Why hold unprovable beliefs?

shikko
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Why hold unprovable beliefs?

Are there any cases where holding an unprovable belief allows for something not otherwise possible? I'm not talking about unproven, but unprovable. Are unprovable claims ever objectively positive? If they are not, why hold them?

Unprovable claims cannot help add to the sum total of human knowledge. They cannot be used as a starting point for proving something else. An unprovable supposition can be reached logically, but there it stops, a logical cul-de-sac. If a claim is untestable and unfalsifiable, is there any point in making it other than as a rhetorical tool in bad argumentation?

To take Sam Harris' example: right now, I have an even number of cells in my body. It's definitely falsifiable, since we can design an experiment to test the claim (count all the cells in my body), but it's untestable (for obvious reasons) and therefore unprovable.

Can anyone give me examples of unprovable beliefs that are objectively a "good thing"?

In short, if a belief is unprovable, why hold it?

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There's a well-established

There's a well-established relationship in psychology between belief and performance in art, music, sports, academics, etc.  People who believe they are competent or able--even if those beliefs are objectively delusional--perform better than those who have realistic beliefs about their abilities.

Here's a link to one of many many examples. Google "performance belief" for more.

 

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Hillary Clinton will be a

Hillary Clinton will be a better president than Barak Obama.

 

How can you prove this? The only way to prove it would be to Let Hillary be president, then after she had her turn roll time back and let Obama try under the exact same starting conditions.

And yet we must decide on a new president.


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I completely agree with

I completely agree with textom. Artistic inspiration and so on seems to be much more powerful when people hold delusional beliefs.

Sometimes rational people feel small in this universe and this feeling of insignificance may act as an obstacle for their self esteem, inspiration and other aspect of their life. So I think that being delusional can be an easy way to boost up your ego, feel more confident and find meaning to this whole mystery that existence is.

I think it is easier to feel special in a universe where God as deliberately created you then in one were you are an "accident" of nature. I would like to see this mentality change. I don't feel small in this world but I don't know how to convince people that they can feel that as well without being a creation of some magical space daddy.

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wavefreak wrote:

wavefreak wrote:

Hillary Clinton will be a better president than Barak Obama.

 

How can you prove this? The only way to prove it would be to Let Hillary be president, then after she had her turn roll time back and let Obama try under the exact same starting conditions.

And yet we must decide on a new president.

Anyone but Fuckabee.


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Eight Foot Manchild

Eight Foot Manchild wrote:
wavefreak wrote:

Hillary Clinton will be a better president than Barak Obama.

 

How can you prove this? The only way to prove it would be to Let Hillary be president, then after she had her turn roll time back and let Obama try under the exact same starting conditions.

And yet we must decide on a new president.

Anyone but Fuckabee.

 

LOL. But can you prove it? 


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wavefreak wrote: Eight

wavefreak wrote:
Eight Foot Manchild wrote:
wavefreak wrote:

Hillary Clinton will be a better president than Barak Obama.

 

How can you prove this? The only way to prove it would be to Let Hillary be president, then after she had her turn roll time back and let Obama try under the exact same starting conditions.

And yet we must decide on a new president.

Anyone but Fuckabee.

 

LOL. But can you prove it?

Wave, where does this cross the line between unproven and unprovable? 

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It becomes unprovable

It becomes unprovable because there is no way to duplicate the initial conditions for both cases and have both candidates face exactly the same challenges and circumstances. To do so, you'd need to be able to rewind time or duplicate the entire world and make sure every other decision in the world remains the same except for the influence of the President's actions.

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jcgadfly wrote: Wave,

jcgadfly wrote:

Wave, where does this cross the line between unproven and unprovable?

You can't prove that Hillary would make a better president than Obama. You can't even design an experiment that would test the question. The best you can do is to assemble the known facts, consider them carefully and make an educated guess as to which would be better. You then vote believing your judgment to be correct. If you vote for Hillary and things go well under her leadership, you can't even use that to claim proof. It is possible that had Obama been elected things would have turned out even better. And letting Obama take a shot after Hillary isn't a valid test as Obama would not be starting his term under the same conditions. What would the Bush presidency have been like without 9/11 and Katrina? We don't know, we can only speculate. Would we have been better off with Gore as president?  Many would say yes, but again, it is speculation. It can't be proven. Many people carry a belief that our country is worse off than if Gore had been elected, but there is no way to test or prove that. All we can say is that our country is worse off than it was before Bush was elected. And you can't even prove that Bush wasn't the best man for the job and actually made the best decisions. It is possible that Bush's decisions actually resulted in the best possible out come, even if it was a crappy one. Note this is all based on what can be PROVEN. We can rationally approach these questions and model the dynamics through various scenarios, even coming to a consensus that Bush pretty much dropped the ball, but we can't PROVE it.


