A Metaphor for the Importance of Falsifiability
Post Reply
 
Thread Rating:
  • 0 Votes - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
07-08-2017, 12:45 AM
A Metaphor for the Importance of Falsifiability
If the topic of falsifiability ever comes up in debating with an apologist, or at least an amateur one, they're likely to view the fact that God cannot be disproven as a strength rather than a weakness of the claim. There are multiple ways to try explaining why the opposite is true, but here's one I thought up that haven't heard yet, just in case it proves useful to anyone.

Imagine a chess game between two players of unknown skill level. We'll call them Rick and Bill. Now, let us suppose that the game is somehow rigged so that it is impossible for Bill to lose. In other words, that there is no possible sequence of moves that will result in a loss for Bill.

Now, when Rick inevitably loses (because in such a fixed game, even a champion will eventually be defeated), what can we conclude about the skill levels of our players? The answer: absolutely nothing. Rick may have been the better player whose superior skill was obscured by a rigged game. On the other hand, Bill is not necessarily the worse player. It's possible that he is genuinely better than Rick and would have won even without fixing the match.

But crucially, we can't know either way unless a fair game is played. A fair game requires that there be some possible sequence of moves that would result in either player losing. If no such possible scenarios exist for one player, then the results of the game tell us nothing about who's more skilled.

In the same way, there must be some observation or set of observations that could be made which would unambiguously disprove your claim. Otherwise, an inability to disprove it tells us nothing about how likely it is to actually be true.

The only sacred truth in science is that there are no sacred truths. – Carl Sagan
Sōla vēritās sancta in philosophiā nātūrālī est absentia vēritātum sanctārum.
Ἡ μόνη ἱερᾱ̀ ἀληθείᾱ ἐν φυσικῇ φιλοσοφίᾳ ἐστίν ἡ ἱερῶν ἀληθειῶν σπάνις.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 8 users Like Glossophile's post
07-08-2017, 01:31 AM
RE: A Metaphor for the Importance of Falsifiability
I like it!

The enemy of reason... confirmation bias. It accounts for so much of the religious delusion. If you only count the hits and never the misses, you can never show your belief to be (probably) false, only "more true".

With unfalsifiability this is often even worse, where misses are re-defined to be hits by the logically challenged non-sceptic.

I have a website here which discusses the issues and terminology surrounding religion and atheism. It's hopefully user friendly to all.
Visit this user's website Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 2 users Like Robvalue's post
07-08-2017, 02:36 AM
RE: A Metaphor for the Importance of Falsifiability
(07-08-2017 12:45 AM)Glossophile Wrote:  Otherwise, an inability to disprove it tells us nothing about how likely it is to actually be true.

Things that are unfalsifiable are outside the realm of truth or falsehood entirely. They are irrelevant. If they cannot, even in principle, be proven or disproven, then their effect on the universe has to be zero at all times, otherwise there would be a circumstance in which their influence could be detected.

Let's say for example we posit that gravity is caused by gravity demons. Nothing changes, except we assert that the reason we see the effects of gravity - all that inverse square law etc - is attributed to demons. We cannot in fact disprove this, because we haven't modified any explanation for any real effect in any way - we explicitly assert that the mathematics is all the same.

Now, we cannot say what the probability is that this explanation is correct or not, but it doesn't matter. Gravity demons are completely irrelevant in this scenario. They are an extraneous, gratuitous addition to the theory that does nothing to advance our understanding. So they should be cut out.

On the other hand, if I assert that gravity demons are not irrelevant, they must have some effect. If I cannot detect that effect then like Russell's teapot, I must throw them out again - there's no reason to assume without evidence that they are there.

Same with God. If he is an explanation for something then I should be able to detect his influence, regardless of my state of grace. If not, then he's irrelevant.

We'll love you just the way you are
If you're perfect -- Alanis Morissette
(06-02-2014 03:47 PM)Momsurroundedbyboys Wrote:  And I'm giving myself a conclusion again from all the facepalming.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 6 users Like morondog's post
07-08-2017, 01:23 PM
RE: A Metaphor for the Importance of Falsifiability
For anything to be legitimately accepted as true, by definition it must be demonstrably true. The most airtight way to demonstrate that something is true is to systematically try, and fail, to prove it's NOT true. Because that is going against natural confirmation bias and ego investment.

The problem with supernatural beings and realms is that there is no way to prove OR disprove them. They are simply asserted without evidence. Inherently if they are supernatural (above or outside nature) then they are inaccessible to natural senses or tools and can be neither directly nor indirectly evidenced, therefore, all such claims are null claims with no meaning.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 3 users Like mordant's post
08-08-2017, 06:13 PM
RE: A Metaphor for the Importance of Falsifiability
(07-08-2017 02:36 AM)morondog Wrote:  Gravity demons are completely irrelevant in this scenario.
You wouldn't say that if I were to stop making my monthly sacrifices to them every full moon, and tomorrow morning you woke up on the ceiling. Undecided

--
Dr H

"So, I became an anarchist, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt."
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 1 user Likes Dr H's post
09-08-2017, 02:12 AM
RE: A Metaphor for the Importance of Falsifiability
(08-08-2017 06:13 PM)Dr H Wrote:  
(07-08-2017 02:36 AM)morondog Wrote:  Gravity demons are completely irrelevant in this scenario.
You wouldn't say that if I were to stop making my monthly sacrifices to them every full moon, and tomorrow morning you woke up on the ceiling. Undecided

Now you are positing an actual effect Smile No scientist could do otherwise than to encourage you to immediately stop sacrificing to them, and see what happens Smile Smile Smile

ETA: IIRC almost this exact logic was used by the Aztecs to justify human sacrifice. If they *stopped*, terrible things would happen. Well, they did stop, and terrible things did happen Tongue

We'll love you just the way you are
If you're perfect -- Alanis Morissette
(06-02-2014 03:47 PM)Momsurroundedbyboys Wrote:  And I'm giving myself a conclusion again from all the facepalming.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 1 user Likes morondog's post
10-08-2017, 02:14 PM
RE: A Metaphor for the Importance of Falsifiability
(09-08-2017 02:12 AM)morondog Wrote:  ETA: IIRC almost this exact logic was used by the Aztecs to justify human sacrifice. If they *stopped*, terrible things would happen. Well, they did stop, and terrible things did happen Tongue

There, you see?

Big Grin

--
Dr H

"So, I became an anarchist, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt."
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 1 user Likes Dr H's post
10-08-2017, 04:45 PM
RE: A Metaphor for the Importance of Falsifiability
(07-08-2017 01:31 AM)Robvalue Wrote:  I like it!

The enemy of reason... confirmation bias. It accounts for so much of the religious delusion. If you only count the hits and never the misses, you can never show your belief to be (probably) false, only "more true".

With unfalsifiability this is often even worse, where misses are re-defined to be hits by the logically challenged non-sceptic.

I think that many of us that came out of religion realized that when we didn't see results from prayer, that actually counted towards the falsifiability of our basic religious concepts of god. Generating excuses for why a prayer wasn't answered is a denial of reality, every believer is faced with a choice when things in life go against their religious beliefs - generate excuses or count the misses.

It was that sense that going along with these apologetic excuses was wrong and intellectually dishonest, that's where the division between faith and reason begins.

Gods derive their power from post-hoc rationalizations. -The Inquisition

Using the supernatural to explain events in your life is a failure of the intellect to comprehend the world around you. -The Inquisition
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 1 user Likes TheInquisition's post
Post Reply
Forum Jump: