Obedience

On the Nature of Belief: Appendices

Off the keyboard of Geoffrey Chia

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on April 22, 2015

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APPENDICES TO THE ESSAY “ON THE NATURE OF BELIEF

G. Chia, April 2015

APPENDIX 1: THE PROPOSITION OF PREDISPOSITION TO A PARADIGM BASED ON POLITICS, PERSONALITY &/OR PROFESSION (the 6P)

Some dictionaries may define the term “ideology” simply as a system of beliefs. However, it is more useful to define a term according to the manner in which it is used in the real world. Thus, an “ideology” is more accurately defined as a rigid system of beliefs. When we say “Mr X is driven by his ideology” we imply that he holds rigid views which he refuses to change, no matter what the circumstances.

As such, the Scientific Method is not an ideology, because it is not a rigid system of beliefs. It is a rigorous, rational process by which hypotheses are accepted or discarded according to the best evidence, reason and investigation. If we say “Mr X is driven by his scientific enquiry”, we mean that he assesses a situation, then formulates a few hypotheses on the basis of the best evidence and reason available at the time (in medical parlance this is known as making a list of “differential diagnoses”). He then tests each hypothesis for validity and falsifiability and adopts the one which best stands up to scrutiny. His evaluation (or diagnosis) may change later, if better information comes to light. This is exactly how a Physician works.

Pretty much all other belief systems are ideologies with varying degrees of rigidity. Some ideologies are less rigid in that they are willing to adopt selected paradigms from Science and reason-based progressive social policies. For example, some Christian groups and clerics are willing to accept that evolution and global warming are realities and that women deserve equal respect and status to men, notwithstanding their “Adam’s rib” fable (hence women are allowed to be pastors and hold positions of authority in their church). Even the Pope has come to accept the reality of AGW and advocates that humanity must take measures to deal with it http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/27/pope-francis-edict-climate-change-us-rightwing Fundamentalist Christians however remain abjectly insistent on their particular interpretation of their version of their sacred doctrines, as is equally the case for Fundamentalist Muslims or Fundamentalist Jews. They each demand their “divine right” to pursue their (self serving) agendas to the point of murder and death. This is a major reason why the conflicts in the Middle East will never be resolved. Such a mentality brings to mind lyrics from the Dire Straits song “Industrial Disease”:

…I go down to Speaker’s Corner, I’m thunderstruck,
They got free speech, tourists, police in trucks,
Two men say they’re Jesus, one of them must be wrong,

There’s a protest singer singing a protest song

Obviously the amusing irony here is that both men who claim to be Jesus are certainly wrong and the listener laughs in amusement, that to entertain the idea that even one of them may be Jesus is an insane delusion. However, by that same token, rational thinkers know that the superstitious ideologies of all the Abrahamic religions (indeed all religions) are certainly wrong and are just as insanely deluded.

Here is an idea widely prevalent (and widely promoted by the media) in society at present: that political persuasion, personality traits or professional background determine one’s ideology. Let us call it the Proposition of Predisposition to a Paradigm based on Politics, Personality &/or Profession, or for simplicity, the 6P.

Here are some elaborations of the 6P based on:

1. Political views:

The “right wing conservative / left wing liberal” political dichotomy was particularly well satirised by the late Kurt Vonnegut in his classic essay “Cold Turkey” (now nearing the tenth anniversary of publication):

Even crazier than golf, though, is modern American politics, where, thanks to TV and for the convenience of TV, you can only be one of two kinds of human beings, either a liberal or a conservative…Which one are you in this country? It’s practically a law of life that you have to be one or the other. If you aren’t one or the other, you might as well be a doughnut. If some of you still haven’t decided, I’ll make it easy for you. If you want to take my guns away from me, and you’re all for murdering fetuses, and love it when homosexuals marry each other and want to give them kitchen appliances at their showers, and you’re for the poor, you’re a liberal. If you are against those perversions and for the rich, you’re a conservative. What could be simpler?

