Author Topic: A Theoretical Question  (Read 1044 times)

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Offline HAL

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A Theoretical Question
« on: June 26, 2012, 05:40:51 PM »
If I make up, say for example, a creature in my mind, can I say for a fact that it does not really exist anywhere?

For example, say I make up a totally fabricated fantasy creature with 5 eyes, 4 wings, 10 legs that eats copper for food and can fly through solid granite rock. That's just an example it could be anything you or I could make up.

Can I now say, since it's a fantasy creature without any basis in reality, that it does not exist in the universe - for a fact?

There might be a point to this depending on what you smart people tell me ...


Offline The Wannabe

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Re: A Theoretical Question
« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2012, 05:46:28 PM »
If I make up, say for example, a creature in my mind, can I say for a fact that it does not really exist anywhere?

For example, say I make up a totally fabricated fantasy creature with 5 eyes, 4 wings, 10 legs that eats copper for food and can fly through solid granite rock. That's just an example it could be anything you or I could make up.

Can I now say, since it's a fantasy creature without any basis in reality, that it does not exist in the universe - for a fact?

There might be a point to this depending on what you smart people tell me ...

If it exists in your mind, and your mind is part of the universe, doesn't that creature then already "exist" in said universe?
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Offline on:bread:alone

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Re: A Theoretical Question
« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2012, 05:48:29 PM »
i think it comes down to that whole "burden of proof" thing.

you can't call it a fact because you can't prove it to be so either way. and one might also consider that just because something doesn't exist currently (if in fact that is the case) that it might not at some point in the future. evolution does tricky things.

also, depending on what sort of personality disorders, delusions, or drug-induced hallucinations you might be harboring, it would be fair to say that these things exist in your mind. like if a guy sees purple people... maybe no one else sees them, but to him they're really really real. so i suppose in that respect, reality is subjective to an individual's perception of it. which... pretty much makes us all fucked.
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Offline magicmiles

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Re: A Theoretical Question
« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2012, 05:50:27 PM »
Based on Hal's last sentence, he clearly wants me to respond.

But I have no idea. Sorry Hal.
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Offline HAL

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Re: A Theoretical Question
« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2012, 05:59:54 PM »
If it exists in your mind, and your mind is part of the universe, doesn't that creature then already "exist" in said universe?

No I'm talking about the real physical creature.

i think it comes down to that whole "burden of proof" thing.

That's what I'm getting at. So are you saying anything I can dream up as a fantasy in my mind cannot then be said to not really physically exist for a fact? Anything I can imagine might really exist? That seems a stretch.

Based on Hal's last sentence, he clearly wants me to respond.

What the hell are you talking about?

Offline on:bread:alone

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Re: A Theoretical Question
« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2012, 06:08:34 PM »
That's what I'm getting at. So are you saying anything I can dream up as a fantasy in my mind cannot then be said to not really physically exist for a fact? Anything I can imagine might really exist? That seems a stretch.

i think that anyone who would attempt to use "i thought it up in my head so it's real" as any kind of legitimate platform for debate should be euthanized. painfully.

if you imagine something, and then find a means to create it, then it would exist. or maybe if you watch too much teevee and have a limited capacity for creativity, you might trick yourself into thinking that you imagined something before it exists, but in reality you smoke too much pot and watch NatGeo a lot.

like i said before, you can't really call it a fact either way, because you don't know. luckily, we have scientists working to discover all the intricate little species of the world in efforts to prove or disprove existence. example : the billions of little insects that devour your skin constantly... REAL. the loch ness monster : (as of yet) NOT REAL.

burden of proof.

*edited for spelling.
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Offline HAL

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Re: A Theoretical Question
« Reply #6 on: June 26, 2012, 06:11:37 PM »
What about this -

A model train that can move faster than the speed of light using it's normal electric motor?

I just imagined it, so are you guys saying it might really exist in the universe? (it violates the laws of physics as you know). Are you saying I cannot say for a fact this model train that can exceed the speed of light does not physically/actually exist?

If I said it does not exist because it's imaginary and violates the laws of physics, to I still have to satisfy the Burden of Proof? I'm still leading up to something I read on another forum ...

Offline on:bread:alone

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Re: A Theoretical Question
« Reply #7 on: June 26, 2012, 06:22:50 PM »
If I said it does not exist because it's imaginary and violates the laws of physics, to I still have to satisfy the Burden of Proof? I'm still leading up to something I read on another forum ...

i'm pretty sure that constitutes a fair argument. if it violates the laws of physics (and in my opinion, mathematics is acceptable as verifiable proof), then it CANNOT exist. i'd buy that.
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Offline HAL

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Re: A Theoretical Question
« Reply #8 on: June 26, 2012, 06:25:52 PM »
i'm pretty sure that constitutes a fair argument. if it violates the laws of physics (and in my opinion, mathematics is acceptable as verifiable proof), then it CANNOT exist. i'd buy that.

