Author Topic: Introductory Questions  (Read 12259 times)

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Offline Greenandwhite

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Introductory Questions
« on: May 01, 2013, 01:52:13 AM »
       I hope it is ok if I ask a couple of questions even though I am new here and have not had the time to become overly familiar with some of the discussions that have occurred in the past.  Incidentally, if anyone has any suggestions regarding discussions from the archives that would be informative to a rookie like myself, definitely let me know; I don't want to bring up objections that have been discussed dozens of times before. 
       I have read a couple of discussions started by theists attempting to answer the question WWGHA and I think that the responses surprised me a little bit.  In response to the conditional "If an amputee was healed physically..." I suppose that one would intuitively expect some sort of belief in the supernatural to be formed by those privy to the event depending, of course, on the immediate context of the "miracle".  Instead, I observed the following types of responses: "it would be impossible, in principle, to prove an event to be supernatural", "if the event pointed to a "God" I might not want to serve him anyway", "the healing of an amputee today would be too late to salvage any kind of a respectable image for the being behind it", and "one healed amputee would not be enough - they would all have to be healed" (not an exhaustive list, of course).  So I wonder:
   
1. Wouldn't a more appropriate title for the website be: "Why has 'God' allowed amputees - period?"

2. Is the question: WWGHA a restatement of the classical problem of evil?

3. I have seen various responses to the classical problem of evil invoke the "incommensurable goodness of knowing God" (not that I know how to convincingly unpack this concept).  Often, when someone loses some part of their body there are standardized compensation tables in the insurance industry for doling out monetary compensation.  These kinds of payments always seem empty, in a way, no matter how much money is involved so my final question is: Is it theoretically possible for some "good" to exist that would outweigh the suffering of say, a Canadian soldier who has just returned home from Afghanistan to live the rest of his life with replacement legs?

Offline Quesi

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2013, 05:04:16 AM »
Hey Greenandwhite -

It is 6 am here in NYC, and I'm drinking my morning coffee and getting ready to wake up my daughter and get her ready for school.  In other words, I don't have the focus or time to address your thoughtful questions.  But I thought I'd respond, and leave a little bookmark here. 

Looking forward to seeing the responses you get, and I'm looking forward to chatting with you later. 

Offline The Gawd

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #2 on: May 01, 2013, 07:09:51 AM »
Often times, GandW, people attempting to answer the question want to turn it into the problem of evil. But no, it is not the same because you can lose a limb with no "evil" involved. I work for an insurance company, and I used to be in the Workers Comp and General Liability department. People lose limbs and die daily due to plain old accidents. Also, why does god allow amputees is not biblically accurate, nor is it common for Christians to claim their god doesnt allow for bad things to happen.

The bible DOES say that prayers WILL be answered, and Christians DO say that their god heals. Changing the name to what you suggested would be a huge strawman.

As far as for the miracles happening, what I think people are getting at (Im not sure about everyone) is that they would need confirmation of WHICH god should be held responsible ie a leg  regenerating doesnt scream "god of the bible" any more than it screams "Zeus" so we would need a way to determine which god to credit. Also, we would need some way to determine whether or not this was naturally occurring as there are creatures on this planet with the ability to regenerate limbs and tails and whatnot.

As for worshiping the god of Christianity even if it were shown that he existed; if you read the bible, that character is a truly despicable being. So existence doesnt mean worthy of worship. TBH the idea of worship, IMO, is so silly that I dont even know when to begin or stop laughing. For example, there have been many societies that worshiped the sun. As it has been shown that life as we know it actually DOES come from stars. So sun worshipers, IMO, are actually worshiping the creator, but what affects has it accomplished? Whats the point of worshiping anything?

Online screwtape

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #3 on: May 01, 2013, 08:34:09 AM »
Your questions 1 and 2 are interrelated.  The problem of evil - I prefer the problem of suffering - would include preventing amputees. But that is not quite the point of the question why won't god heal amputees.  My copypasta explanation:


There is a certian type of xian who attempts to justify his or her god beliefs by claiming that people are miraculously healed of various afflictions by divine intervention.  The afflictions may include cancer, diabetes, coma, heart conditions, tooth decay, halitosis, spastic colon, etc.  We frequently hear anecdotes about how some church group prayed for some guy and the next day he was completely healed. 

But there are several problems with this kind of reasoning.  First, data shows many of these types of afflictions sometimes "clear up" without any kind of prayers.  It seems to be a natural response or a misdiagnosis.  Second, people of all religions make the same claims.  And last, there is a whole class of ailments that are never, ever cured by prayer or naturally. 