In the article by Lissa Johnson, “At All Costs: The Dark Psychology Of Abbott Government Climate Policy” she wrote…”Right Wing Authoritarianism is fearful and cautious, driven by a view of the world as a dangerous place. It seeks safety and stability via conformity to traditional hierarchies in which everyone knows their place…Social Dominance Orientation, in contrast, seeks to win at all costs, via the ‘strong’ in society dominating the ‘weak’…‘Superior’ groups coming out on top is the goal…Put briefly, they are the two faces of authoritarianism: authoritarian obedience and authoritarian dominance…Social Dominance Orientation correlates negatively with empathy, altruism and honesty, and is predicted by high levels of the personality trait ‘tough mindedness’, which involves lack of sympathy and compassion. So strong is the ruthless emotional foundation of Social Dominance that in 2013 it was empirically recognized as not only correlating with the ‘dark triad’ of personality (narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy), but as being a member of the dark personality cluster itself… (Researchers Daniel Jones and Aurelio Figueredo) found that the interrelationship between the three dark triad traits and Social Dominance Orientation was explained by a common ‘Dark Core’. This Dark Core consists of two parts: manipulation (or dishonesty), and callousness (or lack of empathy)…The authors concluded that, like those high in narcissism, Machiavellianism or psychopathy, “Individuals high in Social Dominance have a dark personality”. What distinguishes Social Dominance is that it manifests “at a group level with a politically oppressive style.”…The primary goal of Social Domination is to maximize inequality between social groups in a “superior-inferior” order. This requires a capacity, if not a zeal, to oppress and subordinate other human beings.

2. Personality: Optimists vs Pessimists

This is the view that irrespective of objective facts, the natural optimist tends to select positive information to construct their world view and the pessimist selects negative information. It does appear that most people may be hard wired to have an optimism bias (see explanation in main Belief essay and also: http://www.theguardian.com/science/2012/jan/01/tali-sharot-the-optimism-bias-extract ). Optimism bias serves several purposes for the individual: it makes them feel better, it gives them hope and motivation to work towards their desired goal and it boosts their popularity within their social group. No one likes a wet blanket to dampen a party. Unfortunately, such “rose coloured glasses” can blind these people to the potential pitfalls and problems they may encounter along the way. The “she’ll be right, mate” Aussie attitude (or the condescending admonition, “cheer up, it’ll probably never happen”) is in fact is a recipe for disaster. Real world observation suggests that a cautiously pessimistic approach is more likely to lead to success or prevent disaster, precisely because problems are actively avoided, or if encountered are anticipated and therefore tackled promptly (compared to the incautious optimists who will flounder about and remain in denial when faced with crises they did not prepare for). According to neuroscientist CJ Bajada, “optimism bias is a well established psychological phenomenon that, despite criticism, has been replicated in many experiments. While it is generally an adaptive phenomenon, it can have disastrous consequences (such as an economic collapse).” http://www.academia.edu/7957545/The_Optimism_Bias_A_cognitive_neuroscience_perspective

Hence what is the best way to approach challenges in an uncertain future? Hope for the best but plan for the worst. Self professed optimism, apart from being an emotive ploy to win popularity in a crowd, can be simply an excuse for inaction by the person who is too darned lazy to make contingency plans.

3. Professional background

“To the man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. The implication here is that a person’s occupation shapes their world view. I can offer some personal perspective regarding this matter, specifically in relation to the prospect of Near Term Human Extinction. I will contrast my views with those of Dr Guy McPherson, a conservation biologist and relentless promoter of the “inevitability” of NTHE. In some of my previous essays, I was significantly influenced by Dr McPherson’s opinion due to his summaries of overwhelming dire information sourced from the peer reviewed scientific literature regarding the exponential worsening of global warming. There is no doubt whatsoever that we are headed for the catastrophic devastation of our planetary biosphere. Nevertheless to “prove” that NTHE is “inevitable”, it is necessary to show beyond any reasonable doubt that there is not a single future scenario where even one small group of human beings can possibly survive in the long term.

For example, the Limits to Growth scientists have conclusively shown beyond any reasonable doubt that the collapse of Industrial Civilisation is guaranteed this century. They have shown there is not a single realistic scenario (using even the most optimistic inputs) where modern industrial society can continue functioning by the end of this century, even without taking into account the guaranteed impending global financial collapse as a result of our Ponzi scheme economics. Even if we were to ignore the LtG projections, the most conservative estimate by climate scientists of a global average temperature rise of 4°C by the end of this century means that climate change alone guarantees that large scale agriculture (and hence cities and civilisation) will collapse. Not only that, the inevitable decline of high net energy sources (Peak Oil) alone also guarantees the collapse of Industrial Civilisation. The impending collapse of global Industrial Civilisation is a certainty beyond any reasonable doubt. But what about NTHE?

After pondering NTHE for two years, I was able to work out a feasible scenario by which at least one population of humans may be able to survive even the worst global warming projections, putting the lie to the “inevitability” of NTHE: http://www.thecanadiandaily.ca/geoffrey-chia-critique-guy-mcphersons-views/ Despite cursory admission that my views had validity, McPherson continues to propagate the overall message of the “inevitability” of NTHE to the public, spurred on by his echochamber of anonymous uberdoomer blogfans. Could our different professional backgrounds possibly account for our different views?