OK thanks, I'd like some more opinions too.

OK here's the deal. I was reading on another forum that an atheist claimed that the supernatural did not exist. A theist went crazy and told him he could not make that claim - he had to satisfy the Burden of Proof. He then said, no, I don't because the Supernatural is imaginary and so there is nothing to prove. It is completely fictional fantasy created by people and therefore does not exist.

Is that a correct response?

Offline on:bread:alone

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Re: A Theoretical Question
« Reply #9 on: June 26, 2012, 06:48:01 PM »
i'm pretty sure that constitutes a fair argument. if it violates the laws of physics (and in my opinion, mathematics is acceptable as verifiable proof), then it CANNOT exist. i'd buy that.

OK thanks, I'd like some more opinions too.

OK here's the deal. I was reading on another forum that an atheist claimed that the supernatural did not exist. A theist went crazy and told him he could not make that claim - he had to satisfy the Burden of Proof. He then said, no, I don't because the Supernatural is imaginary and so there is nothing to prove. It is completely fictional fantasy created by people and therefore does not exist.

Is that a correct response?

i would be inclined to say yes, although i think he could have worded it better. but i see what he's getting at. you run in to people all the time who claim to have seen ghosts or whatever, but there is no verifiable proof of their existence. i myself am a skeptic and a cyinc, and i don't believe in ghosts. i've never seen one, and i don't believe i've ever seen anything supernatural. i'd also like to enter that when speaking of objects that are not comprised of gas, tangibility should be a requisite for existence.
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Offline Zankuu

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Re: A Theoretical Question
« Reply #10 on: June 26, 2012, 06:48:23 PM »
I was reading on another forum that an atheist claimed that the supernatural did not exist. A theist went crazy and told him he could not make that claim - he had to satisfy the Burden of Proof. He then said, no, I don't because the Supernatural is imaginary and so there is nothing to prove. It is completely fictional fantasy created by people and therefore does not exist.

Is that a correct response?

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: With any question regarding the existence of a thing (let's call it x), our default position is a position that does not assume x exists. So your atheist is defending the default position. What he is NOT doing is making a positive claim here. The positive claim is that the supernatural exists. Since we begin at the default position and there is an unsatisfactory amount of evidence to budge us from this position, then yes HAL, this would be a correct response as the burden of proof lies with your theist in this discussion.
Leave nothing to chance. Overlook nothing. Combine contradictory observations. Allow yourself enough time. -Hippocrates of Cos

Offline HAL

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Re: A Theoretical Question
« Reply #11 on: June 26, 2012, 06:58:45 PM »
Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: With any question regarding the existence of a thing (let's call it x), our default position is a position that does not assume x exists. So your atheist is defending the default position. What he is NOT doing is making a positive claim here. ...

Let me make sure about this - he is making a positive claim though isn't he? That the supernatural does not exist?

Is that valid?

Offline Zankuu

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Re: A Theoretical Question
« Reply #12 on: June 26, 2012, 07:20:59 PM »
Let me make sure about this - he is making a positive claim though isn't he? That the supernatural does not exist?

I don't believe he is. I'll explain why.

No matter what we're discussing, whether it is the existence of Valhalla, green suited leprechauns, or the invisible unicycling yeti, we always begin at the default position (or null hypothesis) that these do not exist. The null hypothesis wouldn't assume these things exist, so why should we give special consideration to the existence of the supernatural? We wouldn't. And we don't.

Your atheist is defending the null hypothesis against the idea that the supernatural exists. Unless you want to say he's making a positive counter-claim against the positive claim that the supernatural exists. I think that's semantics, but sure, I'll agree then that he's making a positive claim.

I consider it valid.
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Offline jetson

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Re: A Theoretical Question
« Reply #13 on: June 26, 2012, 09:13:54 PM »
Zankuu - great response.  It reminds me of the time I got into an argument over my supposed positive assertion that there are no gods.  If I say there are no gods, I'm not doing it from the positive or factual knowledge that there are no gods, I'm doing it from the default position of no gods exist until one is proven to exist.  And admitting that it is possible that a god exists does not change the default position at all.  Neither does the fact that billions of humans pretend that there are real gods.

HAL - it is indeed a weak position for a theist to claim that one who say's the supernatural does not exist is making a positive assertion.  But that is just how many of them roll - with literally nothing to back up their superstitious beliefs, they must make these types of empty arguments to feel superior.

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Re: A Theoretical Question
« Reply #14 on: June 26, 2012, 11:17:07 PM »
Theists like to say that; absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. I grudgingly agree because of Archimedes. Old Archie had no evidence that bacteria existed.  He could have claimed that bacteria did not exist because he had no evidence of their presence whatsoever. Well he probably did have some evidence that he did not recognize, such as yeast deposits on some of his more concealed body parts.  I rather doubt that this would apply directly to Hals copper eating creature or to the theists god. I can not give either of them much chance of being real. 

