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Discussion (32)¬

  1. Sir Beast says:

    I heard a saying once… “If it works, it’s probably true” (right alongside “If it’s a paradox, it’s probably true”). My own little add on to that saying: “When it gets broke or stops working, things go wrong”.
    Apply as you see fit.

  2. Sir Beast says:

    But then again, some say perception is reality, so what is true for one may not be true for another…

  3. VanDerVal says:

    It’s true if I believe it’s true.

  4. carolita says:

    Aw, Mo is so cute.

    PS – My motto is: if it’s too hard to climb the stairs to Heaven, raise Hell instead!
    (sounds better in Latin).

  5. Jonathan says:

    Do I smell solipsism? There really is such a thing as wrong, and truth really can be tested. Anyone not doing it is thinking like our boys in the strip.

  6. carolita says:

    Truth cannot be tested. Facts can be tested. That’s why people can’t test religion, according to Popper. Because anyone can think their beliefs are true. Wrong is only real in matters of fact. Wrong is relative in many instances. False, however, is always false. It’s false that I love Jesus, but it’s not wrong if I do. Ha ha!

    It can come in very handy to remember that truth is a very elusive thing, and that convictions are often fatal. I think it’s no coincidence that the same word is used when people are thrown in jail. Convictions will get you (and your fellow humans) in trouble.

  7. mat says:

    It’s a little beside the point, but I stumbled a few days ago on a quote by nobel prize winning American physicist Steve Weinburg: “Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”

  8. TB says:

    Good point mat.

    Morals and Compassion are beyond religion, and do not need it. And if people still need a religion to not to stray into degeneration and evil, the problem is not in religious coverage, it is in these men.

    We should better go extinct if we will forever need religion to be stable.

  9. Sybarite says:

    Hey. This is a very good comic. Quite awesome. I started an atheistic comic once, but only got to a hundred episodes. :(

    Keep up the great work. I personally don’t think this civil union will stick.

  10. carolita says:

    When I was 16, I was trying my darned best to be “born again” like the kids at the christian retreat I went to every summer, and suddenly I realized I was only trying to be good so that I’d go to Heaven instead of Hell. That meant I was totally insincere! I would definitely go to Hell, since God, who’s supposed to be omniscient, would totally see through all my good deeds and behavior.

    So, I gave up. I decided to do good for rational reasons instead. It was not that hard to understand that all the ten commandments come down to one rule — don’t fuck up the world for everyone around you, be considerate (ie. don’t kill people, don’t steal from them, don’t cheat them, etc.) If we’re good and take care of eachother, the world is obvously going to be a better place for all. That was a good enough reason for me — Heaven and Hell didn’t need to be brought up.

    The only commandment that I couldn’t work around was the one about the jealous God who wanted all my attention… I’ll have no truck with jealous and possessive entities!

  11. carolita says:

    I mean, don’t you think it’s a little odd that most religious people use the threat of Hell and the enticements of Heaven as reasons to love God? Isn’t that a little self-serving? Isn’t that kind of selfish and more about covering your own ass? How is that Christian? Or anything but self-preservation?

  12. Jonathan says:

    carolita, regarding your comment above on my use of the word truth, I had intended it rather in the sense of “true or false”. I may have been a bit too brief in defining my terms. So I believe it was a semantic issue.

    But I basically agree with everything you say, and it’s true (or a fact, if you prefer) that some of the least christian people I know are christians. Self deception seems to be a prerequisite for religion.

  13. VanDerVal says:

    Solipsism? Well, my mind is my constraint. However, that does not necessarily assume exclusive existance, nor does it deny existance of things beyond oneself. OTOH, I cannot be sure about it, thus, it is a bit solipsistic, I guess.
    But that’s beside the point.
    Truth is a part of beleif system, and as such cannot exist without “believing”.

  14. mark says:

    reminds me of andy warhol . . . “i’m deeply superficial”

  15. Jonathan says:

    VanDerVal, when you say “it’s true if I believe it’s true”, you seem to be making a general statement about truth (or fact, as carolita would likely prefer) stemming from your personal belief. If you had said “it’s true *for me* if I believe it” you would have limited the scope, but at the same time reduced your statement to a tautology.

    I just don’t understand how your statement could not be completely solipsistic.

