Is Rationality Subjective?

Marty Hamrick
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Is Rationality Subjective?

Often on here and other religious forums, Christians and other theists have gotten upset with me for suggesting that their beliefs aren't rational, but the product of something pathological. I don't mean this to be offensive and I definitely don't mean to suggest that Christians and other theists be locked up in mental institutions, the way the Soviet Union did with all dissidents. One fundamentalist poster who was a mental health professional said that if his beliefs were pathological, it would manifest itself in other behaviors and he would be deemed mentally incompetent at some point. Yet is this really true? What really constitutes a "rational" vs. an "irrational" belief, especially in a subject that can be debated? I know plenty of people who hold what I would consider to be irrational beliefs that are by no means mentally ill, at least not enough to be intitutionalized or even medicated. I've already posted youtube links to the opinions of my Christian quantum physicist friend, Ben Schumacher and I can attest that Ben is one of the most rational people I know, yet I disagree with him on what I would consider to be a rational belief. Here is what he says on the rationality of his belief system and worldview.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEZ_dQGF_GQ

I know others who I consider very rational and intelligent, yet I disagree with them on their rationality. I have another friend who is a world class engineer, his IQ is probably off the charts, yet he consideres hiimself a medium and talks to spirits on a regular basis, often giving folks messages from dead friends and relatives if they ask.

So what constitutes "rationality" and is it subjective? I know folks who would never fly across the country, in fact, the very idea of flying from LA to NYC would make them physically ill with fear, yet many of these same people would think nothing of crossing the country on a motorcycle, in fact, they would look at it as an adventure. In fact I used to date a girl who said she felt more comfortable hitchhiking across the country rahter than flying. Is this subjectively rational, despite the fact that statistically flying is much safer than driving or hitchhiking? Do all thoughts have to be both intellectually and emotionally accepted before they can be considered rational?

I used to jump out of airplanes for fun, many of my friends and relatives thought that was irrational. Yet, here again, statistics prove skydiving to be relatively "safe" among the "extreme" or action sports, especially given the advancement of today's technologies.

How should we, as a society determine what is "rational"? Deeming religion irrational on a collective scale could mean the road to totalitarianism if such a belief system were adopted by a government and enforced by law and no one wants that, yet at the same time, no intelligent, "sane" person wants a theocracy either.     

"Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings."


Luminon
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What is rationality?

What is rationality? Rationality is following the evidence anywhere it leads. Evidence may be subjective. Therefore rationality also may be subjective. Whatever you do, it is both rational and subjective as long as you personally have a logical justification for it. And logic is objective. Of course, we often do a plenty of irrational things for which we have no justification and we know it.

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I know others who I consider very rational and intelligent, yet I disagree with them on their rationality. I have another friend who is a world class engineer, his IQ is probably off the charts, yet he consideres hiimself a medium and talks to spirits on a regular basis, often giving folks messages from dead friends and relatives if they ask.
And you assume this is an irrational behavior, right? Only if your friend imagines it or plays it on purpose. But more probably I think being a medium is a natural ability, such people served our ancestors as shamans and even today they are still many, though declining. If this is not by your friend's conscious or intentional doing, then it is not a problem of rationality. Instead it would be irrational if he ignored something that is natural to him. Of course, many people choose to suppress this activity for various reasons, like they find the spirit advice untrustworthy or they want to pursue spiritual disciplines that are contradictory with mediumship. 

Quote:
 How should we, as a society determine what is "rational"? Deeming religion irrational on a collective scale could mean the road to totalitarianism if such a belief system were adopted by a government and enforced by law and no one wants that, yet at the same time, no intelligent, "sane" person wants a theocracy either.
As I said, rationality is following the evidence, including personal evidence. We all often act upon personal evidence, because we can't possibly prove our reasons for everything we do. Religious people aren't rational because even if they have some experiences, they go much further than that, they jump ahead to religious conclusions in the Bible and follow these, not their experience. 

As for the collective scale, it is currently impossible to achieve global rationality. People are not ready for it, they are emotional and subjective creatures with or without religion. So the next best thing we can achieve is to let them have their thing, but lay down some protective rules. Separation of Church and state. Market and state. Church and market. Market and basic human needs. International markets from each other. As long as these rules hold, the world will be a good place to live, even if not all of us are rational. The ability to not be a dick and get along will be more important than if we're rational or not. 

 

Beings who deserve worship don't demand it. Beings who demand worship don't deserve it.


Ktulu
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No, rationality is not

No, rationality is not subjective.  It is relative.  The distinction being that what we consider rational today is objective relative to our frame of reference.  I believe Zaq had a very good article on subjective/objective relative/absolute.  I just dug it up 

http://silverskeptic.blogspot.ca/2012/03/delusions-of-subjectivity.html

Basically, we consider belief in the Toothfairy to be irrational, objectively (meaning that it is so regardless of who holds that belief) but not absolutely.  Meaning that relative to our paradigm this belief is irrational.  If we discovered the island of Toothferria and a mountain of stinking teeth, we would have to alter that point of view.  Also, a person can hold a rational belief irrationally (such as toothfairy).  Such as in the above example, if you believe in the toothfairy prior to the discovery of Toothferria. 

 

"Don't seek these laws to understand. Only the mad can comprehend..." -- George Cosbuc


Marty Hamrick
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Good points, Ktulu.Could it

Good points, Ktulu.Could it be relative and subjective at the same time? My theistic scientist friend insists that his beliefs are "rational" but goes on to say that its an entirely different matter for someone else.

"Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings."


Ktulu
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Marty Hamrick wrote:Good

Marty Hamrick wrote:

Good points, Ktulu.Could it be relative and subjective at the same time? My theistic scientist friend insists that his beliefs are "rational" but goes on to say that its an entirely different matter for someone else.

I don't think we get to personally define what rationality is.  Rationality is more of a consensus, something akin to common sense, but at a deeper level.  It is the process by which we judge evidence, as well as the common body of knowledge we have gathered following said process.  Just like you're not entitled to your own facts, you're not entitled to your own rationality.  

"Don't seek these laws to understand. Only the mad can comprehend..." -- George Cosbuc


Marty Hamrick
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Ktulu wrote:Marty Hamrick

Ktulu wrote:

Marty Hamrick wrote:

Good points, Ktulu.Could it be relative and subjective at the same time? My theistic scientist friend insists that his beliefs are "rational" but goes on to say that its an entirely different matter for someone else.

I don't think we get to personally define what rationality is.  Rationality is more of a consensus, something akin to common sense, but at a deeper level.  It is the process by which we judge evidence, as well as the common body of knowledge we have gathered following said process.  Just like you're not entitled to your own facts, you're not entitled to your own rationality.  

So is it "rational" for a person like me to jump out of airplanes for fun?In as much as I can weigh and measure the safety aspects of such a sport, the inescapeable mathematical conclusion would be that every time I jump, I increase the odds of making a crater in the ground.

"Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings."


Ktulu
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Constantly weighing the

Constantly weighing the subtleties of rationality would make for a very boring life.  I mean, what's really the point of it all? "On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero" Chuck Palahniuk.  Since we subjectively assign worth to our lives (yes even theists), we can choose to ignore or follow rationality.  At times it is much more fun to ignore it.  

Rationality, is our best description of reality, and must be adaptable to paradigm shifts, but nothing else.  

 

"Don't seek these laws to understand. Only the mad can comprehend..." -- George Cosbuc