This is an intrigueing excercise. If we are not careful we may be tempted to cut the theist some slack. Meanwhile I will just read the responses from my more intelligent peers.............. I think I need another scotch and water.

Offline Mooby

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Re: A Theoretical Question
« Reply #15 on: June 26, 2012, 11:27:30 PM »
OK here's the deal. I was reading on another forum that an atheist claimed that the supernatural did not exist. A theist went crazy and told him he could not make that claim - he had to satisfy the Burden of Proof. He then said, no, I don't because the Supernatural is imaginary and so there is nothing to prove. It is completely fictional fantasy created by people and therefore does not exist.

Is that a correct response?
No, it is not the correct response. Here is the argument the theist reads:

"an atheist claimed that the supernatural did not exist. . .because the Supernatural is imaginary"

That is question begging and therefore not logically valid. A valid response would have been to explain how the conclusion was reached so the theist could determine whether it was a justified conclusion.

Anyone making an assertion has a burden to prove that assertion. That burden is increased with positive claims and those that vary greatly from the previously accepted standard, but is not eliminated by having a negative claim.

The latter is what conspiracy theorists often attempt to exploit. Yes, "We never landed on the moon" is a negative claim, but it also varies from the accepted standard an thus has a higher burden then, "there are no pink unicorns."
« Last Edit: June 26, 2012, 11:32:55 PM by Mooby »
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Offline Zankuu

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Re: A Theoretical Question
« Reply #16 on: June 26, 2012, 11:32:38 PM »
No, it is not the correct response.

Mooby, it was a rather crude way to put it. But would you agree the burden of proof doesn't lie on HAL's atheist in this instance?
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Offline Mooby

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Re: A Theoretical Question
« Reply #17 on: June 26, 2012, 11:42:17 PM »
No, I do not, for the reasons I edited into my post.

The atheist is issuing the challenge, and thus has a burden of proof. The theist also has a burden if he makes a counter argument.

Think of an argument as a tug of war. If one person is trying to unilaterally convince another, then the only way to make the other budge is by pulling the rope. The other has the option of standing their ground or pulling back.

The burden of proof simply determines how far each side has to pull to win. But if one side refuses to assume a burden, it can either lose or not lose. Standing there holding a rope is not going to pull the other guy over to your side of the line.
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Offline Zankuu

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Re: A Theoretical Question
« Reply #18 on: June 27, 2012, 12:00:53 AM »
I disagree because I don't think the atheist is issuing the challenge. This is what HAL seemed to be hung up on too, unless he was playing the red tailed advocate.

When the atheist states "There is no supernatural", he or she is defending against the claim that a supernatural exists. I'm saying this because even though there wasn't a direct challenge to the atheist and he begins the discussion, his position of null is essentially pitted against the first person that ever muttered the words, "You know what, I think there is a plane of existence where magic happens. It isn't natural, it's... supernatural!"

The burden of proof shouldn't be on the shoulders of the one that says, "Nuh-uh. That's malarkey. There is no evidence of a supernatural."
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Offline Mooby

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Re: A Theoretical Question
« Reply #19 on: June 27, 2012, 05:58:56 AM »
The way I read HAL's scenario, the atheist made an assertion that the supernatural doesn't exist rather than make a neutral statement about his disbelief.
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Offline Zankuu

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Re: A Theoretical Question
« Reply #20 on: June 27, 2012, 06:27:46 AM »
The way I read HAL's scenario, the atheist made an assertion that the supernatural doesn't exist rather than make a neutral statement about his disbelief.

Right. So if I were to walk up to you and say "Mooby, the supernatural doesn't exist" then I'm directing that statement, or claim if you prefer, toward you, but I'm defending the null position from whoever first made the claim such a thing exists. Is my argument unsound?
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Offline HAL

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Re: A Theoretical Question
« Reply #21 on: June 27, 2012, 06:58:26 AM »
If I said it does not exist because it's imaginary and violates the laws of physics, to I still have to satisfy the Burden of Proof? I'm still leading up to something I read on another forum ...

i'm pretty sure that constitutes a fair argument. if it violates the laws of physics (and in my opinion, mathematics is acceptable as verifiable proof), then it CANNOT exist. i'd buy that.

So the following are both correct statements -

A model train that can exceed the speed of light does not exist
(this is an imaginary made-up fantasy and would violate the laws of physics so it cannot exist)

The supernatural does not exist
(this is an imaginary made-up fantasy and would violate the laws of physics so it cannot exist)

So in essence these statements "self-satisfy" the Burden of Proof, i.e. the makeup of these statements show them to be inherently false just like any fantasy fictional physics-violating construct.

