Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Guardian Hay Festival Debate: Is Reason Always Right?

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From The Guardian:
Science and logic are often held up as the only way to answer the modern world's big questions. But is there a role for instinct, inherited wisdom, or even God?

Chaired by Simon Jenkins, with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, AC Grayling, Martin Rees, Richard Harries and Maggi Dawn


  1. It's genuinely unfortunate that Martin Rees, the fucking Astronomer Royal himself, feels a compulsion to continue humiliating himself in public like this. Listen only for Ayaan at 2/3rds in, the rest is piffle.

  2. No one pointed out the irony of those arguing against reason were... using reason?

  3. I haven't found any other real way to know what is true and what isn't other than with reason. Evidence needs to be objective, otherwise it's just subjective, unverifiable evidence. Composing music isn't trying to find out the truth, it is making a sound that makes you feel good. So that is different. Though we can use reason to find out why we feel good with that certain sound. Neurologists I think have done experiments like that before.

    I have to say, I really don't see any difference between faith (believing in things without evidence) and gullibility. There is no way to tell between religions that use blind faith to get people to believe in something irrational so they manipulate people to do things good or bad. Something that doesn't want to give you evidence is very suspicious because its the same behavior a con artist has. You don't prove to people you are a king by showing up looking like a thief. A god that asks this is a god that opens it's people up to manipulation.

    The people who flew the plane into the twin towers had a lot of faith. They had more faith than I have ever seen any Christian have because they were willing to give their lives for it and many others along with them. So do we really want more of that? Since there is nothing to verifiably show something is true like evidence does, it leads people blindly down a road of either good or evil. With no way to verifiably know which way you are going to end up. It is much better to go down a road with sight with the intention to do good.

    Critical thought is something we humans need to determine if something is good or bad. If the Christian God punishes people for not believing in that, they are punished for being reasonable and wanting to know if what they are doing is truely good. Which would be irrational of a God that claims to be good. It is not good when we sacrifice the indispensable tool of reason on the altar of superstition, then putting a label of moral authority on it.

    Someone has said to me before I have faith every time I'm getting on an airplane but actually I don't have faith I'm going to get to my destination when I fly a plane or do other any other things. I have reasonable expectation to think I most likely will based on how little crashes have happened before.

    If I had faith I wouldn't crash that would only serve as something comforting, but it wouldn't make any difference on whether I really am about to crash or not. So the person paying attention to the statistics would be aware of the reality of any danger and can take any necessary precautions or not go on the plane at all if the possibility of danger is high. While the person having faith would be blind to seeing the danger coming towards them, because they are just focusing on having faith that they will land safely, blissfully unaware.

  4. Another one of the arguments against reason here, is figuring out what is moral, is not done with reason. I strongly disagree, I can explain morality without religion or faith and with reason. Morality is societal, its genetic, its empathy and its intertwined with who we are and our relationship with the universe. It starts with us being sentient beings capable of suffering and feeling happiness. Eventually we figure out that we wouldn't survive unless we work together and our lives would only be spent suffering if we did bad things to each other. For instance, if I do bad things to people then they are only going to want to do bad things to me. We would be spending all our time here on this earth trying to survive when we could do it enjoying it together, having friends, doing things that are pleasurable for each other, we have a functional society which gives us all the power to do amazing things because of team work we can develop better and better technology to make those amazing things become even more amazing things.

    Other aspects of our morality is based on the fact that we share the same environment, we share the same ability to reason, we share the same need to survive, reproduce, grow, we have largely the same DNA, (the same physical makeup), many of the same instincts, drives and capabilities. We are social animals and so morality is a result of the fact that we are social. We have to cooperate to survive and do well. There is a lot of benefit when our species to works together. If you are banned from society you are back to getting your own food, building your own shelter and these sorts of things. In society we can trade our work for things we might not do very well, or not enjoying doing. You can have a house and drive around in a car, have health care and these sorts of things. So we are much better off as a society. So morality is what we do to be part of a society. Morality is inherently human but it can be extended to how we treat other species.

    We have the ability to reason in general. Our reasoning can think about the consequences of our actions and how to effectively treat others in a good way. We can imagine ourselves in another person's situation and think if we were in that situation we would want someone else to help us so that reasonably means I should help them. This is the foundation of morality.

    There is this notion of building up a reputation because if I treat you badly you are going to remember that and you will stay away from me. Also if I go off an murder somebody, people are going to come after me because they don't want to be murdered. So there is this notion of reputation and responsibility.

    In the words of Richard Dawkins ~ (not quoting this like a Christian does with a Bible passage, RD is just a guy, but a very smart guy who makes sense most of the time, not always but he does a lot.)

    " The absolute morality that a religious person might profess would include stoning people for adultery, death for apostacy, punishment for breaking the Sabbath. These are all things which are religiously based absolute morals. I don't think I want an absolute morality. I think I want a morality that is thought out, reasoned, argued, discussed and one could say based upon intelligent design. Can we not design our society with the sort of morality from the kind of society that we want to live in? If you actually look at the morals that are accepted among modern 21st century people, we don't believe in slavery anymore, we believe in equality of women, we believe in being gentle, we believe in being kind to animals and more. These are all things which are entirely recent. They have very little basis in biblical or koranic scripture. They are things that have developed over a historic time [...]

  5. It gets me hopping mad whenever I hear anyone blame rationality for the evils of Stalin and Hitler.  Their beliefs that were directly responsible for their atrocities were most definitely anti-ratioinal.  Hitler's racial beliefs were not irrationally faith-based.  Stalin's belief in the inevitability of a communist future was irrationally faith-based.  In fact, they are prefect examples of the sort of faith-based thinking that Martin Rees stupidly praises.  

  6. That wasn't a debate. That was just six speeches.

  7. Snooze. How is this debate still going? We would be holidaying on mars if it wasn't for these 'faith' informed idiots. Religion and anything requiring any form of faith is an exploitation of the ignorant. Reason and logic for all. Free yourselves from this terrible bondage and throw out the old gods. Your one true god is 'Why'!

  8. While not a debate by any stretch of the imagination, once again, it seems to me the opening statements give the definitive and irrefutable answer to the posed question.