Sunday, March 22, 2015

Tips on Philosophy, Phi-tips

Hi! Groovy Sunday!

How ya' all doin'? Well I hope.

Phi-tips! Phi-tips are things you stick in your ear before you stick in your Q-Tips! Ha!

How does one discuss the supernatural in the information age?

Phi-tips! That's what these phi-tips are about, helping you to consume information with confidence.

First, the tips and then the long windedness.

  1. Decision thresholds.

    There are two fundamental decision thresholds: control and whimsy. I typically refer to the two fundamental levels of "control" and "whimsy" as "decision making" and "pop culture" respectively. I make purchasing decisions every day for pop culture that have no control aspects. I buy music and sci-fi t-shirts. These are decisions...but these decisions do not rise the level of decision making about controlling people. Those of us who are atheists have no problem with religion, sports, Justin Beaver or any other pop culture people want to subscribe too. All atheists enjoy pop culture. When viewed in that light religion is just a pop culture.  All adherents are self subscribing in pop culture. Where atheists have a problem with theists, or any pop culture, is when a self-subscribed behavior is being  pushed on others, like an agenda to prevent gay marriage that is controlling lives of others outside that religion. As long as any religion, Justin Beaver fans or other pop cultures are not setting public policy to control peoples lives then pop culture decision making is mostly harmless. The people who subscribe to pop culture may take it very serious but to those on the outside of the pop culture the pop culture is just whimsy. I'm a fanatic about a TV show called, "Firefly". When I am criticized that this pop culture fanaticism may be too much I just shrug. They may be right. Its my life.

  2. Null Hypothesis.

    The null hypothesis can be stated that truth requires evidence, no evidence then no truth.

  3. Evidence gaps.

    Evidence gaps arise when there are unknown variables that go into decision making.  Human behavior is not well understood and so most programs to manage human behavior, especially on the world scale level,  require reason built upon numerous evidence gaps. For example, oft times in lieu of any evidence of causality then we rely on correlation. The problem with ignoring evidence gaps when discussing arguments and not calling out evidence gaps habitually is that in our conversations we forget to mention that while correlation may be the best evidence available today that in fact correlation can be completely erroneous. Relentless acknowledgement of evidence gaps can go a long way to putting contentious issues such as gun control and climate change into a proper decision perspective. 


When the first two phi-tips, one for each ear, are applied appropriately then folks who may not otherwise get along can converge to agreement. The third phi-tip improves communication. Acknowledging evidence gaps is crucial to admitting that while a decision needs to be made the solution has a risk.

Lately I've been watching debates on Youtube about philosophy, religion vs. atheism, that kind of thing. I'm doing this because scaling the world is going to require bringing people together who currently do not otherwise get along.  What I've observed is that religious debates can be made moot by requiring the above first two phi-tips.

Do gods exist? and if so which gods are real? These are two fundamental questions that keep people apart and are preventing world scale. Let's apply the first two phi-tips and see what happens. Assume all parities agree to use the two phi-tips as fertile soil for common ground when discussing the supernatural. The null hypothesis implies that ideas can be called delusions without supporting evidence and therefore there is no need to disprove a reasonable argument. This flies counter to history where historically the logic of arguments was to prove or to disprove. The null hypothesis removes the burden of disproof.  To further illustrate then I'm going to posit two arguments and compare and contrast.

Argument 1:

Let's take the null hypothesis out of the realm of the supernatural for a moment and just apply the null hypothesis to the real world. I will make the claim that alien life exists on billions of planets throughout the universe. I make this claim based upon evidence. The evidence is that within the last century it was discovered that the basic building blocks of life are ubiquitous throughout the universe; hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen. Further, evolution and biochemistry are such that we are close to closing the evidence gap of inert matter transitioning to life. Therefore life exists on other planets is a fact. Now prove me wrong.

Argument 2:

The above argument is identical to modern arguments that gods exist. The universe had a beginning with the big bang and therefore must have a first cause. The prime mover/universe creator does not have a beginning and is timeless and space-less and hence doesn't need a creator. Therefore some god exists and doesn't need a creator. Some god created the universe then is a fact. Now prove me wrong.

