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How to decide what to believe about anything

ApostateAbe
Posts: 236
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6/28/2011 11:55:13 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
The "Argument to the Best Explanation" (ABE) is the way to decide the most probable explanation for any evidence concerning any objective reality. It was developed within the field of New Testament historical scholarship, where evidence is scarce and arguments are the most difficult, but the method is appropriate for any field. It goes like this:

1. The statement, together with other statements already held to be true, must imply yet other statements describing present, observable data. (We will henceforth call the first statement 'the hypothesis', and the statements describing observable data, 'observation statements'.)

2. The hypothesis must be of greater explanatory scope than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, it must imply a greater variety of observation statements.

3. The hypothesis must be of greater explanatory power than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, it must make the observation statements it implies more probable than any other.

4. The hypothesis must be more plausible than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, it must be implied to some degree by a greater variety of accepted truths than any other, and be implied more strongly than any other; and its probable negation must be implied by fewer beliefs, and implied less strongly than any other.

5. The hypothesis must be less ad hoc than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, it must include fewer new suppositions about the past which are not already implied to some extent by existing beliefs.

6. It must be disconfirmed by fewer accepted beliefs than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, when conjoined with accepted truths it must imply fewer observation statements and other statements which are believed to be false.

7. It must exceed other incompatible hypotheses about the same subject by so much, in characteristics 2 to 6, that there is little chance of an incompatible hypothesis, after further investigation, soon exceeding it in these respects.

Source: C. Behan McCullagh, Justifying Historical Descriptions, Cambridge University Press: New York (1984). ISBN 0-521-31830-0. via Wikipedia's entry: Historical Method (http://en.wikipedia.org...).

Remember those five key criteria in bold font.

I further propose that those five criteria may be condensed down to only two criteria: (1) Which theory is most expected by the facts, and (2) which theory conflicts least with the expectations of the facts?

Now change everything that you currently believe according to this method. You know you have done it right when your beliefs match my own.
Cliff.Stamp
Posts: 2,169
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6/29/2011 12:15:03 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
What do you do when one theory only partially dominates, i.e., it is more right (greater predictions) but also more wrong (contrary evidence) at the same time?
Thaddeus
Posts: 6,985
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6/29/2011 4:45:30 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 6/29/2011 12:15:03 AM, Cliff.Stamp wrote:
What do you do when one theory only partially dominates, i.e., it is more right (greater predictions) but also more wrong (contrary evidence) at the same time?

6 deals with that. Of course 7 makes the whole things vacuous; "plausible theories are plausible"
ApostateAbe
Posts: 236
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6/29/2011 8:24:40 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 6/29/2011 12:15:03 AM, Cliff.Stamp wrote:
What do you do when one theory only partially dominates, i.e., it is more right (greater predictions) but also more wrong (contrary evidence) at the same time?

Well, then you have uncertainty about that theory. But, there is a solution. When in doubt, just ask me what I believe and you believe it.
Cliff.Stamp
Posts: 2,169
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6/29/2011 9:10:04 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 6/29/2011 8:24:40 AM, ApostateAbe wrote:

Well, then you have uncertainty about that theory. But, there is a solution. When in doubt, just ask me what I believe and you believe it.

Doesn't that just simplify everyone to one rule then? Is this properly basic?
ApostateAbe
Posts: 236
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6/29/2011 10:44:09 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 6/29/2011 9:10:04 AM, Cliff.Stamp wrote:
At 6/29/2011 8:24:40 AM, ApostateAbe wrote:

Well, then you have uncertainty about that theory. But, there is a solution. When in doubt, just ask me what I believe and you believe it.

Doesn't that just simplify everyone to one rule then? Is this properly basic?

That's right. It is what everyone does, in practice, right? They claim to be reasonable people and they claim reasonable methods, but in practice their conclusions are decided by their authority figures or ideologies. So, I am giving you a method for deciding beliefs that you can claim to follow, but that is only a cheap tuxedo for your actual way of thinking, and you will let your favorite authority decide everything, regardless, and it may as well be me.
Cliff.Stamp
Posts: 2,169
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6/29/2011 10:51:55 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 6/29/2011 10:44:09 AM, ApostateAbe wrote:

That's right. It is what everyone does, in practice, right?