People never regrow lost limbs.  Lost eyes never regrow in the empty sockets.  Retarded people never gain normal mental capacity. Alzheimers and Dementia sufferers never recover.  Old people never rejuvenate. 

This has clear implications about a god that supposedly heals people.  It leaves you only a few conclusions about such a god.


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Offline Quesi

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #4 on: May 01, 2013, 08:41:54 AM »

I’m back.  So you ask some very interesting questions.  Let me take a stab at them. 

1. Wouldn't a more appropriate title for the website be: "Why has 'God' allowed amputees - period?"

Actually, no.  You will certainly see a great deal of discussion on this forum about how or why a supposedly good god would allow the extreme suffering that a huge percentage of humanity is subjected to.  While amputees certainly suffer, I if I were to question the playing field that your god offers those who are supposedly taking his test to see if we are worthy of spending the afterlife with him, I would point to children born to malnourished mothers surviving in war zones before pointing to amputees.  But yes, it is an uneven playing field.  And if there were a god, one might question why he or she (or they) would allow such wide discrepancies.

But the title of this forum actually addresses a different set of questions.  Christians believe in an omnipotent god.  And Christians pray to their omnipotent god, asking for favors or support or relief from suffering.  Christians believe that god listens to these prayers, and sometimes answers them, and sometimes, for mysterious reasons, doesn’t answer them.  Christians pray for cures to cancer, for winning lottery tickets, for winning touchdowns.  When a cancer patient goes into remission, or a scratch off ticket provides a surprise $50, or when little Johnny’s touchdown brings wild cheers from fans of his team, Christians can thank god for answering their prayers. 

But even true believers KNOW that there are some things that are not going to happen. 

Christians probably don’t pray to god to ask him to regrow amputated limbs.  If god is omnipotent, he could certainly re-grow a limb as easily as he could put cancer into remission.  But cancers sometimes go into remission, regardless of prayers. Hindus and Buddhists and atheists with cancer sometimes go into remission.  But amputated limbs don’t grow back.  Not for Christians or Muslims or Jews or Wiccans or Sikhs or anybody.  And so, on a certain level, even true believers understand that the only prayers that are really worth engaging in, are prayers for events that might happen even in the absence of prayer.

You are a believer.  I assume you believe in the power of prayer.  If you had a loved one who was recovering from cancer surgery, would you pray that the doctors were successful in removing all of the cancer?  If a loved one had a leg amputated, would you pray for the leg to grow back?  Why or why not?




2. Is the question: WWGHA a restatement of the classical problem of evil?

I think it is important to point out that the concept of good vs evil is really unique to the world’s monotheistic religions.  Other belief systems tend to recognize shades of grey, or context, or even consider good and evil to be subjective concepts. 


3. I have seen various responses to the classical problem of evil invoke the "incommensurable goodness of knowing God" (not that I know how to convincingly unpack this concept).  Often, when someone loses some part of their body there are standardized compensation tables in the insurance industry for doling out monetary compensation.  These kinds of payments always seem empty, in a way, no matter how much money is involved so my final question is: Is it theoretically possible for some "good" to exist that would outweigh the suffering of say, a Canadian soldier who has just returned home from Afghanistan to live the rest of his life with replacement legs?


Are you asking if sometimes good things happen after bad things have happened?  Well, yeah.  My grandfather was a laborer, (coal miner, then steel worker) whose leg was crushed (though not amputated) in an industrial accident.  After more than a year out of work, the union trained him to be a draftsman, and he spent the rest of his professional life using the skills that he would not have learned if he had not had an accident.  So my real, personal story seems to support your premise.

But what about the kids who are born malnourished, in war zones, abandoned or orphaned and left to sleep on the streets and dig through garbage and steal to survive, and then die young?  What if the kid, as a teen or young adult, did really evil things, that he would never have done if he had been born into an environment in which safety and nutrition and access to an education were a given?    Did you god give this kid a fair chance?  And if the kid broke god’s laws, would god be justified in condemning this kid to ETERNAL DAMNATION?  And, of the millions of people who have lived under these sorts of circumstances, do you think you could, in each case, identify some “good” to outweigh all of the suffering? 

Offline shnozzola

Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #5 on: May 01, 2013, 05:01:11 PM »
Nice explanation, Quesi.

GandW, also this from the opening pages in WWGHA:

Quote
How can we determine whether it is God or coincidence that worked the cure? One way is to eliminate the ambiguity. In a non-ambiguous situation, there is no potential for coincidence. Because there is no ambiguity, we can actually know whether God is answering the prayer or not.