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Textom wrote: There's a

Textom wrote:

There's a well-established relationship in psychology between belief and performance in art, music, sports, academics, etc. People who believe they are competent or able--even if those beliefs are objectively delusional--perform better than those who have realistic beliefs about their abilities.

Here's a link to one of many many examples. Google "performance belief" for more.

I've read the topic of your link before, and forgotten about it; thank you for reminding me! The performance enhancement (at least in academics) is only tied to initial measure. The inaccurate belief (intelligence is fixed) negatively impacted the students' ability to improve after receiving a negative result. They only performed better in the short term; long-term their inaccurate belief hurt them.

I think I need to clarify my question, since this isn't what I was looking for. Thinking that you are smart (or a good ball/cello player) is not an unprovable belief; it's a matter of opinion about a level of ability relative to like subjects. Let me try again:

If I believed something unprovable (everything was cheese before the big bang; cats float when unobserved, whatever), is that belief ever anything but subjectively (meaning maybe I get comfort thinking about floating cats) positive? Is there some way that a belief you cannot prove can get a tangible, objective benefit for anyone who believes it? In science, would believing something unprovable (pre-big bang cheesiness of whatever was before the big bang) ever be useful? I think that it would not, since it by definition cannot lead anywhere.

 

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shikko wrote: Textom

shikko wrote:
Textom wrote:

There's a well-established relationship in psychology between belief and performance in art, music, sports, academics, etc. People who believe they are competent or able--even if those beliefs are objectively delusional--perform better than those who have realistic beliefs about their abilities.

Here's a link to one of many many examples. Google "performance belief" for more.

I've read the topic of your link before, and forgotten about it; thank you for reminding me! The performance enhancement (at least in academics) is only tied to initial measure. The inaccurate belief (intelligence is fixed) negatively impacted the students' ability to improve after receiving a negative result. They only performed better in the short term; long-term their inaccurate belief hurt them.

I think I need to clarify my question, since this isn't what I was looking for. Thinking that you are smart (or a good ball/cello player) is not an unprovable belief; it's a matter of opinion about a level of ability relative to like subjects. Let me try again:

If I believed something unprovable (everything was cheese before the big bang; cats float when unobserved, whatever), is that belief ever anything but subjectively (meaning maybe I get comfort thinking about floating cats) positive? Is there some way that a belief you cannot prove can get a tangible, objective benefit for anyone who believes it? In science, would believing something unprovable (pre-big bang cheesiness of whatever was before the big bang) ever be useful? I think that it would not, since it by definition cannot lead anywhere.

 

 

So what's wrong with my observations about politics?  


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shikko wrote: In science,

shikko wrote:

In science, would believing something unprovable (pre-big bang cheesiness of whatever was before the big bang) ever be useful? I think that it would not, since it by definition cannot lead anywhere.

Unprovable beliefs commonly held in science: All of them.

Nothing can be conclusively proven. At best, scientific theories can be said to make predictions that match observable data, and as yet are not disproven.

And that's not even getting into the question of whether you can prove anything at all exists beyond the presence of your own mind.

So, what's the benefit of holding beliefs you can't prove? Well, in many cases, it's one of the things you use to remain functional. 

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shikko wrote: Are there

shikko wrote:

Are there any cases where holding an unprovable belief allows for something not otherwise possible? I'm not talking about unproven, but unprovable. Are unprovable claims ever objectively positive? If they are not, why hold them?

Unprovable claims cannot help add to the sum total of human knowledge. They cannot be used as a starting point for proving something else. An unprovable supposition can be reached logically, but there it stops, a logical cul-de-sac. If a claim is untestable and unfalsifiable, is there any point in making it other than as a rhetorical tool in bad argumentation?

To take Sam Harris' example: right now, I have an even number of cells in my body. It's definitely falsifiable, since we can design an experiment to test the claim (count all the cells in my body), but it's untestable (for obvious reasons) and therefore unprovable.

Can anyone give me examples of unprovable beliefs that are objectively a "good thing"?

In short, if a belief is unprovable, why hold it?

 

Good question. Why DO people believe there is no G-d? Eye-wink 


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Quote:   Good question. W

Quote:
 

Good question. Why DO people believe there is no G-d? Eye-wink 

 

Because there is no proof for one. Smile


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superlucky20

superlucky20 wrote:

Quote:
 

Good question. Why DO people believe there is no G-d? Eye-wink 

 

Because there is no proof for one. Smile

 

Which is equally rational as me saying "I believe in G-d, because there's no proof He doesn't exist."

 *shrug* 

To each their own, but if that's all you got, you shouldn't get offended when people say that atheism takes faith, too. 