No, some people can provide warrant.
CosmicAlfonzo
Posts: 5,955
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6/29/2011 11:54:15 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
I've had to deal with this particular method a few times.

The problem is, the people who use it often times don't realize that their "explanations" are usually not only the best explanation, but they are patently retarded explanations.
Official "High Priest of Secular Affairs and Transient Distributor of Sonic Apple Seeds relating to the Reptilian Division of Paperwork Immoliation" of The FREEDO Bureaucracy, a DDO branch of the Erisian Front, a subdivision of the Discordian Back, a Limb of the Illuminatian Cosmic Utensil Corp
ApostateAbe
Posts: 236
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6/29/2011 12:07:50 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 6/29/2011 10:51:55 AM, Cliff.Stamp wrote:
At 6/29/2011 10:44:09 AM, ApostateAbe wrote:

That's right. It is what everyone does, in practice, right?

No, some people can provide warrant.

Well, maybe you have noticed this, but the reasons that people explicitly state to explain their own beliefs about the most essential issues most of the time are better explained by their authority figures and ideologies.
ApostateAbe
Posts: 236
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6/29/2011 12:12:50 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 6/29/2011 11:54:15 AM, CosmicAlfonzo wrote:
I've had to deal with this particular method a few times.

The problem is, the people who use it often times don't realize that their "explanations" are usually not only the best explanation, but they are patently retarded explanations.

I noticed that, too. That is why I suggest using this method as a cheap tuxedo to mask your true motivations for your conclusions. I have used it plenty of time in my own debate. Here, for example:

http://www.debate.org...

I argue using ABE that the historical Jesus Christ was a doomsday cult leader.
Cliff.Stamp
Posts: 2,169
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6/29/2011 5:48:45 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 6/29/2011 12:07:50 PM, ApostateAbe wrote:

Well, maybe you have noticed this, but the reasons that people explicitly state to explain their own beliefs about the most essential issues most of the time are better explained by their authority figures and ideologies.

As in they are influenced, lying or ignorant? That's a bit harsh.
ApostateAbe
Posts: 236
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6/29/2011 7:16:53 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 6/29/2011 5:48:45 PM, Cliff.Stamp wrote:
At 6/29/2011 12:07:50 PM, ApostateAbe wrote:

Well, maybe you have noticed this, but the reasons that people explicitly state to explain their own beliefs about the most essential issues most of the time are better explained by their authority figures and ideologies.

As in they are influenced, lying or ignorant? That's a bit harsh.

And you know it is the truth, too.
Cliff.Stamp
Posts: 2,169
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6/29/2011 8:58:47 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
I don't think I would assert that no, but it you are speaking statistically it would just depend on your circle of friends. Sounds like you could use some help there.
ApostateAbe
Posts: 236
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6/29/2011 11:27:23 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 6/29/2011 8:58:47 PM, Cliff.Stamp wrote:
I don't think I would assert that no, but it you are speaking statistically it would just depend on your circle of friends. Sounds like you could use some help there.

I think it may be the conclusion that follows from seeing too many debates on the Internet.
Cliff.Stamp
Posts: 2,169
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6/30/2011 8:32:51 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 6/30/2011 6:13:21 PM, ApostateAbe wrote:
At 6/29/2011 11:42:13 PM, Cliff.Stamp wrote:
That I would not contest.

I accept your apology. :-P

You're a funny guy Sully.
Greyparrot
Posts: 14,251
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7/4/2011 11:09:12 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 7/4/2011 3:25:15 PM, FREEDO wrote:
All beliefs and methods of understanding are incoherent.

Because people are insecure with an imbalance in their beliefs? Even if this imbalance naturally occurs all around them?
Molzahn
Posts: 7
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7/10/2011 7:38:03 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
Occassionally, you will discover two schools of thoughts which match eachother closely in terms of conditions 1 to 6. Take modern QM and string theory for instance. One may choose to believe both equally.

I propose this can be the case for philosophical issues of any sort. For example, one could hold in equally positive esteem the concept that God exists simultaneously with the concept that God does not exist.

Abe is correct to say that many times form follows function in debates. A person may subscribe to ideologies and social contracts and only use debate and colourful argumentation to bolster their intellectual identity (as opposed to true intellectuals who use debate as a means to continually rediscover and reinvent their own identities and understandings).