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Not being in error about not being in error?

Ramshutu
Posts: 4,063
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5/7/2016 7:20:58 PM
Posted: 7 months ago
One of the things I"m pretty sure everyone has noticed on this forum is that almost every last person on this forum is right about what they believe, at least if you ask them, and wrong if you ask anyone else.

It doesn"t matter what evidence is, or is not presented. It doesn"t matter what arguments are, or aren"t made, nor does it matter how many other smart people do, or don"t agree with you. Most people on this forum have a position they hold about one of the particular contentious subjects, and believe that they have the best arguments, and best amount of support for their position.

Even worse, and probably even harder to wrap your heads around, is that people on both sides of any given issue both hold that the other person is dishonest, deluded, or otherwise ignorant or stupid in some particular way that is responsible for them holding that position.

It"s not possible to say "well, I know the other person is wrong because they ignore evidence X". Because in reality, that"s exactly what they"ve claimed about you. If you"re actually the stupid, ignorant or illogical person, but don"t realize it; would it not appear to you, with your faulty reasoning, that you would appear to be the one that"s correct.

As a species, humans often have significant internal biases, that are almost as hard to see as they are to acknowledge. With emotion, pride, world view and "belief" being as important motivators in what you think is true as what is actually true itself.

Indeed, changing someone"s mind, no matter how smart, intelligent and open minded some people can be, is probably one of the hardest things to do on the planet.

Indeed, even if you try to be open minded, and treat an argument on it"s merits, is that even really possible? What is the difference between rejecting something out of hand before you"ve even looked at it, vs saying you"ll treat it honestly even though there is no possibility of you accepting it no matter how true it is because of your own psychological predisposition.

In the latter case, you"d feel you were honestly treating the evidence, and yet you"d be just as biased as someone who is honest to what they"re actually going to do; even worse it could be that this sort of argument is even more self deluded because it will make you feel more honest.

This is the singular argument that keeps me awake at night, and this thought should terrify every other person in this forum.

What if I am the irrational, idiotic, unintentionally dishonest person in this argument, wrapped up in my own bias and can"t see it; in much the same way I argue the same is happening in the arguments of those who disagree me at the most basic aspects of science.

This really transcends the evidence, argument or logical premises for or against anything that I hold true. I can"t say "well I have evidence that shows"" when the same is true of the other people too, if they"re right I just "think" it"s evidence when in reality, my logical processing could be all messed up.

Is this something that keeps anyone else awake at night (well, it doesn"t really, but it"s always in my head). How do you even tell which one is which? How do you know it"s not you? What do you do to try and help satisfy you"re doing enough to scrutinize your own bias?

This could degenerate into an argument on the details, or the evidence. But it really shouldn't, and can't. That's the point. This is a discussion about how understand or identify when a personal conviction affects the interpretation of reality, and how any of us can see what that is happening to ourselves, because we will likely see that in anyone else that disagrees with us.

P.S:
A prediction for later:
Ipttwbmpwwcittal statpoemtiiwwaie ataor. Icgttwbatrtatpotoieb, ettactsbio. Iaotsotsartae iootkiowati, iabiartaeiaioap tcbcatmltbiw.
janesix
Posts: 3,465
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5/7/2016 8:43:22 PM
Posted: 7 months ago
At 5/7/2016 7:20:58 PM, Ramshutu wrote:
One of the things I"m pretty sure everyone has noticed on this forum is that almost every last person on this forum is right about what they believe, at least if you ask them, and wrong if you ask anyone else.

It doesn"t matter what evidence is, or is not presented. It doesn"t matter what arguments are, or aren"t made, nor does it matter how many other smart people do, or don"t agree with you. Most people on this forum have a position they hold about one of the particular contentious subjects, and believe that they have the best arguments, and best amount of support for their position.

Even worse, and probably even harder to wrap your heads around, is that people on both sides of any given issue both hold that the other person is dishonest, deluded, or otherwise ignorant or stupid in some particular way that is responsible for them holding that position.

It"s not possible to say "well, I know the other person is wrong because they ignore evidence X". Because in reality, that"s exactly what they"ve claimed about you. If you"re actually the stupid, ignorant or illogical person, but don"t realize it; would it not appear to you, with your faulty reasoning, that you would appear to be the one that"s correct.

As a species, humans often have significant internal biases, that are almost as hard to see as they are to acknowledge. With emotion, pride, world view and "belief" being as important motivators in what you think is true as what is actually true itself.

Indeed, changing someone"s mind, no matter how smart, intelligent and open minded some people can be, is probably one of the hardest things to do on the planet.

Indeed, even if you try to be open minded, and treat an argument on it"s merits, is that even really possible? What is the difference between rejecting something out of hand before you"ve even looked at it, vs saying you"ll treat it honestly even though there is no possibility of you accepting it no matter how true it is because of your own psychological predisposition.