 


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Except it doesn't. I'm an

Except it doesn't. I'm an atheist. I don't believe in God. I don't believe God doesn't exist, either, but that's not necessary. An atheist is someone who doesn't believe in the divine. And if you're going to tell me that it takes faith to not have faith... dude, that's just crackers.

"You've got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know... morons." - The Waco Kid


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BMcD wrote: Except it

BMcD wrote:
Except it doesn't. I'm an atheist. I don't believe in God. I don't believe God doesn't exist, either, but that's not necessary. An atheist is someone who doesn't believe in the divine. And if you're going to tell me that it takes faith to not have faith... dude, that's just crackers.

 

Re-read lucky's post and mine. Lack of belief either way IS different from belief that there IS no G-d.  


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mobius_thought

mobius_thought wrote:
superlucky20 wrote:

Quote:

Good question. Why DO people believe there is no G-d? Eye-wink

 

Because there is no proof for one. Smile

 

Which is equally rational as me saying "I believe in G-d, because there's no proof He doesn't exist."

*shrug*

To each their own, but if that's all you got, you shouldn't get offended when people say that atheism takes faith, too.

 

Why is this one so hard for people?  I guess he's new so maybe hasn't already seen this one 500 times like the rest of us. 

The burden of proof is on the person making the claim.  The claim is "there is a god" or some form of "there is this particular god."  These are your claims, without giving us real reasons to give them credit, there's no reason for us to believe them or be required to come up with a "positively doesn't exist" claim. 

If I accused you of murder, you probably wouldn't trust my faith in "because i just know you did it!" and demand something to back up the claim.   This isn't different, and this doesn't require faith.


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mobius_thought

mobius_thought wrote:

Re-read lucky's post and mine. Lack of belief either way IS different from belief that there IS no G-d.

I've read them, including where you say:

mobius_thought wrote:

To each their own, but if that's all you got, you shouldn't get offended when people say that atheism takes faith, too.

You're statement makes the assertion that atheism takes faith. I'm telling you: I am an atheist. I do not have faith in the existance or nonexistance of God. Thus, your statement is blatantly untrue. When presented with this, you claim I'm misreading you. I'm not. You're wrong. Own up to it and move on.

"You've got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know... morons." - The Waco Kid


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stuntgibbon

stuntgibbon wrote:
mobius_thought wrote:
superlucky20 wrote:

Quote:

Good question. Why DO people believe there is no G-d? Eye-wink

 

Because there is no proof for one. Smile

 

Which is equally rational as me saying "I believe in G-d, because there's no proof He doesn't exist."

*shrug*

To each their own, but if that's all you got, you shouldn't get offended when people say that atheism takes faith, too.

 

Why is this one so hard for people?  I guess he's new so maybe hasn't already seen this one 500 times like the rest of us. 

The burden of proof is on the person making the claim.  The claim is "there is a god" or some form of "there is this particular god."  These are your claims, without giving us real reasons to give them credit, there's no reason for us to believe them or be required to come up with a "positively doesn't exist" claim. 

If I accused you of murder, you probably wouldn't trust my faith in "because i just know you did it!" and demand something to back up the claim.   This isn't different, and this doesn't require faith.

 

LOL! I didn't make a claim. I make a joke. 

 I'm not a Christian. I don't believe MY status is determined by converting people. I'm only interested in sharing the truth with those interested in and open to hearing it.  

I just had a little fun at an atheist's expense. It's really no different than what I see going on all over this board, except in reverse.  


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I missed the part where I

I missed the part where I claimed you were a Christian.  Also, telling us our position requires faith also tells us your position requires being daft.

 


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it DOES, if your position

it DOES, if your position is not

"I don't believe there is a G-d"

but is instead

"I believe there is no G-d"

which IS the phrasing I used. 


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mobius_thought wrote: it

mobius_thought wrote:

it DOES, if your position is not

"I don't believe there is a G-d"

but is instead

"I believe there is no G-d"

which IS the phrasing I used.

So, instead of trying to find out what positons people hold, you decided to attack the minority position to prove your point and generalize that to all of us.

I still don't understand why people of your faith claim God loves them but are scared to spell out his name. 

"I do this real moron thing, and it's called thinking. And apparently I'm not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions."
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mobius_thought wrote: it

mobius_thought wrote:

it DOES, if your position is not

"I don't believe there is a G-d"

but is instead

"I believe there is no G-d"

which IS the phrasing I used.

Well typically strong atheists have deductive proofs for the nonexistence of god, and if valid would mean the postion isn't based on faith. 


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zntneo

zntneo wrote:
mobius_thought wrote:

it DOES, if your position is not

"I don't believe there is a G-d"

but is instead

"I believe there is no G-d"

which IS the phrasing I used.

