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July 03, 2006


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Yes, there was something niggling at me about your post "Religious Knowledge Totals Exactly Zero."

Being and non-being arise simultaneously.

This is the essence of knowledge for a human being. There are always two sides whenever we approach an experience armed with the tools that build knowledge.

To posit being is to posit non-being, which is why in the Renaissance church, the via negativa was grudgingly accepted by academics: it is a philosophically valid method of spiritual discovery.

You can only know that there is nothing because there is something. To extrapolate that there is no religious knowledge indicates that there is evidence of religion knowledge used by humans in history and modernty. Since the set "religious knowledge" includes in it all methods of knowing, the evidence that is up for debate entails the only terms available for the debate.

The pen can not mark itself, nor the eye see itself. Science is in the same boat, as your medical adventure seems to show: if there were no question about the disease, the probability wave would collapse, and the cure would be immediately obvious. Again - there would be NO QUESTION.

Likewise, there is no question in the weight of evidence supporting my chosen political party. Scientifically in general, but more to the point, cognitively, my regard for evidence, (how it is discovered, how presented, how debated,) is essentially superstitious.

It would be awfully awkward to assert that all knowledge is religious in essence.

Lyme disease can be arrested, and can be acutely debilitating. My prayers are with you and your home.

Thank you, Edward. I was given a prescription for antibiotics yesterday, but the doctor thought the rash looked more like a mild infection caused by the tick removal.

Early on, my understanding is that antibiotics usually knock out Lyme disease. It's when it goes unrecognized and untreated for months or years that chronic problems arise.

I'll get the results of the tick test in a few days. It may well be that the tick wasn't carrying Lyme disease. But as I said, I might still choose to go on with the course of treatment.

I just don't know.

Hi Brian,

Something that's bothered me for years and seems to be repeated by every mystic path is this myth of a golden age. Not the golden age of greece. The RS golden age, silver age, etc. Actually, that's what caused me to quit attending the meetings. There is not a shred of evidence that there was ever any golden age. My findings are that true Humankind started around 30 thousand years ago. Our kingdom is very young. They claim humans exsited millions of years ago in spiritually perfect society. There is nothing to support that whatsoever, except hindo myth. When we look back in time, the farther it goes the worst it gets. Dredgery, disease, the list is huge. And way back in time it's worst. Giant animals w/ huge teeth, nothing but killing machines.

I think the belief in a golden age needs to be flushed down the toilet so that we can begin to think rightly and see thing as they really are. Correct analysis really shows that things are better Now than they ever have been in almost every single way.
Perhaps this is the dawn of a golden age. The days of yesteryear were hell on earth, from the beginning of mankind.

I think a lot of religions, including RS, base there systems fair and square on the myth of a golden age. I think the myth needs to be destroyed or proven or openly supported. Something definite needs to said about it in RS, not just ignored and sweep under the rug and then pulled out when it's convienient and spoken of as if it's something real.

There was never any stinking golden age, Man is 30k years old, things are better now than ever. If they come out and say that, the truth, They can't say how terrible things are now in the iron age by comparing us to some made up fantasy.

Why don't you write something about that.

Shermer's piece is rather seriously flawed, I think. Here is some material that I posted at pandasthumb.org:

"I have observed the following: no matter the issue under discussion, both sides are equally convinced that the evidence overwhelmingly supports their position."

I wonder if Shermer was at all conscious of his own confirmation bias there.

It’s interesting to see how many Libertarians and moderates believe that, because they are neither Democrat or Republican, or neither far left or far right, that therefore their positions are more reasonable or correct than either of those — they take their centrality itself as evidence in support of their position. To see how wrong this thinking can be, consider evolutionary biologists and creationists who are equally convinced that the evidence overwhelmingly supports their position — this equal surety does not imply equal bias. And I suggest that the same applies to Democrats and Republicans, contrary to Shermer’s glib, self-serving, and unsupported claim that “this surety is called the confirmation bias”. Of course there is confirmation bias, but not all surety is due to same.

Also, I wonder what the statements were in which “the candidates clearly contradicted themselves”, and who judged them to be contradictions. For instance, although many people think that John Kerry contradicted himself when he said “I voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it”, it’s not a contradiction but rather an accurate fact — and it wasn’t even a flip-flop, because he voted for the funded version before he voted against the unfunded version.

Looking at this again … this study actually isn’t about confirmation bias at all. Imagine listening to Saddam Hussein reading from the Federalist Papers. Should we weigh his arguments carefully and use them to form judgments as whether this fellow has the right ideas about politics and whether we might want to vote for him sometime? Of course not … we already have a model of Saddam formed from a great deal of prior evidence of his behavior, and his reading the Federalist papers is interpreted in light of that model. Likewise, hearing a contradiction from someone whom you model as basically honest is interpreted quite differently than a contradiction from someone whom you model as basically dishonest, and it would be irrational, not rational, to treat them as equivalent. The question of rationality goes to whether one’s models accurately reflect the evidence they were exposed to, and for that you must go beyond isolated utterances by familiar figures.

"Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) a study showed where in the brain the confirmation bias arises and how it is unconscious and driven by emotions."

The thing I find particularly odd here is the assumed equation between confirmation bias and “circuits hypothesized to be involved in regulating emotion” vs. “the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning”, when that isn’t a proper characterization of confirmation bias at all. Confirmation bias is, per wikipedia, “a type of statistical bias describing the tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions”. This isn’t emotional as opposed to reasoned. One could write an algorithm for a search displaying confirmation bias just as one could write an algorithm employing any other heuristic; none of these algorithms is any more “emotional” than any other.

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