the
>the dynamic reality.

I wasn't talking about goals that can't be set.

>And when do you have conclusive proof that you
>have properly characterized the context?

Why do you need conclusive proof?

>I'm just reading:
>>Through some twist of fate western society has
>>come to regard faith as a virtue. To hold an idea
>>as true despite all evidence to the contrary is an
>>abdication of reason. Convictions are the end of
>>knowledge, not the beginning; they are the enemy
>>of truth more than lies.
>"To hold an idea as true despite all evidence to the contrary"
>is not the definition of faith. The key word here is *despite*.

That is the definition of faith in the context of this
statement. If you don't want to read it that way, I have
no recourse.

>In other words:
>>Convictions are the end of knowledge, not the beginning;
>>they are the enemy of truth more than lies.
>Is, in my opinion, diametrically in opposition to my understanding.
>Convictions [assumptions, faith] ARE the beginning of knowledge.

In the statement above, "conviction" means believing to such
an extent that no further investigation is pursued. That is
the end of knowledge. (Again, if you wish to project your
own definition, then the meaning of the statement will change,
and perhaps the truth of it.)

>Rational agents define the characterisitics of rational statements?
>Isn't that a little circular?

Yes, it would make much more sense if irrational agents defined
rationality :-)

>>Of course. For example, I bet almost everyone on this planet shares the
>>context that makes "other people exist" a rational belief.
>Are fetuses people?

It would depend on your definitions. In any case I don't think it

>Earlier, didn't you question me when I said that science was not
>falsifiable. Aren't you now saying the same thing?

I was asking for clarification, not arguing against your position.

>Placebo effect. In circumstances where your internal belief
>state has a significant effect on the truth of a premise you
>can control the premise with your belief. In that context
>it is reasonable to avoid rationalizing the belief. Whatever
>the outcome the result is a limitation on your will.

I still don't see what harm rationalization would have.

>For purposes of this discussion, does it make any difference?
>Does my belief state change the logical validity of my statements?
>I am asking you to provide some evidence that rational
>beliefs are correlated with reasonable beliefs. Does
>it matter in what "spirit" that question is asked?

You ask me to provide evidence, and then say it doesn't make
a difference when I do. OK, whatever.

>>Right, you have to go through the process. That is why faith is
>>a sin, because it is an unwillingness to go through the process.
>Have you ever been born again?


>In that case, aren't you saying that a Creationist's belief about
>the age of the Earth is inconsistent with YOUR context? Do
>you see the difference?

No. The creationist must believe (perhaps implicitly) that all
scientists are involved in a conspiracy to discredit the bible.
This belief is inconsistent with the creationist's own context.
And yes, I see the difference.

>>>Dennett convncingly argues that consciousness is a user-illusion of
>>>the brain. Does that change your you "feel"
>>>different knowing this? Do you believe it?
>>Arguing that the self is a user-illusion or a meme or whatever
>>doesn't mean the self doesn't exist.
>Can one say the same thing about God?

Only if God = <God>. Few theists would agree.

>>OK, so I'll ask you the same question I asked Richard. If I
>>call it faith is it OK with you? Why were you trying to talk
>>me out of my belief?
>Why are you trying to talk other people out of theirs?

Because rationality opens a channel for constructive criticism.
Faith closes that channel. It is in everyone's best interest
to keep the channel open.

>>>In an earlier point in the conversation you insisted that
>>>rational people can be pursuaded without recourse to
>>>fraud or violence. I disagree. If goals and context
>>>are inconsistent between people then this hope for
>>>a universal language of communication is an illusion.
>>Only if goals and contexts are static. They certainly are not.
>>You seem to be claiming that rational people cannot be pursuaded
>>without recourse to fraud or violence which is ludicrous.
>I'm not saying that you can't pursuade rational people

Read your own words above. " insisted that
rational people can be pursuaded without recourse to
fraud or violence. I disagree."

>(you point them out to me, OK?) but that you have the

If you aren't going to use my definition for "rational
person" why did you ask for one? What's on your hidden
agenda, Reed? What is your purpose?

>same chance and use the same techniques to pursuade
>"irrational" and "unrational" people.

If you think that is true, we are speaking different languages.

David McFadzean       
Memetic Engineer      
Church of Virus