Well typically strong atheists have deductive proofs for the nonexistence of god, and if valid would mean the postion isn't based on faith.

So why post it on a website populated mainly by proponents of weak atheism? I'm not aginst your attacking but pick the correct targets.

"I do this real moron thing, and it's called thinking. And apparently I'm not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions."
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mobius_thought

mobius_thought wrote:
shikko wrote:

(snip)

In short, if a belief is unprovable, why hold it?

Good question. Why DO people believe there is no G-d? Eye-wink

*ba-dum-TISH*  This thread is now officially an episode of the AvT sitcom.

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jcgadfly

jcgadfly wrote:
mobius_thought wrote:

it DOES, if your position is not

"I don't believe there is a G-d"

but is instead

"I believe there is no G-d"

which IS the phrasing I used.

So, instead of trying to find out what positons people hold, you decided to attack the minority position to prove your point and generalize that to all of us.

I still don't understand why people of your faith claim God loves them but are scared to spell out his name. 

 

MINORITY position? Dude, I sold my cow. (I have no use for your bull). 

The "blasphemy challenge" ? It's every BIT as unprovable to say THIS G-d doesn't exist, as to say NO G-d exists.  


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mobius_thought

mobius_thought wrote:

 

MINORITY position? Dude, I sold my cow. (I have no use for your bull).

The "blasphemy challenge" ? It's every BIT as unprovable to say THIS G-d doesn't exist, as to say NO G-d exists.

 

Wrong, if a specfic deity can be proven to be internally incoherent or  contain an internal contradiction ,deductivly it can be proven to not exist.


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The problem with deductive

The problem with deductive reasoning is that it requires a complete and accurate set of data to work with. When you don't have that, then you get errors finding their way into things. This is why empirical evidence is far superior to deductive proofs, and empirically, you cannot disprove the existance of any deity any more than that can empirically prove that existance.

"You've got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know... morons." - The Waco Kid


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BMcD wrote: The problem

BMcD wrote:
The problem with deductive reasoning is that it requires a complete and accurate set of data to work with. When you don't have that, then you get errors finding their way into things. This is why empirical evidence is far superior to deductive proofs, and empirically, you cannot disprove the existance of any deity any more than that can empirically prove that existance.

 

Exactly what data do you need to disprove a concept using its own definintion?  


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BMcD wrote: The problem

BMcD wrote:
The problem with deductive reasoning is that it requires a complete and accurate set of data to work with. When you don't have that, then you get errors finding their way into things. This is why empirical evidence is far superior to deductive proofs, and empirically, you cannot disprove the existance of any deity any more than that can empirically prove that existance.

 

Besides dedutive reasoning is about reasoning without using data. It is an a prioi system and thus no need for data. 


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zntneo

zntneo wrote:
mobius_thought wrote:

 

MINORITY position? Dude, I sold my cow. (I have no use for your bull).

The "blasphemy challenge" ? It's every BIT as unprovable to say THIS G-d doesn't exist, as to say NO G-d exists.

 

Wrong, if a specfic deity can be proven to be internally incoherent or contain an internal contradiction ,deductivly it can be proven to not exist.

 

Oh, REALLY? You think you're up to THAT challenge? Feel free to start a thread, I'll check it out.

But this begs the question, whose standards would it be judged by? It could be said to be more convenient not to believe... no final justice, karma, day of judgement, or equivilient. Then again, I suppose to some it's more comforting to believe, butI would say that was vastly different according to the person. It's an interesting statement. The question is, can it really be done?

I think, as a person that believes in the G-d of the Bible, and yet disagrees on both the canons used by (most) Jews AND Christians, I could give you a run for your money on that. I would suspect the most you could do would be, like hasatan in the story of Jesus' temptation, would be to take individual verses outside the context of the larger chapters and stories, and try to build inconsistencies on that. But, I'm willing to hear you out. 

Heck, if you could actually, legitimately, and OBJECTIVELY, prove such a thing, you'd have a convert.

I'm giving the benefit of the doubt by saying that it simply couldn't be done, even in the case of a false god.  


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zntneo wrote: Exactly what

zntneo wrote:

Exactly what data do you need to disprove a concept using its own definintion?

First, you need confirmation that the definition is in fact absolutely correct. Otherwise, all you have proven is that the definition cannot be correct. And, as the definitions are written by human beings, (unless you plan to assert that, for example, the catholics think not only that god wrote every word of the bible, but every word of the merriam-webster, too) there's no case being made that the definitions aren't being written by individuals capable of screwing them up.

Which still leaves them able to say 'but the concept is still valid, we just failed in adequately defining it.' 

"You've got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know... morons." - The Waco Kid