    Anyway, I meant truth to mean scientifically verifiable fact, and while I agree that there is no such thing as 100% proof, there is such a thing as a preponderance of evidence. With this in mind, claiming that truth in the sense I use it above cannot exist without believing (in the sense of holding something true without evidence or with insufficient evidence) is just wrong (in the sense of being incorrect). Or do you mean something else with belief system?

    I hope you are not trying to argue that science is a religion.

  16. carolita says:

    He he. I only brought up the distinction between truth and fact because everyone was getting a little high-falootin’, and if we’re really going to talk about things, we really should stick rigorously to the terminology. I took epistemology, philosophy, and logic after long, frustrating years of not being able to hold my own in an argument. It really does help. Just consider it a way of being polite, not as eggheadedness or snobism. I understand Americans love to assume people know what they mean and believe in their good intentions, but that’s what gets us into trouble, isn’t it? :)p

  17. VanDerVal says:

    Jonathan, all I’m saying is that truth is a consequence of belief system, which, in my view, puts statements like: “…but believing in things that aren’t true doesn’t make you deep, it just makes you wrong”; into a slightly different prospective.

    As for facts, do you have a scientific proof that colour of blue is actually blue? Using science, you might be able to assert that blue is different than red, or that there is a relationship between light and colour. However, there is as much of scientific evidence for calling it blue as it would be for calling it yellow. I’ve been told that this particular combination of light and matter is called blue, and I believed them, and based on that, I’m taking it as a fact. Science has very little to do with it.

  18. Jonathan says:

    Actually, carolita, I used the terms in the way I would argue they were used in the comic that inspired these comments, and I just assumed that others would see the connection. My bad. I suppose the meaning of the words in the comic can’t be nailed down completely either, but I would argue anyway that “things that aren’t true” (which I carried over into the word “truth”) means things that are not factually correct. Moreover, I would argue that “wrong” in the comic also means not factually correct. If you disagree, I’d be interested to hear your interpretation.

    And regarding sticking rigorously to the terminology: you, as someone who has taken so many courses, should also recognize that these words are used with more than one definition. Especially in an open forum such as this one, you really do have to define your terms if you want to be sure others know what you are talking about. As I acknowledged, I could have been more careful in defining my terms to avoid misunderstandings.

    P.S. I’ll just politely ignore your not-really-indirect suggestion that I need courses to hold my own in an argument, or that it is an American (and not merely a human) tendency to assume that others will know what we mean when we don’t define our terms. And you certainly do have an interesting definition of polite, though you may have to explain to me why I would have understood your comments as eggheaded or snobbish.

  19. Jonathan says:

    VanDerVal, assuming truth is defined as scientifically verifiable fact, I am a little concerned about your use of the term belief system. While on some level an adherence to science as the sole means of knowing about the universe around us could be called a belief system, it has nothing in common with other belief systems, which draw on unverifiable suppositions as evidence of truth.

    Our barmaid is different from Jesus and Mo in that she doesn’t draw on anything unverifiable for her truth, i.e. she relies on scientific method. She criticizes Jesus & Mo for believing things that are not verifiable, but this is not an unfounded belief on her part. She insists that something be verified before she believes it (or considers it to be true). Is this for you a belief system?

    Regarding your comment on the color blue, it doesn’t matter whether what I call blue looks green to you. Important is that we can both check the wavelength in order to be sure that we are talking about the same thing.

    But I think your point is (please correct me if I’m wrong) that we just accept what we are told is true by scientists, and that this is the same as accepting, for example, the existence of god (s) because someone tells us they exist, or anything else we may be told.

    Still, it’s not the same thing. Science is the system (the only system) with which we catalog our observations and check them for consistency with our theories. All of science is interconnected, and, generally speaking, everything that comes from the scientific community has been tested for validity. A scientist who puts forth something unverifiable as fact will be cast out for being unscientific.

    So we can generally trust what the scientific community tells us because we know it’s a system with strict quality control; every idea has been tested and confirmed.

    Information from other sources is not so reliable, and we should be skeptical until it has been confirmed scientifically. Personally, I need a scientifically valid reason before I will believe something to be true.

  20. Sir Beast says:

    Whoa…what have I done?

    It seems I’ve started another of the reasons I come here – the intelligent and informative discussion. Thanks everyone!

  21. TaoAndZen says:

    Well said, Johnathan. Of course the religious, mistaking faith for trust, could point out that the lay atheist has “faith” in Science and Scientists (as they so often do). However, ther is a difference between faith and trust. And the Scientist always eagerly welcomes those who wish to test that trust.