That is what we are doing when we look at amputees.

Think about it this way. The Bible clearly promises that God answers prayers. For example, in Mark 11:24 Jesus says, "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." And billions of Christians believe these promises. You can find thousands of books, magazine articles and Web sites talking about the power of prayer. According to believers, God is answering millions of their prayers every day.

So what should happen if we pray to God to restore amputated limbs? Clearly, if God is real, limbs should regenerate through prayer. In reality, they do not.

Why not? Because God is imaginary. Notice that there is zero ambiguity in this situation. There is only one way for a limb to regenerate through prayer: God must exist and God must answer prayers.
GandW,
   You ask this:
Quote
Is it theoretically possible for some "good" to exist that would outweigh the suffering of say, a Canadian soldier who has just returned home from Afghanistan to live the rest of his life with replacement legs?
I guess I 'm not looking at the suffering as you are.   Let's say the soldier returns to his family and has a young daughter.   Once the soldier recovers - no pain - and can get past the huge difficulty of the mental anguish,  what could be more "good" than holding his daughter, having her tell him that he is the "best daddy in the whole wide world."  Amputation can be meaningless in this situation, if the man has mentally recovered, but, that is not the debate (as above) that WWGHA refers to.
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Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #6 on: May 03, 2013, 04:23:10 PM »
     To respond to Quesi’s question: “If a loved one had a leg amputated, would you pray for the leg to grow back?  Why or why not?”  I honestly don’t know.  The question, “how do I decide what to pray for” is separate from the question, “why doesn’t God always answer my prayer the way I would like him to.”  Personally, I have a type of exercise induced asthma that really bothers me if I am exerting myself in cold or dry air.  Essentially, what this means is that where I live I can play summer sports but I cannot play hockey in the winter.  Now, I certainly believe that God could do what the specialists can’t and ‘heal’ me, and I certainly have prayed that he would heal me.  As it happens, I have not been healed, but I have never thought to question the existence of God because of my lack of healing.  Prayer to me just isn’t an apologetic argument or a faith preserving device. 
     Now from the responses that I have received it seems that the point of the website is to get people like me to question God’s existence based on how God answers my prayers.  Basically, God promised to answer prayers if we believe; God has not answered prayers prayed by people who believe; therefore, God doesn’t exist.  The problem of suffering has nothing to do with this argument – correct?  Also, the argument as I understand it is an attempt to demonstrate internal incoherence in the Christian world view.  As such, for the sake of the argument, I gather that it is assumed that the Christian God exists and that there are people who genuinely believe in him who ask for him for things.  There is also no need to appeal to the external evidence or lack thereof for the basic Christian assumptions of the argument like, say, the existence of God - is there?

Offline Ambassador Pony

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #7 on: May 03, 2013, 04:27:39 PM »
G&W, I think if you watch the Jug of Milk (Praise be upon It) video, you'll get a clearer idea of the authors intent vis à vis prayer and it's relationship to belief behaviour.
You believe evolution and there is no evidence for that. Where is the fossil record of a half man half ape. I've only ever heard about it in reading.

Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #8 on: May 04, 2013, 11:30:17 AM »
G&W, I think if you watch the Jug of Milk (Praise be upon It) video, you'll get a clearer idea of the authors intent vis à vis prayer and it's relationship to belief behaviour.

Ambassador Pony,
       Thanks for the suggestion; I watched the 'Jug of Milk' video as well as the 'Proving Prayer is a Superstition' video and I have the following question: is the scientific method the only way to acquire knowledge?

Offline Azdgari

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #9 on: May 04, 2013, 11:42:54 AM »
Define "knowledge".  It's certainly not the only way to acquire beliefs, if that's what you mean.
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Offline Ambassador Pony

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #10 on: May 05, 2013, 03:53:38 PM »
G&W, I think if you watch the Jug of Milk (Praise be upon It) video, you'll get a clearer idea of the authors intent vis à vis prayer and it's relationship to belief behaviour.

Ambassador Pony,
       Thanks for the suggestion; I watched the 'Jug of Milk' video as well as the 'Proving Prayer is a Superstition' video and I have the following question: is the scientific method the only way to acquire knowledge?

First things first. Did watching it give you a clearer idea of the author's intent (as I hoped)?
You believe evolution and there is no evidence for that. Where is the fossil record of a half man half ape. I've only ever heard about it in reading.

Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #11 on: May 06, 2013, 01:39:34 AM »
Define "knowledge".  It's certainly not the only way to acquire beliefs, if that's what you mean.

      Would a good working definition for knowledge be: "a proposition or set of propositions that we are justified in believing corresponds with reality"?

Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #12 on: May 06, 2013, 01:45:23 AM »
G&W, I think if you watch the Jug of Milk (Praise be upon It) video, you'll get a clearer idea of the authors intent vis à vis prayer and it's relationship to belief behaviour.

Ambassador Pony,
       Thanks for the suggestion; I watched the 'Jug of Milk' video as well as the 'Proving Prayer is a Superstition' video and I have the following question: is the scientific method the only way to acquire knowledge?

First things first. Did watching it give you a clearer idea of the author's intent (as I hoped)?

      I think so.  The video cited scientific studies and invoked a couple of thought experiments to demonstrate how the scientific method cannot find any difference in effect between prayer and a placebo effect like a horseshoe - a jug of milk would be expected to do as well as prayer using the "yes, no, and maybe" criteria. 

Offline Ambassador Pony

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #13 on: May 06, 2013, 05:41:54 AM »
      I think so.  The video cited scientific studies and invoked a couple of thought experiments to demonstrate how the scientific method cannot find any difference in effect between prayer and a placebo effect like a horseshoe - a jug of milk would be expected to do as well as prayer using the "yes, no, and maybe" criteria.

Yes. I think, in this situation, knowledge can only be discovered through the scientific method. There are variables, each with an applicable scale of measurement.

If you're going to go off into a "you can't measure the healing of the soul" or "spiritual knowledge", then I won't be the guy to talk to about it, FTR.
You believe evolution and there is no evidence for that. Where is the fossil record of a half man half ape. I've only ever heard about it in reading.

Offline jetson

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #14 on: May 06, 2013, 07:44:35 AM »
Welcome to the forum GandW.

Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #15 on: May 07, 2013, 12:02:02 AM »
Welcome to the forum GandW.

Thank-you

Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #16 on: May 07, 2013, 12:06:46 AM »
     If you're going to go off into a "you can't measure the healing of the soul" or "spiritual knowledge", then I won't be the guy to talk to about it, FTR.

     You know I did briefly toy with the idea, but I decided against it since the question: WWGHA is more directed at events that would be accessible by a third party - I guess you are one step ahead of me (-:  I think I have some ideas that will stay away from this kind of argument; however, I am still looking at a few details. 

Offline Azdgari

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #17 on: May 07, 2013, 12:29:30 AM »
      Would a good working definition for knowledge be: "a proposition or set of propositions that we are justified in believing corresponds with reality"?

Then yes.  Any method of reliably justifying our propositions' correspondence ot reality is a part of science.
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Online JeffPT

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #18 on: May 13, 2013, 09:29:12 PM »
G&W, I think if you watch the Jug of Milk (Praise be upon It) video, you'll get a clearer idea of the authors intent vis à vis prayer and it's relationship to belief behaviour.

Ambassador Pony,
       Thanks for the suggestion; I watched the 'Jug of Milk' video as well as the 'Proving Prayer is a Superstition' video and I have the following question: is the scientific method the only way to acquire knowledge?

What other method do you suggest and why do you think it reliable?
Whenever events that are purported to occur in our best interest are as numerous as the events that will just as soon kill us, then intent is hard, if not impossible to assert. NDT

Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #19 on: May 15, 2013, 12:41:40 AM »
     What other method do you suggest and why do you think it reliable?

     To be honest, I was just thinking about the question WWGHA and brainstorming various ways of approaching it, but decided that this particular line of questioning constituted a dead end.  As an unrelated issue, the statement "knowledge can only be discovered through the scientific method" reminds me of the verificationist view held by the logical positivists at the turn of the 20th century.  They used the verification principle to render certain religious, metaphysical, aesthetic, and ethical statements 'meaningless'. 

Online JeffPT

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #20 on: May 15, 2013, 08:08:28 AM »
     What other method do you suggest and why do you think it reliable?

     To be honest, I was just thinking about the question WWGHA and brainstorming various ways of approaching it, but decided that this particular line of questioning constituted a dead end.  As an unrelated issue, the statement "knowledge can only be discovered through the scientific method" reminds me of the verificationist view held by the logical positivists at the turn of the 20th century.  They used the verification principle to render certain religious, metaphysical, aesthetic, and ethical statements 'meaningless'.
Would you agree with the statement that the scientific method is the most reliable current tool we have for knowledge acquisition?
Whenever events that are purported to occur in our best interest are as numerous as the events that will just as soon kill us, then intent is hard, if not impossible to assert. NDT

Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #21 on: May 16, 2013, 11:41:33 PM »
Would you agree with the statement that the scientific method is the most reliable current tool we have for knowledge acquisition?

