19 January 2022

Predicting the future imperfectly



Do humans want to know their future?

Yes, people are interested in knowing their future.

We want to know the future in terms of…

  •  what the weather will be tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after…?
  • whether our new product is likely to be a success in the market or not?
  • whether our large investment will be go up or go down in value?
  • what numbers will win next week’s lottery? 
  • whether or not we will survive the fatal disease we have contracted (with certainty, not a probability)?
  • can modern medicine prevent or cure the fatal disease I have contracted?
  • can we humans live forever?
  • do humans avert their own extinction?
  • what is the human-experience after death (assuming our quest for human-generated eternal life fails)?

Can humans know their future?

The future remains uncertain. No matter how good our prediction skills, the future is uncertain, both empirically and logically.

Empirically, even if we have “big data”, massive computing capacity, and fantastic skills, the weather tomorrow may be as predicted, but it may not. There is no certainty about what the future holds, and complexity and chaos theory ensures that it remains so.

Logically, even if the world is a series of causes and effects, there is no logic that permits us to say that many previous contingent events will occur again in the future (see Hume). Sure, the sun has ‘risen’ every day for thousands of millennia, but it does not logically follow that it will do so tomorrow. 

Even with “more data” and more skills, some of these questions about the future, especially the ones further down the list above, are likely to always remain beyond us.

What is the human-experience after death? Who knows? It has not stopped many people developing stories of what they think, even believe, or perhaps wish will happen after death. But the truth is we do not know. And even more, that we are unlikely to ever know.

Do humans avert their own extinction? We might desperately wish it to be so, but humanity does or does not survive remains in the future, and is unlikely to be known. The problem is open-ended for even if humanity survives the current apocalyptic scenarios, the possibility of extinction in some other, currently unseen and perhaps unknown apocalyptic scenario remains.

Can we live forever? It hasn’t happened yet although it is clear that human life has been massively extended beyond the standard “three score years and ten”. Can a human live forever? Perhaps, but perhaps not. Even if we do manage to insert our mental selves into a machine, what happens if the world ends and the machine stops? 

So many unknowns.

But there are also some confusions that get tangled with the idea of prediction.

The first is confusing possibility with prediction. It is possible that there is life after death, that humans escape extinction and that people get to live forever (or at least 200 years or more). So, yes, these outcomes might be possible, but that is not a prediction. The other outcome is also possible!

Which leads to the related issue of confusing guesses with predictions. Guessing that a tossed coin will come up heads is a guess, not a prediction. If the coin does come up heads, then it was a lucky guess, not a correct prediction. 

Predicting the future is already an uncertain game, but it seems certain that uncertainty will always plague questions about particular futures such as the human experience after death, whether humans avoid extinction, and whether humans can live forever. 

My prediction is that we will only ever be able to predict the future imperfectly.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"The history of predicting the future" (Rees 2021, Wired)
https://www.wired.com/story/history-predicting-future/

"Humans are bad at predicting futures that don't benefit them" (Beaton 2017, The Atlantic)
https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/11/humans-are-bad-at-predicting-futures-that-dont-benefit-them/544709/

12 January 2022

Why is time so warped?


Time has a curious essence. Unlike the other three dimensions - length, breadth, depth - we can travel in only one direction through time: from past to future via the present.
 
We cannot visit a moment in time that we have passed.

Despite the past and future being simply two ends of one dimension, we take the past as cast in stone, and the future as unknown.

Travel into the past is impossible, travel into the future a dream.

How well do we ‘know’ our past & our future?

We fool ourselves that we ‘know’ both our past and our future with stories about each.

The story we tell ourselves about our past is called history.

We put a lot of faith into this story in some ways, but it seems unjustified. If history is important because it facilitates learning, how come our own history is full of stories that are like repeats on television where at some point, often much too late, we realize that we’ve seen this before?

The story we tell ourselves about the future is called a prediction. We put less faith into predictions in general, but curiously, we do put a lot of faith into some predictions. We have many imaginings about catastrophic futures – pandemic, climate change, nuclear war, etc.

All are quite possible, but we tend to focus on one at a time, a flavour of the month (or year). While the possibilities for global annihilation are plentiful, even infinite, annihilation by pandemic is the most current scare du jour.

Before death by pandemic was imagined, we feared annihilation by climate change. Before annihilation by climate change, we feared an ending in nuclear war. Before an end in nuclear war was imagined, we feared … and so on back to various doomsday scenarios, secular and religious.