    Truth is not absolute. Not even F=ma is written in stone. The Scientist says, “this is what we know so far”. And is open to addition and/or correction. No conviction, no matter how heartfelt, can make an assertion true.

  22. Jonathan says:

    TaoAndZen: Yep.

  23. VanDerVal says:

    Well, Jonathan… assumption that truth is defined as scientifically verifiable fact is your assumption, and you’re most welcome to make it. I would not dare assert something like that, not because I think it is necessarily wrong, but because I am not sure if it is right (and yes, there is a difference…).

    Let me touch on colour (color) of blue again – your assertion that it does not matter how we call it, for as long as we can be sure that we’re talking about the same thing is wrong. In my view, things *are* if you have a word for them – mind you, language, and therefore words, are not there just to describe “material” things. There are numerous examples in mathematics to prove this point, i.e. i^2 = -1, imaginary number, defined as a complex number whose square is negative number or 0. Thus, the above statement about irrelevance of how we call things for as long as we’re talking about the same thing is quite unscientific – it is like saying: it does matter if we call it -1 or 1, for as long as we agree that it is i^2.
    Well, it does matter. And I hope you could concede that there is no scientific method for establishing that colour of blue is in fact blue, and yet there *is* blue. On the other hand, if we conveniently forget that falsehood exist, but rather represents non-existence, in other words, it exists not to represent itself, but rather lack of existance of something else; than we can assert that everything that *is* is true, because it exists. This way it we should not have a lot of trouble concluding that there may be a truth beyond scientifically verifiable facts, as my colour of blue example suggests.

    Finally, when you make a comment like:

    “A scientist who puts forth something unverifiable as fact will be cast out for being unscientific.”

    you’re highlighting a very important socio-political aspect of science, which makes me very suspicious of it. Mind you, I never said that science is a religion – I am not a religious man, and hence confused as to how did you manage to read that in my writing. But, be that as it may, let me repeat – all I said is that truth is a consequence of a belief system, what ever that may be…

  24. Jonathan says:

    VanDerVal, when I said “assuming truth is defined as scientifically verifiable fact”, I was referencing my take on the meaning of the barmaid’s comments, and “assuming” was intended to reference the expression “assuming for the sake of argument”. Which is not to say I don’t believe that, just that I am not calling intention to the fact that I believe it.

    I use the word “believe” more in the sense of assume, since I don’t believe in 100% proof. TaoAndZen mentioned that the scientist says “this is what we know so far”. This corresponds with my notion of truth. Yet I may still make assertions as the most direct form of challenge to others to refute my statements if they can. I do this because I welcome the input of anyone who can prove my views wrong. Every time I am proven wrong, I come out of it with stronger arguments. What I believe is not in any way sacred, and I never have qualms about being challenged to defend it.

    I am afraid I may not have been very clear in my comment on the color blue. My example was intended to show that as long as the nature of the thing itself is mutually verifiable, it doesn’t matter what common term we use to indicate it. You seem to suggest that I don’t care about the nature of the thing itself, but nothing could be further from the truth. I just don’t care what it’s called, as long as we both know we are referring to the thing itself. For example, it doesn’t matter to me if we use -1 to mean 1 as long as we both know we are referring to 1. But perhaps I’ve missed your point here owing to my lack of knowledge of math.

    Here’s where I have difficulties:

    “And I hope you could concede that there is no scientific method for establishing that colour of blue is in fact blue, and yet there *is* blue.”

    Here I must say I am unable to follow you. For me, blue is simply a wavelength of light. In other languages it’s called something else, but it always refers to that wavelength, and that wavelength of light is the thing itself.

    I am also not sure I understand you correctly when you suggest that falsehood could or does represent the lack of existence of something else. Here I see a clear distinction: a falsehood is verifiably not true, for example: “sand is nutritious”. I would argue this includes also the concepts of things that conflict with concepts that have been verified, without supplying a surpassing verification; an omnipotent god, for example.

    Yes, it is quite likely that there is a truth beyond scientifically verified, or even scientifically verifiable facts. After all, we did not always know what we know today about the universe, and it would be foolish to assume we have verified everything that exists. There are almost certainly things that we will never be able to verify, but this is the realm of pure speculation.

