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ata comments on An Alien God - Less Wrong

80 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 02 November 2007 06:57AM

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Comment author: ata 10 October 2009 03:22:52AM *  5 points [-]

why do these evolution polemics always attack the straw man of some imagined universally agreed-upon "Judeo-Christian" personal creator god that must be benevolent and rational?

I don't know about the "rational" part (the God of the Old Testament, Koran, etc. is a bloodthirsty, narcissistic lunatic), but other than that, billions of people believe in such a god, and it's worth attacking. Hardly a straw man.

Of course there are the Sophisticated Theologians with their moving-target god whom they're constantly redefining so as to avoid subjecting it to any empirical study or allowing it to have observable effects on the world, but why waste time with them? They're not the ones willing or able to start a nuclear war to defend their god, or to fly planes into buildings for his glory, or to oppress people in his name. They write books and give talks, and they're mostly harmless.

has anyone ever provided persuasive evidence for the explanatory power of Hinduism? yes. they're called hindus. etc.

I'd be delighted to see this persuasive evidence. Presumably, "persuasive" includes "persuasive to people who aren't already Hindus", right?

try as you might, persuasion will never be the exclusive domain of the rational scientist, and there will never be a time when everyone is persuaded by one explanation.

Truth is not defined by persuasiveness. One of the big themes of this site is understanding the ways we come to be persuaded of things that are demonstrably untrue... and there are a lot of them. Reason and empiricism and may not be able to discover every truth (hence the name "Less Wrong" rather than "Never Wrong"), but it's the best we have. Religion -- the central point of which is faith, belief in the unknowable -- is exactly such a "zero knowledge" mechanism. If you can have faith in x, you can just as easily have faith in ~x, with precisely as much justification. You have gained no knowledge.

Comment author: joshfeola 13 October 2009 03:41:28AM 0 points [-]

you make some good points. however, it's naive to assert that people deploy nuclear bombs or fly planes into buildings for purely religious motivations. ideology has much more to do with geopolitics, historical conflict, and, ultimately, economics than it does with religion.

i also disagree that there are "billions of people" who believe in the god you describe above. i live in china, where virtually no one (statistically) is a monotheist. there are a multiplicity of Single Gods that people subscribe to without consciously acknowledging the differences between them. yes, people who do not initially believe in any given god concept are "persuaded", and convert. the idea of "a god" is just as variable as all ideas and subject to change over time, exponentially more so in this period of global connectivity.

to my mind it ultimately boils down to epistemological differences between individuals rather than an objectively discernible continuum of "knowledge." faith is a contentious term, and i think that there is as much faith involved in "believing" that our universe exists as we perceive it on the basis of unobservable quantum events as believing that the universe exists as the narcissistic self-image of some god. but this difference of opinion will not be eliminated by any amount of discussion on this thread.

maybe i am out of place on this site, but i appreciate the opportunity to engage in this dialogue, even if it is with a lack of capitalization.