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Chinahand

Grayling And Dawkins

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Zero. I'm guessing you got 5 on the medetation question? I liked the balanced summary at the end :)

 

Your score of zero is about as intellectually questionable as a score of 100,000. I scored 40, because the first three questions were worded around the possibility of existence, rather than the existence itself. The only way to answer these without claiming knowledge that we don't yet have is to answer "yes", no matter how small the probability of is. After question 4 he becomes more definite in the questions he's asking.

 

Dave

 

I agree with you and I admit my score could be higher depending on how sceptical, or not, my mood is!

 

I call this problem Witgenstein's Rhinoceros - during his student days the famous philosopher had a tutorial with the equally famous philosopher Bertam Russel and refused point blank to admit there wasn't a Rhinoceros in the tutorial room.

 

Now you can get into all sorts of arguments about what do you mean by Rhinoceros - could someone have a plastic one in their pocket etc. But no lets be rigourous - a Rhinoceros as in a half tonne living breathing mammal with a horn (or two) on its nose.

 

Now Dr Dave - can you please answer this question: do you believe there exists (or may exist) a Rhinoceros in the room you are currently in?

 

I find saying you have to answer this question "yes" because there is some tiny probability there is a rhinoceros in your room and you've missed it just plain odd - is there really a difference between this and the first few questions?

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Now Dr Dave - can you please answer this question: do you believe there exists (or may exist) a Rhinoceros in the room you are currently in?

 

I find saying you have to answer this question "yes" because there is some tiny probability there is a rhinoceros in your room and you've missed it just plain odd - is there really a difference between this and the first few questions?

 

I think there is. For a start, I can observe my room and I know a lot about rhinos (so know what I'm looking for). Basically, I have a pretty good knowledge of all the parameters. The only way there could be a rhinoceros in my room is if everything I know about rhinoceroses was wrong (in which case, I don't think it's a fair question) or if my senses were misleading me.

 

The question of origins is different, because we know so little. We haven't observed everything, we don't know anything about the possible nature of a creator, we don't know what happens at the creation of a universe, we don't know what is likely or unlikely. Also, despite Dawkins' argument about the unlikely nature of an intelligent creator, we really don't know what probability to assign to a creator at all - Dawkins' argument is really just a reframing of the creationist "the universe is too unlikely to come into being spontaneously" claim, in order to render it absurd.

 

It may be that universes need creators. It may be that intelligent entities pop into existence like paired particles outside the universe. We're pretty much just flailing in the dark on all aspects of this, and any statement of certainty, whether it be "there is a god" or "there is no god", is just as dishonest as another.

 

I take the point that since you can never know anything for certain then technically "yes" is the only answer to both, and therefore ludicrous, but I would argue that "yes" is somewhat less ludicrous for the origins question than for the rhino question.

 

Dave

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[we] .. have ... to answer "yes", no matter how small the probability of is.

Dave

I think you are now admitting this isn't so - there is a probabilistic cut off point, which is non zero. The Rhino is below this cut off point, a creator, in your view, above it.

 

We can argue about where the line should be, and the position of the creator (and the Rhino) relative to this line (and to each other - have you checked the cupboard) - but that is theology.

 

It was the "no matter how small" part of your answer which made me frown!!

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I think you are now admitting this isn't so - there is a probabilistic cut off point, which is non zero. The Rhino is below this cut off point, a creator, in your view, above it.

 

Hmm, not quite. I think they're really different kinds of questions. The probabilistic cut-off applies to the rhino, since we have enough knowledge to assign a reliable probability.

 

To the creator question, we know so little that any probability assignment is meaningless. So answering "no" is not a safe or honest answer. A safe answer, with little ambiguity would be "yes, but only because we know so little about the question that all possibilities are still on the table".

 

It was the "no matter how small" part of your answer which made me frown!!

 

Point taken.

 

Dave

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Now Dr Dave - can you please answer this question: do you believe there exists (or may exist) a Rhinoceros in the room you are currently in?

 

I find saying you have to answer this question "yes" because there is some tiny probability there is a rhinoceros in your room and you've missed it just plain odd - is there really a difference between this and the first few questions?

 

I think there is. For a start, I can observe my room and I know a lot about rhinos (so know what I'm looking for). Basically, I have a pretty good knowledge of all the parameters. The only way there could be a rhinoceros in my room is if everything I know about rhinoceroses was wrong (in which case, I don't think it's a fair question) or if my senses were misleading me.

 

I take the point that since you can never know anything for certain then technically "yes" is the only answer to both, and therefore ludicrous, but I would argue that "yes" is somewhat less ludicrous for the origins question than for the rhino question.

 

Dave

Plus what about the pencil sketch of a Rhinoceros and other african animals that was sketched on your bedroom wall by the kids of the previous occupants when their dad was decorating and now lies hidden by the wallpaper, or even the plastic toy Rhinoceros hidden in the insulation of your attic that dropped out of a box stored there?

 

My point being, that just because you can't see it - it doesn't mean it's not there or even in the Rhinoceros form you are scientifically looking for at present - all of a sudden the probability changes because a new theory emerges.

 

I remember reading that if we mixed up all of the oxygen molecules that exist on the planet evenly, then there will at least be a couple of oxygen atoms from Julius Ceaser's last breath in every breath we take - so on that basis I would also say your place is probably full of rhino-breath.

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Plus what about the pencil sketch of a Rhinoceros and other african animals that was sketched on your bedroom wall by the kids of the previous occupants when their dad was decorating and now lies hidden by the wallpaper, or even the plastic toy Rhinoceros hidden in the insulation of your attic that dropped out of a box stored there?

 

My point being, that just because you can't see it - it doesn't mean it's not there or even in the Rhinoceros form you are scientifically looking for at present - all of a sudden the probability changes because a new theory emerges.

 

I remember reading that if we mixed up all of the oxygen molecules that exist on the planet evenly, then there will at least be a couple of oxygen atoms from Julius Ceaser's last breath in every breath we take - so on that basis I would also say your place is probably full of rhino-breath.

 

All true, but China specifically limited the question to "a Rhinoceros as in a half tonne living breathing mammal with a horn (or two) on its nose". I'm pretty certain I would notice that.

 

Dave

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Plus what about the pencil sketch of a Rhinoceros and other african animals that was sketched on your bedroom wall by the kids of the previous occupants when their dad was decorating and now lies hidden by the wallpaper, or even the plastic toy Rhinoceros hidden in the insulation of your attic that dropped out of a box stored there?

 

My point being, that just because you can't see it - it doesn't mean it's not there or even in the Rhinoceros form you are scientifically looking for at present - all of a sudden the probability changes because a new theory emerges.

 

I remember reading that if we mixed up all of the oxygen molecules that exist on the planet evenly, then there will at least be a couple of oxygen atoms from Julius Ceaser's last breath in every breath we take - so on that basis I would also say your place is probably full of rhino-breath.

 

All true, but China specifically limited the question to "a Rhinoceros as in a half tonne living breathing mammal with a horn (or two) on its nose". I'm pretty certain I would notice that.

 

Dave

Dang - missed his plastic example. Though if you limit the question, you'll always limit the answers and usually end up getting the answer you thought you'd get, or wanted anyway.

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