The two arguments are identical in formulation. The key difference is that one invokes the supernatural, gods exist, and the other does not. The notion here is to knock down the type of argument being used, to either prove or disprove. In the modern world we apply the null hypothesis to the supernatural, not prove or disprove.  Both Argument 1. and Argument 2. rely on a pre-science notion of arguing via to prove or to disprove some reasonable argument. In the days before science reasonable arguments had little evidence and huge evidence gaps and that needed to be filled or overlooked in order to provide any argument whatsoever. All sides were lacking evidence and deduction was fundamental to evidence. Two-thousand years ago little evidence was known about our physical nature. Claims that supernatural forces were at work were reasonable. The supernatural two-thousand years ago was taken for granted by most everyone. The supernatural was assumed. That assumption is now off the table. That is how to talk about the supernatural in the information age.

Argument 1. above stating that alien life exists throughout the universe is a reasonable argument. Yet, today you will not hear a single scientist put for this argument forth as solid proof that there exists alien life on other planets. This is because in the modern era the null-hypothesis is the default truth position: no evidence no truth. This same thinking for scientists apply to Argument 2. about god arguments. There is no evidence for god but there is a deductive argument, the universe has a beginning and requires a beginner. There is no direct evidence for this beginner/universe creator and so the scientist dismisses this the same as dismissing alien life on other planets. Deductive arguments exist but are not considered as truth.


Strategically if the null hypothesis is the default position then are all prove-disprove deductive reasonable arguments no longer to be used? Are these deductive arguments archaic? The scientific application of the null hypothesis as *the* only valid argument for discussing the supernatural is disingenuous scientifically as a blanket statement. Science relies on deductive arguments every single day. These deductive arguments are used to fill in the evidence gaps. Every day we need to make life-or-death decisions in the face of unknowns. War being a good example. We have no evidence killing terrorists will be disperse them completely from Earth, but there is a deductive argument. Climate change is another example. Yes, man-made climate change is a scientific fact. What that fact means and how to mitigate that meaning relies on deductive arguments, or guessing. Presumably reversing the man made change will reset things but what if we have passed a catalyst point and set off a reaction no longer under our control where reversing our carbon emissions is pointless?

The question then is why is the null hypothesis required in some cases and not in others? The answer is lost on most philosophers that I've read. The answer is that use of deduction depends on whether there are control threshold decisions that need to be made. If there are no control threshold decisions requiring us to subvert the null-hypothesis and use deductive arguments then the null hypothesis is the only strategy that should be applied. In the ideal world we understand 100% the consequences of our actions. We are nowhere near achieving that ideal.

However, we have no compelling decisions to be made with respect to the supernatural. Religion and their various gods have been reduced to pop culture status, whimsy decisions. There is no need for control threshold decisions that combine the supernatural with the natural world. None. All religious decisions are personal, about personal behavior and personal belief about the after life. To whit, in 1969 the New York Times ran with a headline that "God is Dead." What the NYT really should have printed is that "God is a Novelty." Religion today is just a novelty as with any other pop culture phenomena. And that's okay.

There is absolutely no evidence that the supernatural influences the natural world today. Therefore the null-hypothesis applies to all things supernatural and not just the notion of the existence of gods. In other words if evidence could be shown that public prayer has any supernatural merit then deductive arguments for the supernatural can be given even if we do not understand why prayer works. To date no religion has been able to show supernatural forces are measurable naturally. There has never been shown the laws of nature have ever been suspended.


In conclusion the phi-tips afford common ground for decision making between groups subscribing to the supernatural. Science does rely on the deductive arguments when making decisions in the face of evidence gaps. However, deductive arguments are a stop-gap applied until such a time as a better evidence is provided. In the modern era there is no evidence gap that would benefit from the application of a supernatural appeal. There has never been any evidence that supernatural appeals such as prayer have any efficacy whatsoever so deductively there is no reason to apply them. Further, excellent deductive arguments about the origins of the universe do not rise to the level of decision making on planet Earth. Pop culture decisions yes, control and policy decision making no. These arguments are nothing more than mere curiosities. As such then the null hypothesis is appropriately required by scientists or atheists as the standard for the supernatural. Deductive reasoning should only be used when decisions are needed and no evidence is available. Religion and the supernatural do not meet a deductive reasoning standard because the supernatural has never been shown to have efficacy in the natural world and origins of the universe impact no Earthly decision. Creator arguments are true but moot. It has never been shown that the laws of nature have been suspended.


The future is coming!

Well come! and well met!

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