05 January 2022

Outrage ain't right


 
“Reason is, and ought only to be, the slave of the passions”
  – David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature (Book 3, Part 3, Section 3)

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Enough of the outrage!

I hear your passion, your judgment, your indignation, your disgust. All because I'm unwilling to agree with you.

Outrage is easy to hear because it is pure passion speaking out. Loudly.

29 November 2021

Do you know what time it is ?

 
Claire asks Tiffany "Do know what time it is?"
 
Tiffany looks around at an old-fashioned clock sitting on the sideboard which shows that the time is 6.56. 

"Yeah, it is four minutes to 7," says Tiffany.
  
Following Tiffany's glance, Claire says, "Oh, that clock doesn't work. It always shows 6.56. So you are mistaken."
 
Tiffany looks at her mobile phone and says "Oh yeah, well my mobile phone says it is in fact 6.56 at the moment. So I was not mistaken, and I did know the time."
 
(Adapted from Bertrand Russell, Human Knowledge: Its scope and limits, 1948)

QUESTIONS
 
Does Tiffany have a legitimate claim to "knowing" the time after viewing the stopped clock? 
 
If the time was 6.56, and Tiffany believed it was, and justified that belief by reading the clock, does she have knowledge? 
 
The notion that knowledge is 'justified, true belief' suggests that she does. Perhaps we ought to change the definition of knowledge? How would you change the definition?
 
ADDITIONAL SOURCES

https://philosphere.blog/2018/03/28/russell-and-the-stopped-clock/ 
 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gettier_problem 

31 December 2020

Be who you are

 

Be who you are --
no-one else can be.

Become who you can --
no-one else can do.

(SSH 31dec20)

 ----------------

To be what we are,
and to become what we are capable of becoming,
is the only end of life.

Robert Louis Stevenson

----------------

Be who you are and say what you feel
because those who mind don't matter,
and those who matter don't mind.

Dr Seuss

31 October 2020

From impossible to improbable: small step or giant leap ?

Proposition: Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon is a hoax.
 
Impossible? Improbable? 
 
Is the difference a small step or a giant leap
 
Follow this cryptic journey from steps on the moon to the bowels of Christ fuelled by parsnips! 
 
Hang on tight!



Faith: The idea that moon landings are a hoax is simply ludicrous. They moon landings happened, the evidence is incontrovertible.

Skip: What is that evidence?

Faith: This article tells and shows how photographs taken by NASA's reconnaissance lunar orbiter reveal human footprints on the moon.

Skip: OK, but the photographs could be fakes. Or maybe NASA actually landed a mechanical lunar rover on the moon that has two wheels on each side with boots in place of tyre treads, and it was set to "walk" around a bit. Voila! Footprints.

Faith: Aww, come on, that's just stupid.

Skip: Stupid, yes. But possible?

Faith: No way. They have soil and rocks that they brought back from the moon that are not found anywhere on earth.

Skip: Well, that one's easy to challenge. The rocks are found on earth. They're in NASA labs. How can we be sure they are not elsewhere too? Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. And besides, have you seen these rocks? Are you a geologist? Can you confirm that they absolutely cannot be of this earth?

Faith: No the experts have made this judgment. I trust the experts.

Skip: Sure, I trust experts too. But I also know that it is sometimes wise to ask for a second opinion. Experts do not always get it right, and often disagree. Indeed, it's almost certain that for any expert opinion, you will be able to find another expert who disagrees.

Faith: Oh this is silly. The theory that the moon landings are a hoax is simply impossible.
 
Skip: I'm not asking you to admit that there were no moon landings, or no humans walked on the moon, or even that they are a hoax. I'm asking you whether you might be wrong about man walking on the moon?

Faith: While I acknowledge the points you are making, they 'doth butter no parsnips with me' 😂

Skip: Let me respond to your 17th century idiom about buttered parsnips with a quote from the same century called Cromwell's rule: 'I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken?'  
 
Faith: What?
 
Skip: Cromwell's rule says that anyone who is 100% adamant about their view is in trouble for two reasons: (a) they might be wrong and (b) they are blind to this possibility.
 
Faith: Ah, OK, I think I can see that. That the moon landings are a hoax is highly improbable rather than impossible. 
 
Skip: Yes, exactly. It's a small step with enormous implications.
 
Faith: But you have to make a giant leap to get over the remaining problem. Your view presents an absurdity, namely that the impossible is not possible at all? 😂 
 


Induction is the glory of Science, and the scandal of Philosophy
   -- C.D. Broad, Commemorative Address at The Bacon Tercentenary, (1926)

Words are but wind that do from men proceed;
None but Chamelions on bare Air can feed;
Great men large hopeful promises may utter;
But words did never Fish or Parsnips butter
   -- John Taylor, Epigrammes (1651)
 
 I never made a mistake in my life.
I thought I did once,
but I was wrong.
  -- attributed to Charles M. Schulz, creator of Peanuts

29 October 2020

Excuse, pardon, or forgive others ?


What does it take for me to excuse, pardon, or forgive others?
 
Well, it depends!
 
Beer Spills
 
If someone is pushing past me in a pub on their way to the bar or to the toilet, that person may say to me as they bump into me, "excuse me" or "pardon me."

S/he, the bumper, is asking to be excused or pardoned for a minor infraction, namely endangering or even manifesting a beer spill. 
 
While it is technically a question (will you excuse/pardon me?), it is typically offered more as a declarative statement in which the bumper expects me to excuse or pardon him or her. 
 
In fact, I might even be considered rather rude if I did not excuse or pardon someone who made me spill my beer, especially after s/he asked to be excused/pardoned.
 
Sometimes, if I'm minding my own business drinking a beer, and someone bumps into me without saying anything and spills my beer, I might get irritated enough to bump back by saying "excuse me?" or "pardon me?". In this context, my words are offered as a gentle, ironic rebuff. The double irony is that my words mark some disinclination to excuse or pardon the bumper.

In this beer-spilling sense, excusing and pardoning and even forgiving someone are synonymous. To excuse or pardon someone who causes a beer spill is little more than a politesse. And a rebuke by the bumpee with an "excuse me?" or "pardon me?" is a reminder to the perhaps thoughtless bumper of the need for this politesse.
 
Big Spills
 
But how about the situations in life where the bump is something rather more substantial than a beer spill? Maybe an oil spill with economic, financial and ecological consequences. Or a physical assault perhaps resulting in a literal blood spill. Or maybe something more emotional as in matters of the heart in which tears are spilled.

13 August 2020

Do prayers get results ?

 Two guys sitting together in a bar in the remote Alaskan wilderness.

One of the guys is religious, the other's an atheist.

The two are arguing about the existence of God with that special intensity that comes after about the fourth beer.

The atheist in a fleeting moment of vulnerability says "Look, it's not like I don't have actual reasons for not believing in God. It's not like I haven't ever experimented with the whole God and prayer thing. Just last month I got caught away from camp in that terrible blizzard and I was totally lost and I couldn't see a thing and it was 50 below and so I tried it. I fell to my knees in the snow and cried out 'Oh God if there is a god I'm lost in this blizzard and I'm gonna die if you don't help me now.'"

In the bar the religious guy looks at the atheist all puzzled: "Well then you must believe now" he says "after all here you are alive."

The atheist just rolls his eyes: "No man, all that happened was a couple of Inuit happened to come wandering by and they showed me the way back to camp."

(From David Foster Wallace, Commencement Speech, Kenyon College, 2005, https://youtu.be/OsAd4HGJS4o?t=161)

QUESTIONS 

Does the atheist's experience in the blizzard prove that prayers are answered or not?

How can the same experience mean totally different things to the atheist and the believer?  

Is it possible that belief, meaning & interpretation actually precede the evidence?

23 July 2020

History - irrelevant, false, true ?


A brand new school opens freshly painted doors to welcome its first students to their first classes.

An enthusiastic history teacher, Anne Akronism, arrives to face her first students in her first class ever. 

In her defence, she considers that she is not simply teaching history, but helping to make history.

She arrives to find three adolescent boys sitting in a row, all have their heads bowed down, each is reading a book. 

She is a bit surprised to observe that the covers of the three books are exactly the same.

"Morning boys," says the teacher. "Enjoying your book?"

"Yes Ma'am" the three say in unison as they look up.

She gasps. The three boys are dressed quite differently - one has tattoos on his arm, the one next to him has a prominent crucifix around his neck, and the third is dressed in a neat-preppy way - but the three appear to be physically identical: same eyes, same nose, same hair, same height, same build.

29 June 2020

Practical uncertainty - believe less, be less certain

Entrance to Centre Court, Wimbledon
Believe less.
Be less certain.

Or rather, 
believe this one certainty:
there is always more to learn.

Learn well from your mistakes.

Your wins are nothing.
Self-aggrandizement from wins,
is a card-house
founded on luck.