    I would say that it is the most reliable tool we have for acquiring certain kinds of knowledge.  Incidentally, are you comfortable with the phrase 'most reliable current tool' when describing the scientific method?

Offline jetson

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #22 on: May 17, 2013, 07:27:37 AM »
Would you agree with the statement that the scientific method is the most reliable current tool we have for knowledge acquisition?

    I would say that it is the most reliable tool we have for acquiring certain kinds of knowledge.  Incidentally, are you comfortable with the phrase 'most reliable current tool' when describing the scientific method?

I'm fine with it.  The beauty of knowledge is in replacing it when it fails.

Online JeffPT

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #23 on: May 17, 2013, 11:33:30 PM »
Would you agree with the statement that the scientific method is the most reliable current tool we have for knowledge acquisition?

    I would say that it is the most reliable tool we have for acquiring certain kinds of knowledge.  Incidentally, are you comfortable with the phrase 'most reliable current tool' when describing the scientific method?

Extremely comfortable with that.  The 'current' was intentional. 
« Last Edit: May 17, 2013, 11:35:14 PM by JeffPT »
Whenever events that are purported to occur in our best interest are as numerous as the events that will just as soon kill us, then intent is hard, if not impossible to assert. NDT

Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #24 on: May 18, 2013, 12:43:51 AM »
I'm fine with it.  The beauty of knowledge is in replacing it when it fails.

I don't question your willingness to replace knowledge when it fails; what I was wondering is if you think it is possible in principle to find that you need to replace your system of acquiring knowledge?

Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #25 on: May 18, 2013, 12:46:15 AM »
Extremely comfortable with that.  The 'current' was intentional.

Would you mind elaborating on why you chose to include the word 'current'?

Offline The Gawd

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #26 on: May 18, 2013, 04:49:29 AM »
I don't question your willingness to replace knowledge when it fails; what I was wondering is if you think it is possible in principle to find that you need to replace your system of acquiring knowledge?
Obviously I dont know what I dont know. But are you positing that there would be a way of attaining knowledge other than the ONLY way we have ever had as a species? Even conclusions that had been reached that we now know are incorrect were come to by observing something. Then as our bank of observations became more complete and more observable with technology our bank of knowledge became more accurate.

I cant see how there would be another way to attain knowledge

Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #27 on: May 19, 2013, 02:30:31 AM »
I don't question your willingness to replace knowledge when it fails; what I was wondering is if you think it is possible in principle to find that you need to replace your system of acquiring knowledge?
Obviously I dont know what I dont know. But are you positing that there would be a way of attaining knowledge other than the ONLY way we have ever had as a species? Even conclusions that had been reached that we now know are incorrect were come to by observing something. Then as our bank of observations became more complete and more observable with technology our bank of knowledge became more accurate.

I cant see how there would be another way to attain knowledge

     What about deductive reasoning - is that not how we have acquired knowledge in fields such as geometry and trigonometry? What about the branch of particle physics known as string theory; there is lots of theorizing being done apart from any actual empirical observations yet I don't think a string theorist would say that she knows nothing beyond what actual experiments have taught her.  How about morality - can you construct an experiment to show that stealing is wrong or do you already know it is wrong before you start?

Offline Razel

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #28 on: May 19, 2013, 02:53:21 AM »
I don't question your willingness to replace knowledge when it fails; what I was wondering is if you think it is possible in principle to find that you need to replace your system of acquiring knowledge?
Obviously I dont know what I dont know. But are you positing that there would be a way of attaining knowledge other than the ONLY way we have ever had as a species? Even conclusions that had been reached that we now know are incorrect were come to by observing something. Then as our bank of observations became more complete and more observable with technology our bank of knowledge became more accurate.

I cant see how there would be another way to attain knowledge

     What about deductive reasoning - is that not how we have acquired knowledge in fields such as geometry and trigonometry? What about the branch of particle physics known as string theory; there is lots of theorizing being done apart from any actual empirical observations yet I don't think a string theorist would say that she knows nothing beyond what actual experiments have taught her. 

Deductive reasoning requires premises.  Without information, most of your reasoning would end with "Need more information".

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How about morality - can you construct an experiment to show that stealing is wrong or do you already know it is wrong before you start?

You can't prove an opinion.