I do not deny the possibility of NTHE, indeed I agree it may be a likely outcome. Nevertheless I am working towards and promoting the idea that survival of a tiny number of humans is possible if adequate preparations are made and I advise sapient people around the world to give it a go. McPherson has not denied the possibility that a tiny handful of humans may survive. Despite this, his overarching message to the public remains that NTHE is guaranteed. He dismisses any other opinion as “hopium” and therefore he promotes hopelessness.

Why the different strategies? I am certainly not a natural optimist, hence that personality trait can be eliminated as an explanation. My success as a medical practitioner stems from my habit of always pessimistically considering the worst case scenarios in my patients, which I then take measures to protect them against, hence minimising their future risk. I am not unfamiliar with death, having experienced, as a junior doctor on call, patients dying in front of me from cardiac arrest who failed to respond to resuscitation. My own death and the death of my species are not beyond my contemplation. On the other hand I have also witnessed remarkable advances in cardiac therapy over the years with dramatic reductions in cardiac mortality and prolongation of good quality life in patients who would have been written off as hopeless cases a decade ago. Perhaps it is the latter which motivates me to strive for the survival of our benighted species, for better or worse.

I suspect that Dr McPherson’s professional experiences have been different. As a conservation biologist, if all that he has witnessed, researched, documented and read about over the past few decades have been relentless mass extinctions (about 50% of all vertebrate species have gone extinct over the past 40 years), then he may well consider the human species to be on the same trajectory and the outcome to be inevitable. The Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson stated that over 99% of all species that have ever existed have gone extinct. The difference for humans is that if we go extinct in the near term, it will be self inflicted.

What purposes do the 6P serve?

  1. The 6P is an easy model for the mainstream media to sell to the general public. It pigeonholes people into categories. It is a form of stereotyping. It is lazy simplistic thinking. Therefore, just like high-fat sugary food, it slides down the gullets of the simpleminded sheeple most readily*, delivered in the form of a 30 second sound byte between “infomercials” (*in contrast to more complex, more truthful ideas, which require greater time and effort to properly deliver, ruminate on and digest).
  2. The 6P is used for targeted advertising by corporations and for identification of “persons of interest” by governments.

This is based on the following premise: surveys have shown that interests in, beliefs in or purchases of “a, b, c, d and e” are associated with personality or political inclination “Z”. You have shown interest in “a, c and e”, therefore you must be a “Z” type person and should also be interested in “b and d”.

You must be aware of the fact that corporations and governments are collecting all your digital metadata and using idiot computer algorithms to profile you. For example, Google trawls through your internet browsing to identify your “pattern” of searches. Their algorithm then makes an assumption about your values and beliefs, pigeonholes you into one particular category of consumers and automatically triggers a suite of advertisements directed towards you. In your subsequent searches you then find commercial options ranked on the top lines or ads displayed on the side of the webpage representing suggested searches or purchases. It does not matter if the algorithm is not 100% accurate regarding your personal situation, a 30% hit rate on those ads among a billion consumers represents a great deal of money to Google and the advertisers.

The database of your searches and purchases by eBay and purchases by PayPal also represent valuable commercial intelligence to advertisers, to be used in the same way.

Facebook in particular is a goldmine of personal information, by which narcissistic individuals and the means to manipulate them can be identified. How many “friends” do you have?

Government collection of your metadata is even more chilling. The previous US government tactic of racial profiling and kidnapping people of “Middle Eastern appearance” and rendering them to prisons for torture without trial resulted in monstrous travesties of justice against innumerable innocent people. It may even have led to the radicalisation of previously moderate law abiding individuals. Nowadays, phonecalls, emails and browsing history of the general population are electronically trawled by dumb programs which flag key words or phrases such as “terrorism”, “bomb making”,”jihad” or the phrase we used in the main essay, “evil corporations”, irrespective of context. “Persons of interest” are then identified, categorised and can later be singled out for “special treatment”. This process “analyses” hundreds of millions of people more than the old blunt instrument of racial profiling, which means that potentially magnitudes more innocent people will be unfairly flagged. The fact of the matter is that any terrorist with half a brain will use untraceable phones and anonymized web browsing to avoid identification. It is the innocent citizens who will end up being targeted and harrassed by the authorities.

  1. Fraudsters such as Fox News (of “WMDs in Iraq” fame) use the 6P as a mental Trojan horse by which they outrageously distort the public perception of reality. Specifically, we refer to the way Fox News claimed to be “fair and balanced” by seeking views about AGW from “both sides”. Typically they would interview a legitimate climate scientist, then seek the opinion of a scientifically illiterate denialist, say, a “freemarket” economics professor with impressive academic titles (but no scientific credentials). Fox News would then conclude that there is considerable doubt regarding AGW: the scientific experts hold to a left wing version of the “truth”, the economic experts hold to a right wing version of the “truth”, so Fox News implies that reality may lie somewhere in between.

It is as though the scientists claim the Earth is round, the economists claim the Earth is flat and Fox News, being “fair and balanced”, concludes that the Earth could be oval.

To reiterate yet again, here is the objective truth: AGW is a fact recognised by ALL the National Academies of Science around the world (including the Royal Society of London). It is not a “left wing politically motivated opinion” as Fox News would like to portray it. AGW deniers are either liars or fools or both. The Earth is round and anyone who claims it is flat or oval is a liar or a fool or both.

Another personal experience as to why the 6P is flawed:

I too had been a “brain hostage” of the 6P in the past. Specifically, I previously assumed that other atheists would have reached the conclusion that “Man” created “God” (rather than the other way around) in the same way that I did, by means of evidential analysis and rational thinking. I therefore assumed they would also accept the rational consensus, based on decades of irrefutable evidence, of all the academies of Science around the world about the reality and importance of AGW. I was stunned to discover (in my interactions with the Brisbane Atheist group about 10 years ago) this assumption was incorrect and a significant number of them were intransigent AGW denialists and extreme right wing rednecks. They mounted ad hominem attacks against me for my position on AGW and I called them liars or fools or both. Not my finest moment I admit, but a reflection of my deep disappointment in my inability to find sensible thinkers in what I had wrongly assumed to be a forum of rational minds. On one topic (the existence of God or gods), they adopted a rational position; but on another topic (AGW – which they felt threatened their comfortable lifestyles), their self-serving arseholery trumped any rationality. An avalanche of further overwhelming climate data over the past decade have only proven more conclusively the fact that AGW deniers are either liars or fools or both.

I was subsequently motivated to look beyond assumptions which could prove false (eg. that as a rational atheist, I assumed other atheists to be rational) and to try to find a way to achieve an better understanding of the origins and purpose of each and every one of the beliefs of each particular individual, rather than lump people into categories as the 6P does.

CONCLUSION:

We regard the 6P as being of limited utility to help us understand the beliefs of a person. Saying that a person subscribes to right wing views because they are predisposed to believe in right wing views explains nothing. Saying a person is predisposed to right wing views because they have an authoritarian personality has some explanatory value, but still requires the nature and origin of that personality to be further assessed.

The 6P can be misused in this way: Belief in AGW is portrayed by Fox News as a function of “leftie/greenie” political ideology (ignoring that AGW is a scientifically validated fact beyond any shadow of a doubt, which has nothing to do with politics). Fox News followers then feel that their own views denying AGW, which stem from their self serving motivations (and indeed from their nonscience or nonsense based political ideology), can be regarded as equally valid as the “political views” of the “warmists”, thus perpetuating a dysfunctional denialist mindset.

The analytical method we outlined in our main essay on Belief requires firstly to determine whether a particular belief of a particular individual has been scientifically validated beyond any reasonable doubt, or at least whether that belief is considered to be reasonable evidence-based speculation by the scientific community. If the explanation for their belief is that it is a reality based belief, no further explanation for that belief is required. If not reality based, then that particular belief of that particular individual needs to be evaluated according to the nine major functions of belief we outlined (and ancillary factors if applicable – in parts 2 & 3 of the Belief essay, of which the 6P is just a small part). By applying that process to all the individual’s beliefs, we can establish a precise and purposeful explanation of the unique nature of that individual’s belief system. The 6P in isolation however offers limited explanation as to what purposes an individual’s beliefs serve, it is primarily a form of pigeonholing and can be prone to misuse.

GC Appendix 2 follows…

APPENDIX 2: THE MISREPRESENTATION OF “COGITO ER SUM” BY PHILOSOPHERS AND THE FAULTY LOGIC OF PASCAL’S WAGER COMPARED WITH THE GOOD SENSE OF THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE

COGITO ER SUM:

Here is a common misrepresentation of “I think therefore I am”:

The sensory information I receive, my perception of the world, is impossible to absolutely verify. It is impossible to be absolutely certain that my perceptions represent an external objective reality. It is possible such information may in fact be hallucinatory and entirely false. The only thing I can be abolutely certain of is that I am thinking about this issue and therefore I and only I alone definitely exist. Therefore the denial of external objective reality is a reasonable philosophical proposition.

Such a declaration by a pundit (usually male) is the ultimate in egocentric blather, essentially being a dismissal of everyone else around him and an acknowledgement only of himself. Perhaps the best response to such dumb pontification is to kick him in the shins, then say to him that according to his own philosophy, the kick was merely a figment of his own imagination.

It brings to mind this limerick:

There once was a Reverend named Peel,

Who said, “Although pain isn’t real,

When I sit on a pin,

And it punctures my skin,

I dislike what I fancy I feel.

Humans are certainly prone to hallucinations and illusions, however we can overcome these limitations by performing independent observations and measurements by different people using different modalities at different times in different places (and ensuring we are not in a drugged out state when we do so).

Descartes’ thought experiment was intended to argue that only the certainty of existence of the thinking self was indisputable, however it did not necessarily conversely follow that everything else was non-existent. Decartes was a pioneer of the Enlightenment and an advocate of empirical observation, precise measurement and the testing of hypotheses. Therefore he clearly believed in external objective reality. For philosophers to hijack “cogito er sum” and argue that just because something could not be absolutely proven, therefore it could be regarded as unproven and therefore could be considered false, is an absurd stretch. Objective Truth exists but we can never achieve Absolute Truth. This misinterpretation of “cogito er sum” reflects the fact that those who demand Absolutes are absurd thinkers who simply do not understand Reality. This is mirrored in contemporary times in the absurd argument by the AGW deniers, who say that because AGW cannot be proven to the absolute level of their scientifically illiterate satisfaction, therefore AGW does not exist. The best response to them is to kick them in the shins.

PASCAL’S WAGER vs THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE:

The brilliant mathematician Blaise Pascal justified his belief in God as follows, best illustrated in this 2×2 table:

God exists God does not exist
I choose to believe in God and follow the rules of the Church Consequence: a few lifetime inconveniences, rewarded by Eternal paradise (finite disadvantage, infinite benefit) Consequence: a few lifetime inconveniences, with no Eternal reward (finite disadvantage, no benefit)
I choose not to believe in God and live life as I best see fit Consequence: self determination in life, but Eternal damnation (finite benefit, infinite disadvantage) Consequence: self determination in life, with no Eternal consequences (finite benefit, no disadvantage)

Pascal’s Wager bears some superficial resemblence to the Precautionary Principle shown generically below:

Low probability but high impact (major consequences) scenario High probability but low impact (minor consequences) scenario
Precautionary action Consequence: minor inconveniences from taking precautionary actions, mitigation of severe event Consequence: minor inconveniences from taking precautionary actions, mitigation of minor event
No action Consequence: no inconveniences from taking precautionary actions, but if event does occur, outcome will be terrible Consequence: no inconveniences from taking precautionary actions, and even if event does occur, disadvantage will be minor

What is the similarity between the two tables? In both cases, the upper left hand box of the 2×2 table seem to represent taking out insurance, which we all do for our cars, property or for overseas travel, so why not do so? Furthermore the outcome to avoid at all costs is the bottom left hand box of the 2×2 table, the worst case scenario. Hence, why not hedge our bets?

In theory one could express the various benefits and disadvantages of Pascal’s Wager better numerically, if we could establish a probability for the existence of God and could also rate the inconvenience of following Church rules. Even using a small probability of God and an afterlife, say one in a million, and using quality of (earthbound) life or QOL “units” from 0 to 10 (zero being dead and nonexistent, 10 having an optimal self determined full life and 5 representing a halving of your quality of life due to religious rules), what would the numbers look like? The aggregate quality of existence or AQOE will be the quality of your earthbound life combined with either eternal paradise (positive infinity) or eternal damnation (negative infinity)

God (and afterlife) may exist God (and afterlife) do not exist
I choose to believe in God and follow the rules of the Church Earthbound QOL = 5, AQOE taking into account 1/1000000 probability of God = 5 + (1/1000000 x infinity) = POSITIVE INFINITY Earthbound QOL = 5, AQOE = 5 + 0 = 5 (no afterlife)
I choose not to believe in God and live life as I best see fit Earthbound QOL = 10, AQOE taking into account 1/1000000 probability of God = 10 + (1/1000000 x negative infinity) = NEGATIVE INFINITY Earthbound QOL = 10, AQOE = 10 + 0 = 10(no afterlife)

So there it is, a nice neat table with nice neat numbers enabling you to make a nice neat decision. Hence the cold calculating brain tells us it is best to believe in, or go through the motions of believing in God. No matter how you run your calculations, even with a one in a billion or one in a trillion probability of the existence of God, it is still best to believe in God because even the smallest imaginable number multiplied by infinity is still infinity. A convincing logical argument? Actually, it is unmitigated bullshit.

Pascal’s Wager is so deeply flawed it is difficult to know where to begin and we can only scratch the surface of the counterargument in this appendix. No doubt, you will spot many flaws for yourself, however we would like to highlight just a few points. The refutation can be achieved quantitatively, or qualitatively by commonsense argument.

We have assumed, as Pascal and the Church had done, that the probability of the existence of God and the probability of a human afterlife go together. However how do we know the two are not mutually exclusive? That, for example, a creator God may exist but humans do not have an afterlife, just as we assume that God created all other animals but did not give them an afterlife? Furthermore, how do we know that any purported human afterlife goes on for an infinite duration? What is the evidence for that assertion? The only bases for those religious assertions (indeed, the assertion that God exists in the first place) are the human interpretations of “sacred” texts which were written by other humans in antiquity who claimed to have been inspired by God.This mindset is identical to that of Scientologists who intensely believe in Xenu the galactic overlord on the basis of the “sacred” text written by the science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard.

Nevertheless, let us lump the probability of existence of God and the afterlife together and assume an infinite afterlife, for simplicity. How can you quantitatively judge the probability of the existence of God? You need to look at any evidence suggesting God may exist, against evidence suggesting God may not exist, multiply each by weighted factors determined by you, do some kind of subtraction judgement and come to a percentage likelihood. As stated before, whatever number you arrive at is irrelevant, because any positive number, no matter how small, when multiplied by infinity, becomes infinity. But what if there is NO evidence whatsoever for the existence of God? Without rehashing the same arguments which Richard Dawkins made in his book “The God Delusion”, the evidence for the existence of God or gods is in fact zero, zilch, nada, nothing. There is simply no evidence. What is zero multiplied by infinity? An infinity of zeroes, ie zero.

It was understandable in the time of Pascal, when proper knowledge of the physics based origins of the Universe, of biological evolution and of DNA were lacking, that the appearance of a clockwork universe and the apparent “intelligent design” of organisms seemed to represent convincing evidence for a creator. Knowing what we now know however, we can completely dismiss both arguments (in particular that of I.D.) as utterly bogus (see “Confronting the Wizards of ID, http://archive-au.com/page/2595960/2013-08-10/http://www.dissent.com.au/backissues/issue22.htm ). There is simply NO evidence for the existence of God. All our reality based knowledge points to the fact that the Universe is utterly indifferent to humanity, that the current favourable conditions on this planet for our existence have arisen due to an extremely rare convergence of circumstances in time and place in an ancient and vast Universe. Such a rare convergence was bound to happen sometime, somewhere, in an old enough and big enough Universe.

For qualitative refutation of Pascal’s Wager, we need to consider the following:

Firstly, Pascal’s argument assumed dichotomously that either the Christian God exists or does not exist, a monumentally flawed assumption. The impartial observer will recognise that his view was merely a tiny microscopic smallminded perspective of the broad vista of human religious belief, hamstrung to the extreme by his ethnocentric culture. The fact is that many thousands of different Gods were and are purported to exist by many different groups of people, with many different versions of afterlives (or reincarnations), with many different purported rewards or punishments for following or not following their particular doctrines. It did not and does not make any sense whatsoever to place the probability of existence of the Christian God above the probability of existence of any one of thousands of other Gods (unless one’s brain had been captured by the “might equals right” paradigm outlined in our Belief essay). Hence in order to hedge one’s bets, it would be logically necessary to follow all the practices of all the religions around the world (including making blood sacrifices of your enemies, flaying their corpses and wearing their skins, as was the practice of Mesoamerican Religions) to maximise your chance of eternal reward and minimise your chance of eternal punishment. Due to the fact that many religious practices are mutually contradictory, such a strategy is clearly impossible. The honest observer therefore has to conclude that Pascal’s strategy, properly applied, is completely unworkable. Pascal chose to dismiss non-Christian Gods as pure superstitions, not worthy of any consideration in his Wager. Accordingly, by that very same token, the impartial observer is also justified in dismissing the Christian God as pure superstition not worthy of any consideration in the Precautionary Principle.

Secondly, just for the sake of argument, let us say that the Christian God, Heaven and Hell do indeed exist. Certain clerics who claim to know the mind of God assert that disbelievers are guaranteed to go to Hell, however on what evidential basis do they make such an assertion? Or is that something they just made up, so they could use fear to control the behaviour of others? I personally had a memorable conversation with a Catholic priest while on attachment to a hospice as a junior doctor. I was surprised to hear he believed that ethical non-Christians or Atheists, who did good deeds in the world, were not condemned to Hell and could even end up in Heaven. Indeed multitudes of people around the world in history had never been exposed to Christianity and were completely unaware of the Christian God through no fault of their own. He could not believe a compassionate God would condemn such people to Hell. Was that Catholic priest a heretical deviant who himself was headed for Hell for opposing the doctines of the church, or was he simply a compassionate man who believed in a fair, compassionate God?

Thirdly, let us employ some common sense as to the origins of the threat of an eternity of punishment in Hell. Most parents at one time or another would have invoked the threat to their four year old child that a horrrible Bogey man would kidnap and torture them if the child did not do the bidding of the parent eg “if you don’t stop wiping your snot with your sleeve, the Bogey man will grab you in the night”. Striking fear into the heart of a naive child using an imaginary threat can enforce compliance until they grow up and wise up. In the absence of any evidence of Heaven or Hell throughout the entirety of human (or paleolithic) history, sensible adults will dismiss the threat of Hell as no different from the fabricated threat of the Bogey man. Unfortunately some naive people never grow up nor wise up.

The 2×2 Precautionary Principle table is actually too simplistic for proper decision making and is better replaced by the “Probability-Outcome Graph” I previously formulated:

http://guymcpherson.com/home/doomstea/public_html/guymcpherson.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/WISDOMDecisionMaking.pdf

With regard to Global Warming and the Precautionary Principle: AGW should never have been regarded as a “low probability but high impact” scenario. It was always a “high probability, high impact” scenario and it was always a no brainer that humanity should have worked hard to prevent it. Unfortunately planetary policies had been hijacked by people with no brains, hence nothing substantial has been done. The fact is that AGW is no longer a “future probability”, whether low or high. It is a present certainty. Catastrophic events will become unimaginably more severe in the years to come and desolation of our biosphere is baked into the cake. We have missed the boat.

Attributions: Geoffrey Chia: inflammatory language, Rebecca Willis: critical feedback

April 2015

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Quote from: RE on November 01, 2019, 10:11:08 PMQuote from: K-Dog on November 01, 2019, 08:46:16 PMQuotewe need to be able to migrate the ENTIRE almost 8 year history of Diner Comments from SMF to the new...

Progress has been made.  Who will be the first to send me a message?And clicking on the big menu which now has 400 links promotes your selection.  The sort in the menu is alphabetic by section to start with but after that popularity sorts the menu.  I...

Quote from: Nearingsfault on Today at 04:31:04 PMQuote from: Cam on November 11, 2019, 03:15:39 PMI first became aware less than two months ago on September 13th, 2019 (yes Friday the 13th, what a...

Political parties in Swaziland - some of them outlawed - have joined together to try to force an end to the rule of absolute monarch, King Mswati III.Their leaders intend to march on Wednesday (13 November 2019) to deliver a petition to Swazi Prime Mi...

In July, Bhuwan Ribhu received some very good news.The child labor activist, who works for Indian NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan, had launched a pilot program 15 months prior to match a police database containing photos of all of India's missing children ...

Recent Facebook Posts

Evacuation orders lifted after Palisades Fire leaves 2 injured and burns at least 40 acres in Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Fire Department ordered mandatory evacuations Monday as a fire ripped across a hillside in the affluent Pacific Palisades area,..

3 weeks ago

US troops pelted with rotten fruit and stones as they leave Syria – video

People have thrown rotten fruit and stones at US troops as they left Syria in armed vehicles, with one man appearing to shout: ‘You liars!’..

3 weeks ago

Corporate America's Second War With the Rule of Law

Corporate America’s Second War With the Rule of Law- Uber, Facebook, and Google are increasingly behaving like the law-flouting financial empires..

3 weeks ago

Photos from Rafael Nadal's Spanish wedding show a reception fit for tennis royalty

From Business Insider:

3 weeks ago

The best toothpaste for kids

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3 weeks ago

Diner Twitter feed

Knarf’s Knewz

Political parties in Swaziland - some of them outl [...]

In July, Bhuwan Ribhu received some very good news [...]

 A U.S. warship cruised the Strait of Taiwan in de [...]

Diner Newz Feeds

  • Surly
  • Agelbert
  • Knarf
  • Golden Oxen
  • Frostbite Falls

Doomstead Diner Daily November 13The Diner Daily i [...]

Alex Jones Under Oath Is an Antidote to a ‘Post-Tr [...]

Doomstead Diner Daily November 12The Diner Daily i [...]

Schiff should call Donnie & Ivanka as witnesse [...]

[html]Donald Trump Jr. walks offstage after being [...]

Quote from: UnhingedBecauseLucid on March 18, 2019 [...]

CleanTechnicaSupport CleanTechnica’s work via dona [...]

QuoteThe FACT that the current incredibly STUPID e [...]

Political parties in Swaziland - some of them outl [...]

In July, Bhuwan Ribhu received some very good news [...]

 A U.S. warship cruised the Strait of Taiwan in de [...]

Scientists have unlocked the power of gold atoms b [...]

Quote from: azozeo on August 14, 2019, 10:41:33 AM [...]

Wisconsin Bill Would Remove Barrier to Using Gold, [...]

Under extreme conditions, gold rearranges its atom [...]

The cost of gold futures on the Comex exchange inc [...]

Kicking off with the death of the Marlboro Man.RE[ [...]

Now UP on Global Economic Intersection!http://econ [...]

Alternate Perspectives

  • Two Ice Floes
  • Jumping Jack Flash
  • From Filmers to Farmers

Politicians’ Privilege By Cognitive Dissonance     Imagine for a moment you work for a small or medi [...]

Shaking the August Stick By Cognitive Dissonance     Sometime towards the end of the third or fourth [...]

Empire in Decline - Propaganda and the American Myth By Cognitive Dissonance     “Oh, what a tangled [...]

Meanderings By Cognitive Dissonance     Tis the Season Silly season is upon us. And I, for one, welc [...]

The Brainwashing of a Nation by Daniel Greenfield via Sultan Knish blog Image by ElisaRiva from Pixa [...]

Event Update For 2019-11-11http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2019-11-10http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2019-11-09http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2019-11-08http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2019-11-07http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

With fusion energy perpetually 20 years away we now also perpetually have [fill in the blank] years [...]

My mea culpa for having inadvertently neglected FF2F for so long, and an update on the upcoming post [...]

NYC plans to undertake the swindle of the civilisation by suing the companies that have enabled it t [...]

MbS, the personification of the age-old pre-revolutionary scenario in which an expiring regime attem [...]

Daily Doom Photo

man-watching-tv

Sustainability

  • Peak Surfer
  • SUN
  • Transition Voice

Of Warnings and their Ripple Effects"We need wooden ships, char-crete buildings, bamboo bicycles, moringa furniture, and hemp cloth [...]

"Restoring normal whale activity to the oceans would capture the CO2 equivalent of 2 billion tr [...]

Ukrainian Rhapsody"Our future will be more about artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and non-state actors tha [...]

LeBron’s Chinese Troll Mobs"In the 36 hours after James’ delete, a troll mob with bot support sent a flame tsunami at the [...]

Soft Paths to Zero"While reducing emissions should be a priority, it is morally questionable to focus on relative [...]

The folks at Windward have been doing great work at living sustainably for many years now.  Part of [...]

 The Daily SUN☼ Building a Better Tomorrow by Sustaining Universal Needs April 3, 2017 Powering Down [...]

Off the keyboard of Bob Montgomery Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666 Friend us on Facebook Publishe [...]

Visit SUN on Facebook Here [...]

What extinction crisis? Believe it or not, there are still climate science deniers out there. And th [...]

My new book, Abolish Oil Now, will talk about why the climate movement has failed and what we can do [...]

A new climate protest movement out of the UK has taken Europe by storm and made governments sit down [...]

The success of Apollo 11 flipped the American public from skeptics to fans. The climate movement nee [...]

Today's movement to abolish fossil fuels can learn from two different paths that the British an [...]

Top Commentariats

  • Our Finite World
  • Economic Undertow

Let's amend that slightly that to 'correcting the so-called 'growth' of the last [...]

Chinese imports and exports have basically seen zero growth for five years. https://pbs.twimg.com/me [...]

did you expect otherwise? the tribal chief takes it all The Don is showing exactly the same traits, [...]

The more reindeer on the island, the less moss for each; the more Easter Islanders, the less meat fo [...]

@Front Range Mike "Most everyone I know is trying to figure out how to cut back and sell their [...]

RE Steve's comment about "gestures that let us get what we want while allowing the illusio [...]

@Steve, I don't post many comments but thank you for continuing the blog. I found your stuff in [...]

I appreciate it, thanks. I needed to take a bit of time away from the nonsense to recharge the batte [...]

It's great to see you writing again Steve. I always enjoy reading your take on what's happ [...]

RE Economics

Going Cashless

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Simplifying the Final Countdown

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Bond Market Collapse and the Banning of Cash

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Do Central Bankers Recognize there is NO GROWTH?

Discuss this article @ the ECONOMICS TABLE inside the...

Singularity of the Dollar

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Kurrency Kollapse: To Print or Not To Print?

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SWISSIE CAPITULATION!

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Of Heat Sinks & Debt Sinks: A Thermodynamic View of Money

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Merry Doomy Christmas

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Peak Customers: The Final Liquidation Sale

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Collapse Fiction

Useful Links

Technical Journals

Forecasting extreme precipitations is one of the main priorities of hydrology in Latin America and t [...]

The objective of this work is the development of an automated and objective identification scheme of [...]

According to the Mexico City Emissions Inventory, mobile sources are responsible for approximately 8 [...]