Your losses are learning opportunities,
personal pain is the powerful teacher.
Lose that opportunity,
you lose everything!

Ask questions,
and pay attention.

Nurture conversations, dialogues, discussions, and even debates,
but aim for discovery rather than destination,
pursue exploration rather than exposition.

Better to question
than to answer.


18 June 2020

No news is good

The Caribbean Sea is justifiably famous for its well over 7000 idyllic islands

They are the very definition of paradise: you are free to lie in a hammock under a coconut tree or swim in the aquamarine sea.

However, the picture of paradise hides a dirty, little secret - life here ain't perfect.

The Brothers Cay, in the southern part of the Caribbean off the coast of Colombia, is named for two brothers who died in unfortunate circumstances many years apart over a century ago.

The first to die was a young boy, a toddler, killed by a falling coconut. This threw the island into mourning for some weeks. And for months afterwards, mothers and others would encourage everyone to not linger under dangerous coconut trees. 

02 June 2020

Philosophy is a sandbox: get in & play !

Virtually everyone is aware of the trolley problem in philosophy: a run-away trolley/streetcar/tram is going to kill four people, but you're standing by a switch and you have the capacity to redirect the tram to another track where it will kill one person - do you pull the switch? 

The 'trolley problem' is a staple of philosophy - and it is an example of staple method used in philosophy - the thought experiment.

Or put another way, 'what if' questioning. Or to put a fancy term on it: hypotheticals.

Philosophy then, is a sandbox. It is a place for grownups to play with ideas, concepts, hypotheticals, thought-experiments (e.g., in software development). 

18 May 2020

A psychokinetic paradox?


Professor Cecily P Science is confident that people can know the outcomes of future random events, a so-called 'psi' effect.

The study of 'psi' or the power of mind over matter, of consciousness over the physical world, has been explored at length in psychology, often within a sub-field known as para-psychology. One of most famous labs studying psi is PEAR: Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research.

Cecily is keen to run an experiment to show that people can predict outcomes of coin tosses at a rate better than chance.

She explains her hypothesis to a graduate student, Laizee Bumm, and asks him to conduct the study for her. However, Laizee is a research assistant with other priorities. He does what she asks, but makes up the data to save himself time.

He generates random data for 100 people guessing a thousand coin tosses each. The results from the random-number generator "show" that 50% of the guesses (of the fake respondents) are right, and 50% are wrong.

In actual fact though, the results from the random-number generator happen to show that people correctly guess 501 out of 1000 coin tosses.

This result it should be noted, happens to be in line with previously reported studies of the psi effect: 'The effects that the volunteers accomplish are very small, but amazing. The operators are roughly altering one bit in 1,000,' explains Michael Ibison, a British mathematical physicist who has come to work for a year at PEAR after stints at Siemens, IBM, and Agfa. 'That means if you had a coin toss, psychokinesis could affect one of those coin tosses if you tossed a thousand times.'  Van Bakel 1994, Wired

QUESTIONS

Do the final results of this study by Cecily and Laizee provide evidence of a psychokinetic effect? 

Why? Why not?

If Laizee's data are fabricated using a random number generator, doesn't this mean the observed results were the outcomes of random events?

If Cecily's expectations were supported, doesn't this mean that she has proved her point that people can know the outcomes of future events? Didn't she got the result she expected?

13 December 2019

What is truth?


1. The Truth is... a riddle

What is something that humans seek, and don't know it when they see it?

The answer is the truth!


2. The Truth is... not known

Humans want to know the truth, 
but they don't know it when they see it.

(C.f. Jacobellis v Ohio 1964 in which the judge declined to define hard-core pornography, but famously said "I know it when I see it".)

The conundrum about knowing truth is captured in the idea of knowledge as justified true belief

It is said that we know something to be true if 
(a) we believe it to be true, 
(b) we have justification for our belief, and 
(c) it is true.

We can build towards knowledge 
with beliefs and justifications, 
but we fail unless it's true.

And how do we "know" if it's true? Whether something is true, is unknown. 

Frustrating! 

22 October 2019

Do you believe in God(s): Yes, No, or Other?


"Do you believe in God (however you choose to define that entity or those entities)?" 

A dichotomous version of this question would allow only "Yes" or "No" as responses. But doesn't this create a false dichotomy?

In particular, if I respond "No", someone might respond, "Ah, so you believe there is no god".  

But that's not what I'm saying at all. I'm merely saying that I do not hold a belief in God. That is not the same as saying I hold a belief that there is no God(s).

There is some ambiguity in the original version of the question "Do you believe in a god?"

One version is "Do you hold (or have) a belief in God?" To which I can legitimately respond, "Yes" or "No".
The other version is: "Does God exist?" To which a more nuanced response may be justified.

16 October 2019

Democracy: a declining faith ?

Democracy - a declining faith

While we deify the concept of democracy, it appears to have lost much of its shine. The magic of democracy has diminished as a number of numbers show.

The declining faith in democracy is illustrated in the marked reductions in voter turnout observed over the last 50 years in Australia and elsewhere in the world. Political scientist Simon Tormey in a 2016 lecture at Parliament House reports that while voter turnout varies from vote to vote, the general tendency is that we are becoming "reluctant voters".

21 September 2019

Degrees of desire


The three degrees of desire:
  • I'd like to be rich
  • I want love
  • I need air
The three degrees for dealing with desire:
  • gratitude: I am grateful for the riches I have received
  • detachment: I accept the love that is offered
  • nirvana (not needing): one day, I will stop grasping for air

07 September 2019

Puzzling views on life

Two inconsistent views about life

1. My life is nothing and supremely unimportant

2. My life is a great and glorious event

In short, life is nothing and nothing is great!

-------------------------------------------


So, paradox, doublethink, conundrum, or something else?


Paradox: a logical contradictory statement: 'this statement is false'

Doublethink: "Holding contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them": "War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength" 1984, George Orwell

Conundrum: a riddle whose answer is or involves a pun or unexpected twist: "People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day." Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne

27 April 2019

My mistake



Life is long
... if you are lucky.


Making mistakes is inevitable,
learning is not!


Mistakes are made for lack of reflection*, but
learning is achieved only on reflection.

A daily practice:

Today, I made a mistake. I was wrong. I erred. 

What were the mistakes I made today?

What - if anything - could I do to avoid making such mistakes again?

---------
* My mistake... only some mistakes result from lack of reflection! To repeat, 'making mistakes is inevitable'

10 January 2019

Getting it right by being uncertain

Certainty for humans is like a flame is to a moth.

Blind instinct takes us there, but we may well get burnt.

We might get more things right in this world if we were a little less certain about everything.

How can we avoid the trap of certainty?

The wrongs of the righteous

There's no lack of certainty in the world, and lots of evidence that despite that certainty, we're wrong!

13 October 2018

Marketing is plain sailing


Marketing is easy, but only if you really understand it.

And most people do not.

Most people think that marketing is powerful, that it can make people do things that they would not otherwise do.

We have a long history of being scared of such things - like hypnosis, subliminal messaging, hard sell salespeople, etc.

But just because we're scared of the bogeyman doesn't mean that he exists! Subliminal advertising was debunked decades ago - but many still believe it.


08 October 2018

Science corrections - replication is much more important than retraction

(The original article appears at The Conversation under the title "Retraction of a journal article doesn't make its findings false.").
The American Medical Association recently retracted six papers co-authored by food consumption and psychology researcher, Brian Wansink, in three of its journals. These studies include two showing that large bowl sizes encourage us to eat more, and that shopping when hungry leads us to buy more calorie-dense foods.
A prolific academic researcher, Wansink has provided many thought-provoking ideas about the psychology of food consumption through more than 500 publications which have been collectively cited more than 25,000 times.
His research has shown that people will eat a lot more from a bottomless soup bowl; they will eat more from larger portions, even if it is stale popcorn or food served in a dark restaurant; and they will eat less if a portion is made to appear larger using visual illusions.
Retractions are a permanent means by which journals endeavour to preserve the integrity of scientific literature. They are typically issued for some form of misconduct, but it does not necessarily mean the results are false.

20 August 2018

The blame game: sports, alcohol, violence, and research


A raft of headlines reported on a fascinating finding that linked State of Origin matches to a spike in domestic violence.

For instance, the SBS report ran the headline "Study exposes 'clear' Origin link to DV" (where DV is domestic violence).

Big story because basically, the data showed that between 6pm on State of Origin night to 6am the following morning, domestic violence increased by 40%. Incidentally, non-domestic violence (blokes beating up other blokes) went up by 70% as well.

Despite this sobering result, the media have leapt on this story, and spun a long drinking yarn. Specifically, they have drawn conclusions about the involvement of alcohol in all of this - even though alcohol consumption is not directly observed in the original study in any way.
 

29 July 2018

To do: nothing

"Just don't do it."

Just do nothing.

Ethics is the philosophy of action. So part of its domain surely therefore includes, the philosophy of inaction.