Offline on:bread:alone

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Re: A Theoretical Question
« Reply #22 on: June 27, 2012, 07:05:01 AM »

So in essence these statements "self-satisfy" the Burden of Proof, i.e. the makeup of these statements show them to be inherently false just like any fantasy fictional physics-violating construct.


in my opinion, i think that is an entirely fair statement, and very well put at that.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: A Theoretical Question
« Reply #23 on: June 27, 2012, 07:07:28 AM »
The way I read HAL's scenario, the atheist made an assertion that the supernatural doesn't exist rather than make a neutral statement about his disbelief.

would you be comfortable with the claim "there is no evidence for the supernatural"?  The evidence for a lack of evidence would be... the lack of evidence?

The problem with burden of proof for claims of nonexistence is the evidence for such claims is a lack of evidence.  The old Rumsfeld nugget - absence of evidence is not evidence of absence - is untrue.  For nonexistent things leave no evidence of their nonexistence.  What evidence do you have that mermaids do not exist?  None, you say?  Well, then I guess we have to hold open the possibility that somewhere, on some boulder by the shore, there rests a beautiful mermaid, combing her hair and singing in the sun, as the surf crashes around her...


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Offline HAL

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Re: A Theoretical Question
« Reply #24 on: June 27, 2012, 07:32:10 AM »
If I said this -

"There are no red trucks in the downtown parking garage"

I would have the Burden of Proof since red trucks exist, parking garages exist, downtowns exist and so on, so the Burden of Proof does rest with me - I have to show that.

If I said this -

"There are no green people-eating monsters that came from a planet called Dexius in the Andromeda galaxy in the downtown parking garage, it's safe to go in."


Would anyone then tell me to satisfy the Burden of Proof? Would anyone tell me "Well - there might be such a monster there - you have to show there isn't!"

That would be silly since it's a total fantasy statement - the Burden of Proof does not apply - I made-up the monster in my mind. Same with the supernatural - it's a construct made up by people and thus it's the same scenario as the monster. It only seems to require the Burden of Proof due to it's long-time attraction by delusional people. It has a status it doesn't deserve, like the green monster from Dexius.
« Last Edit: June 27, 2012, 07:35:54 AM by HAL »

Offline screwtape

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Re: A Theoretical Question
« Reply #25 on: June 27, 2012, 08:29:52 AM »
If I said this -

"There are no red trucks in the downtown parking garage"

I would have the Burden of Proof since red trucks exist, parking garages exist, downtowns exist and so on, so the Burden of Proof does rest with me - I have to show that.

Yes, but your burden of proof is to find a lack of evidence - no red trucks.  If the parking garage is several levels, how could you be sure you didn't overlook one?  How could you be sure one didn't sneak onto a level you weren't on? You'd better check again.  It is the same problem demolition teams have when trying to assure the building is empty before they implode it.

There could be all manner of excuse that would make your conclusion inconclusive which would not be the case if you said "there is a red truck in the garage" and you found one.  There are inherent problems when you try to "prove" the nonexistence of a thing.

If I said this -
... It has a status it doesn't deserve, like the green monster from Dexius.

True, but your opponents are going to play the game above, only instead of a parking garage, they have a whole universe to hide their supernatural beasts, plus "realms" we cannot detect, because, you know, they're supernatural (ie, imaginary). 

Frankly, I think we should have a caste system where anyone with supernatural beliefs must be a menial slave and forbidden from reproducing with other supernaturalists.  We've got to evolve past this, because it is dangerous and education and reason are not getting it done.


« Last Edit: June 27, 2012, 08:38:20 AM by screwtape »
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Offline jetson

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Re: A Theoretical Question
« Reply #26 on: June 27, 2012, 08:31:13 AM »
HAL, I would say that the supernatural claims have been around for so long, that people tend to think it has validity.  Same with gods.  That is the crux of the problem in my mind.  Argument from longevity!  Pointless, but strong from the minds of the deluded.

Offline Zankuu

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Re: A Theoretical Question
« Reply #27 on: June 27, 2012, 08:43:18 AM »
^ And that's the point I was attempting to make with Mooby. The atheist isn't making a positive claim, he's defending a null position from a very old supernatural claim. The burden of proof isn't the same, as screwtape pointed out, with a claim of material things that verifiably exist. Nonexistence is a whole different ball game.
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Offline on:bread:alone

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Re: A Theoretical Question
« Reply #28 on: June 27, 2012, 08:55:06 AM »

Frankly, I think we should have a caste system where anyone with supernatural beliefs must be a menial slave and forbidden from reproducing with other supernaturalists.  We've got to evolve past this, because it is dangerous and education and reason are not getting it done.

i like it! i once said something similar here, but RKH called me a nazi. of course, i did go into a tirade about christian death camps and euthanasia.
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