In the latter case, you"d feel you were honestly treating the evidence, and yet you"d be just as biased as someone who is honest to what they"re actually going to do; even worse it could be that this sort of argument is even more self deluded because it will make you feel more honest.



This is the singular argument that keeps me awake at night, and this thought should terrify every other person in this forum.

What if I am the irrational, idiotic, unintentionally dishonest person in this argument, wrapped up in my own bias and can"t see it; in much the same way I argue the same is happening in the arguments of those who disagree me at the most basic aspects of science.


This really transcends the evidence, argument or logical premises for or against anything that I hold true. I can"t say "well I have evidence that shows"" when the same is true of the other people too, if they"re right I just "think" it"s evidence when in reality, my logical processing could be all messed up.

Is this something that keeps anyone else awake at night (well, it doesn"t really, but it"s always in my head). How do you even tell which one is which? How do you know it"s not you? What do you do to try and help satisfy you"re doing enough to scrutinize your own bias?


This could degenerate into an argument on the details, or the evidence. But it really shouldn't, and can't. That's the point. This is a discussion about how understand or identify when a personal conviction affects the interpretation of reality, and how any of us can see what that is happening to ourselves, because we will likely see that in anyone else that disagrees with us.


P.S:
A prediction for later:
Ipttwbmpwwcittal statpoemtiiwwaie ataor. Icgttwbatrtatpotoieb, ettactsbio. Iaotsotsartae iootkiowati, iabiartaeiaioap tcbcatmltbiw.
No it doesn't keep me up at night. The truth seems to sort itself out in the end, especially in science.
RuvDraba
Posts: 6,033
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5/7/2016 9:32:47 PM
Posted: 7 months ago
At 5/7/2016 7:20:58 PM, Ramshutu wrote:
This is the singular argument that keeps me awake at night, and this thought should terrify every other person in this forum.
What if I am the irrational, idiotic, unintentionally dishonest person in this argument, wrapped up in my own bias and can't see it; in much the same way I argue the same is happening in the arguments of those who disagree me at the most basic aspects of science.

I quite appreciate your anxiety about this, Ram! It's a version of a problem many young scientists face as they begin to choose disciplines and projects, and formulate hypotheses to test. The version I first faced was:
1) How do I know what is a good scientific problem to try and solve?
2) How do I know I can solve it, and that I won't end up tearing my hair out?
3) What if my ideas prove wrong?

As a scientist I only ever developed a partial answer to these questions (though I feel I have better answers now.)

Eventually I became more of a consulting engineer, where I wasn't so much responsible for developing new models (though I still did that at times), but more researching, analysing, evaluating and communicating what I understood of the models of others. Then my questions became more like Ramshutu's:

1) How do I decide whether to trust what I've learned?
2) How do I know there isn't more I've overlooked?
3) How do I evaluate competing ideas, when I haven't participated in or directly evaluated the methods?

These are really good questions, and if we're not asking them, we're not thinking critically. The questions that had taxed me in my science career followed me into consulting, and if anything they were wrose, because I was constantly required to offer clients advice on areas that weren't always my speciality, where key information wasn't always available, and where methods weren't always transparent, rigorous or reliable.

I have an answer I came up with while running my consulting company; it's what I teach our staff; and it serves me still when discussing science in particular, or knowledge in general. It requires a bit of a paradigm shift though, so with member indulgence, I'm going to embark on a short disquisition about knowledge vs truth, and then come back to your question.

What is knowledge?
I want to suggest that knowledge is information accurate and comprehensive enough to make reliable decisions. That is, you can see your decisions as predictions based on expectations, and you know your knowledge is adequate if the outcomes of your decisions are the ones you predicted, and you know it's not if they're not.

Knowledge doesn't have to be exhaustive or expert, it doesn't have to be minutely precise or flawlessly accurate -- it just needs to be good enough to use for our intended purposes (whatever they are.) So knowledge is not so much about being right; it's about confidence within tolerance.

So now to truth.

What is truth?
Philosophers began worrying about truth before they even worried about knowledge. If you don't know what's true, some argued, how can you know anything?

It's a fair question, but I take a different view. If knowledge is confidence within tolerance, then truth is simply the product of a validation and verification process -- it's a result, not an assumption, an ideology or a belief. Put simply: truth is not the affirmation of knowledge, but the accounting for it.

So if knowledge is only good as our observation, modelling and prediction, then truth is only as good as our methods to acquire, validate and verify knowledge, and our diligence in applying them.

So as I see it, truth is a moving feast. As our observations expand, our tools and methods improve, and our models grow more precise, accurate and comprehensive, our truth will move too. That's not what many philosophers want, but I think that's what we have. It's not subjective -- not 'perception is reality'. Rather, it's more objective than that: Truth is emergent according to the quality and diligence of our observations and methods.