And this is a defence of doing nothing.

But there's so much to be done!

How can I defend inaction in a world with so many inequalities and injustices that plague our lives?

My answer? For precisely that reason! Precisely because so many are raging at inevitable inequalities and injustices which will forever plague our lives.

18 May 2018

Glorious food, inglorious super-marketing bastards & the obesity crisis

Blaming supermarkets for obesity is a little like chopping down a tree we are standing on. Or like tying our bootlaces together so we don't trip up on them.

"No wonder we have an obesity epidemic" the article announces as an introduction to "the nutritionist's eye-opening video post to Faceback".

Sure is eye-opening - if you have never been to a supermarket before.

Or eye-opening if you have been, but didn't notice the end-aisle displays because you were headed into the aisles which are filled to the brim with stuff that most nutritionist's would find to be equally awful.

No wonder we don't make any progress on obesity when we continue to run stories like this.

This kind of story about the evil of supermarkets is popular because it is an awesome cover story. It allows us to completely shift the responsibility to someone else.

Every parent has heard it: "He made me hit him."

Supermarkets, like siblings, are easy targets.

But supermarkets don't even make the products that people are so angry about. And if people are so damn angry, why are they still buying the stuff?

We're listening to the righteous leaders, while the masses (excuse the pun) are right behind waving their packet of chips and saying how they are right behind their nutritionist friends.

What about the good that supermarkets do?

Supermarkets have replaced the old family-run corner store groceries.

We've lost a way of life, rather like horses, carts and buggy whips. The wheel turns, and it does so because it generates something good.

Modern supermarkets give us access to an enormous range of food stuffs of excellent quality at a good price. Oh, and lots of choice!

And so many good things that supermarkets have done to support healhier life-styles. Supporting activities for local schools, introducing and supporting organic and other specialised food ranges, giving fruit away to the kids as they walk around the supermarket.

The reason why we don't talk about the good is simple. It ain't a story.

Are we serious about tackling obesity? If so, there is no "us" and "them." Sure supermarkets want to make a profit, and we want good food - meaning both good for you and just plain yummy even if not good for you - and we want it cheap.

We both individually and jointly contribute to the problem of obesity.

Time for us to make up our minds. Do we want to solve obesity?

Yes? Well then we need to make changes. And it's not about just one side or the other, but both sides together. Obesity is a community problem, one that consumers and marketers need to work on together.

Pointing fingers at the other side is like junk-food -- it has a really satisfying mouth-feel in the moment, but isn't doing us any good.

30 March 2018

Don't lie if you want the Easter bunny to visit

The Easter bunny is apparently a German innovation and brings painted eggs, candy and even presents to children who have been good.

What a delicious irony! A fiction to encourage honesty along with other good behaviour.

Meanwhile, neither parents nor clerics tell their respective flocks that there is no "bunny" in any of the stories about Jesus' death and resurrection.

We are not told that the word Easter commemorates a pagan goddess, Eostre. Or at least, might do if St Bede's account of Eostre is not a lie as at least some scholars contend!

What a web we weave,  when we practice to deceive.

Does it matter if we lie? Well, how do I know when to believe?

The Bible (to stay with the Easter theme) would have us believe that Jesus was crucified on Friday and resurrected on Sunday.

Is it true or is it a lie? That's an awful lot of consequences if that is a lie!

But let's back up a little. Let's start by being a little clearer about what we mean by lying.

04 February 2018

The truth about eternal life is... we don't know!

We like to believe that our beliefs come from good solid reasons. 

But given that we selectively choose evidence to reinforce what we already believe suggests otherwise (i.e., the confirmation bias).

We only question our beliefs when evidence comes up to suggest it just ain't so. 

Or so I like to believe... but maybe that simply ain't so!

Even in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence, the human mind remains remarkably resistant to doubt.

Consider Leon Festinger's fascinating work on a group who believed that the world would end on December 21, 1954. How would they deal with the evidence that their predictions of the date were wrong - assuming they were wrong?

28 January 2018

What is truth?

La Vérité sortant du puits armée de son martinet pour châtier l'humanité
   
  • The truth is very often not knowable
        
  • The truth is that many beliefs are formed without knowledge
       
  • The truth is that people claiming to know the truth are generally deluded
       
  • The truth is that a fiction can be powerful (think placebo, nocebo, etc.)
       
  • The truth is that truth may not be a supreme virtue
       
  • The truth is that what works, practical wisdom, may be all that matters