    I would defend the casting out of scientists who put forth unverifiable things as fact; this is quite simply a scientific lapse, and merits loss of credibility. Actually, I am more suspicious of everything else than I am of science.

    I do apologize for hinting that you could be religious. I thought you might be because your arguments in places seem to resemble those of agnostics/theists (apparent emphasis on the importance of the unverifiable).

    And to your statement on truth being the consequence of a belief system, “whatever that may be”, I’ll say yes as long as I get to define belief system.

  25. I sincerely believe that theists would rather look “moral” and be wrong than look “immoral” and be correct. Once atheists and nontheists succeed in uprooting morality from religion, then nontheists will gain a lot more respect and disbelieving will be a lot more socially respectable.

  26. TaoAndZen says:

    VanDerVal, I think the presentation of your argument is descending into sophistry which could detract from the valid semantic points you are making. “Beleif” is a very elastic term so I try avoiding it. Is the meaning of this word the root of your disagreement with Jonathan?

    I did take slight issue with “A scientist who puts forth something unverifiable as fact will be cast out for being unscientific.” But didn’t think it important as (I think) I understood what Jonathan was driving at.

    There are many examples of unverifiables in Science if you assume Empiricism. However, unverfiables are often verifiable rationaly through the Straw Man process that Jonathan describes, “I welcome the input of anyone who can prove my views wrong” which is a key element of Scientific process. Quantim Mechanics is full of such unverifiables right now (eg Bohm’s universal hidden variable in wavefunction collapse).

    The argument over the color blue reminds me of what Neils Bohr said about Physics not being about what nature IS but about DESCRIBING nature. That distinction is immensely insightful.

  27. TaoAndZen says:

    For kicks I would add that “blue”, superficialy a socialy negotiated term describing a frequency range of light, appears to have a consistent definition across languages and cultures hinting at a biological aspect in humans to the “meaning” of “blue”. Are you both right perhaps?

  28. Jonathan says:

    “A scientist who puts forth something unverifiable as fact will be cast out for being unscientific.”

    This may be a bit drastically formulated, but the key for me is *as fact*. I almost sense that my statement is being interpreted to mean that scientists should be ostracized for speculating, but this is most definitely not what I mean. In science the word fact is generally reserved for things that have been verified in every which way, and it would indeed be a slap in the face to the scientific community to assert as a fact something that can’t be proven.

    I think a good scientist is often also a philosopher and an expert at speculating. Nevertheless, a good scientist never overplays his/her hand. The term “fact” must be reserved for things that can be backed up with the strongest of evidence. First and foremost, a scientist is obliged to tell it like it is. TaoAndZen, I think this aspect of science is essential to maintain the trust you refer to above.

    Oh yes, the meaning of blue. I would agree that there seems to be a commonality of perception and association that arose without a scientific basis (biological? perhaps). However, to learn more about it and its source, science is the only tool.

  29. Christine says:

    have any of you boys read any of Douglas Adams work ?

    if you want a fresh and original look at , well , Life the Universe and Everything , I suggest the reading of his five books in the Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy series, and if you want to further test yourself , finish off with his two “Dirk Gently” novels, Douglas Adams was an amazinginly intelligent man and a radical aetheist (his own words) I just love his work and its cured me of any religious leanings at all , I prefer these days to read Toaist poetry , or re-read my favourite Douglas Adams novel, including the one produced after his death “The Salmon Of Doubt” which gives you a breathtaking insight into the life and mind of Douglas Adams

  30. fontor says:

    It’s perfectly acceptable to say that something is ‘true’, as long as we realise that what we mean is ‘true enough for our purposes’. I don’t mean to be all post-modern or new agey or anything by saying that. We just need to realise that truth is, to some extent, purpose-dependent.

    I draw a really great circle. Is that a perfect circle? If we’re just eyeballing it, our answer could be “Yeah, it’s true; that circle is perfect.” But if we need to do anything serious with it, like engineer something, we might say, ‘No, it’s not true that it’s a perfect circle.”

    Once we realise that ‘truth’ means ‘true enough for our purposes’, the difficulty between truth and facts disappears.

  31. Jonathan says:

    I agree with you basically, but it won’t satisfy those looking for some sort of perfect, transcendent truth (which, it just so happens, for our purposes doesn’t exist).

  32. Teralek says:

    The author has clearly a materialistic philosophy. The Truth, however, was best understood by Socrates.

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