What this means for science and human thought in general is: it's okay to be wrong, as long as you're thorough, diligent, uphold best practices, and are accountable for what you did. That way your knowledge and your truth are constantly moving forward.

And that's one half of my answer, Ramshutu: it's okay to be wrong. We've built our best knowledge on systematically catching and eliminating our wrong, and no other method has ever worked reliably.

It serves us well, but like housework, that work is never done. Yet here are five key principles to follow:
1) Don't confuse conjecture with knowledge;
2) Always keep track of how knowledge was acquired and verified;
3) Verify your knowledge with significant, specific, falsifiable prediction, always assess residual risk, and never assume you have all the knowledge you need;
4) When there's a problem in method or result, report it immediately; and
5) Constantly test and lift the bar... don't let it fall in order to be comfortable, feel right, hide error, or look impressive.

That's the first half of my answer.

The second part of my answer regarding delusion and dishonesty is a simple suggestion:

Look around you and see who's doing 1-5. In the long term, those are the people whose knowledge can be trusted. And if the people who are doing it reliably are also examining and trusting you, then the chances are, you're doing it right too. :D

I hope that may be useful. :D
Danb6177
Posts: 433
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5/8/2016 12:20:51 AM
Posted: 7 months ago
At 5/7/2016 7:20:58 PM, Ramshutu wrote:
One of the things I"m pretty sure everyone has noticed on this forum is that almost every last person on this forum is right about what they believe, at least if you ask them, and wrong if you ask anyone else.

As long as pride exists you will always come to this. people who spend time or pick up a belief over many years have some trouble putting it down when proved to be in error. Its hard to be told your life thus far is a lie.

But I don't think this describes everyone, maybe the majority. Some people are able to put pride aside and learn something. At the very least what others believe and why.

I think that everyone no matter how sure they are can still be wrong. Hopefully we will know one day.
user13579
Posts: 822
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5/8/2016 1:23:23 AM
Posted: 7 months ago
I like finding contradictions in the arguments of my opponents. That way I don't need any evidence. I don't need to know anything other than logic.
Science in a nutshell:
"Facts are neither true nor false. They simply are."
"All scientific knowledge is provisional. Even facts are provisional."
"We can be absolutely certain that we have a moon, we can be absolutely certain that water is made out of H2O, and we can be absolutely certain that the Earth is a sphere!"
"Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty -- some most unsure, some nearly sure, none absolutely certain."
Ramshutu
Posts: 4,063
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5/8/2016 1:27:09 AM
Posted: 7 months ago
At 5/8/2016 1:23:23 AM, user13579 wrote:
I like finding contradictions in the arguments of my opponents. That way I don't need any evidence. I don't need to know anything other than logic.

But, how do you know they are actually contradictions, if they are saying you are contradicting yourself?

Can you trust the logical validity of your own argument if the other person is equally convinced of the logical validity of theirs and both claim that there are flaws in the other, and the flaws pointed out in their own aren't really flaws?
user13579
Posts: 822
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5/8/2016 1:35:28 AM
Posted: 7 months ago
At 5/8/2016 1:27:09 AM, Ramshutu wrote:
At 5/8/2016 1:23:23 AM, user13579 wrote:
I like finding contradictions in the arguments of my opponents. That way I don't need any evidence. I don't need to know anything other than logic.

But, how do you know they are actually contradictions, if they are saying you are contradicting yourself?

Can you trust the logical validity of your own argument if the other person is equally convinced of the logical validity of theirs and both claim that there are flaws in the other, and the flaws pointed out in their own aren't really flaws?

Quack says that there is no such thing as a virus. Quack says that a virus is too small to be seen. Quack says that nobody has ever seen a virus. How does quack know that they are too small to be seen if nobody has ever seen one? I mean how does quack know how small they are then? Quack has no answer to this so quack ignores me and makes a new quack argument.
Science in a nutshell:
"Facts are neither true nor false. They simply are."
"All scientific knowledge is provisional. Even facts are provisional."
"We can be absolutely certain that we have a moon, we can be absolutely certain that water is made out of H2O, and we can be absolutely certain that the Earth is a sphere!"
"Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty -- some most unsure, some nearly sure, none absolutely certain."
keithprosser
Posts: 1,998
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5/8/2016 1:41:03 AM
Posted: 7 months ago
Admissions of error are rarer on debate boards than hen's teeth. You never see 'Oh, I see now I got the wrong end of the stick about the second law of thermodynamics. Boy, was I dumb! Thanks for putting me straight.'

I call it the 'Black Knight Syndrome' (although as a meme it hasn't caught on!) after the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail where the Black Knight continues to 'fight on' even after his arms and legs have been chopped off.

On a debate board, it doesn't matter if your argument as been shown to be illogical, unsuported and frankly stupid. You fight on. You don't admit any possibility of error. As a last resort, stop posting. But never, never admit you are - or even could be - wrong.

Peraps I exaggerate, but not by much. But in the spirit of on-line debates, if you think I'm wrong, show me the peer-reviewed research that proves I'm wrong and then I'll listen.
user13579
Posts: 822
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5/8/2016 1:45:07 AM
Posted: 7 months ago
At 5/8/2016 1:41:03 AM, keithprosser wrote:
Admissions of error are rarer on debate boards than hen's teeth. You never see 'Oh, I see now I got the wrong end of the stick about the second law of thermodynamics. Boy, was I dumb! Thanks for putting me straight.'

I call it the 'Black Knight Syndrome' (although as a meme it hasn't caught on!) after the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail where the Black Knight continues to 'fight on' even after his arms and legs have been chopped off.

On a debate board, it doesn't matter if your argument as been shown to be illogical, unsuported and frankly stupid. You fight on. You don't admit any possibility of error. As a last resort, stop posting. But never, never admit you are - or even could be - wrong.

Peraps I exaggerate, but not by much. But in the spirit of on-line debates, if you think I'm wrong, show me the peer-reviewed research that proves I'm wrong and then I'll listen.

Ok, just for fun I can turn that around. I can say that everybody admits they're wrong as soon as it's pointed out. Good luck trying to change my mind, because if you're right then I will never admit I'm wrong about this!
Science in a nutshell:
"Facts are neither true nor false. They simply are."
"All scientific knowledge is provisional. Even facts are provisional."
"We can be absolutely certain that we have a moon, we can be absolutely certain that water is made out of H2O, and we can be absolutely certain that the Earth is a sphere!"
"Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty -- some most unsure, some nearly sure, none absolutely certain."
user13579
Posts: 822
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5/8/2016 1:51:39 AM
Posted: 7 months ago
So I guess I created another paradox. I'm good at creating paradoxes when you're around lol. If you're right, then I will always think that I'm right. But if I think that I'm right, then I would have to admit I'm wrong as soon as you tell me I'm wrong. But if I admit that I'm wrong then that would mean that you're wrong. If you're right, then you're wrong.
Science in a nutshell:
"Facts are neither true nor false. They simply are."
"All scientific knowledge is provisional. Even facts are provisional."
"We can be absolutely certain that we have a moon, we can be absolutely certain that water is made out of H2O, and we can be absolutely certain that the Earth is a sphere!"
"Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty -- some most unsure, some nearly sure, none absolutely certain."
keithprosser
Posts: 1,998
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5/8/2016 1:54:03 AM
Posted: 7 months ago
You are quite right. I don't know what I was thinking in my last post. I'm so glad you put me straight on that. Still, we all make mistakes I guess.
Ramshutu
Posts: 4,063
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5/8/2016 1:55:06 AM
Posted: 7 months ago
At 5/8/2016 1:41:03 AM, keithprosser wrote:
Admissions of error are rarer on debate boards than hen's teeth. You never see 'Oh, I see now I got the wrong end of the stick about the second law of thermodynamics. Boy, was I dumb! Thanks for putting me straight.'

I call it the 'Black Knight Syndrome' (although as a meme it hasn't caught on!) after the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail where the Black Knight continues to 'fight on' even after his arms and legs have been chopped off.

On a debate board, it doesn't matter if your argument as been shown to be illogical, unsuported and frankly stupid. You fight on. You don't admit any possibility of error. As a last resort, stop posting. But never, never admit you are - or even could be - wrong.

Peraps I exaggerate, but not by much. But in the spirit of on-line debates, if you think I'm wrong, show me the peer-reviewed research that proves I'm wrong and then I'll listen.

This is actually called "The backfire effect" and it's a measurable thing.
keithprosser
Posts: 1,998
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5/8/2016 2:15:40 AM
Posted: 7 months ago
Paradoxophile User13579 should love the backfire effect. It means that - for example - arguing with a creationist and presenting them with evidence for evolution is actually counter-productive!

The best way to argue with a creationist is not to argue with a creationist!
user13579
Posts: 822
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5/8/2016 2:29:59 AM
Posted: 7 months ago
At 5/8/2016 2:15:40 AM, keithprosser wrote:
Paradoxophile User13579 should love the backfire effect. It means that - for example - arguing with a creationist and presenting them with evidence for evolution is actually counter-productive!

The best way to argue with a creationist is not to argue with a creationist!

What if I just say that you're wrong about the backfire effect? Yeah, I guess that's another paradox.
Science in a nutshell:
"Facts are neither true nor false. They simply are."
"All scientific knowledge is provisional. Even facts are provisional."
"We can be absolutely certain that we have a moon, we can be absolutely certain that water is made out of H2O, and we can be absolutely certain that the Earth is a sphere!"
"Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty -- some most unsure, some nearly sure, none absolutely certain."