On the Existence of Garage Dragons
Post Reply
 
Thread Rating:
  • 0 Votes - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
19-08-2015, 04:18 PM
On the Existence of Garage Dragons
In Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World, he proposes the following scenario:

“A fire-breathing dragon lives in my garage.”

Suppose … I seriously make such an assertion to you. Surely you’d want to check it out, see for yourself….

“Show me,” you say. I lead you to my garage. You look inside and see a ladder, empty paint cans, an old tricycle—but no dragon.

“Where’s the dragon?” you ask.

“Oh, she’s right here,” I reply, waving vaguely. “I neglected to mention that she’s an invisible dragon.”

You propose spreading flour on the floor of the garage to capture the dragon’s footprints.

“Good idea,” I say, “but this dragon floats in the air.”

Then you’ll use an infrared sensor to detect the invisible fire.

“Good idea, but the invisible fire is also heatless.”

You’ll spray-paint the dragon and make her visible.

“Good idea, except she’s an incorporeal dragon and the paint won’t stick.”

And so on. I counter every physical test you propose with a special explanation of why it won’t work.

Now, what’s the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all? If there’s no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists? Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it is true. Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless, whatever value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder. What I’m asking you do comes down to believing, in the absence of evidence, on my say-so.

The only thing you’ve really learned from my insistence that there’s a dragon in my garage is that something funny is going on inside my head. You’d wonder, if no physical tests apply, what convinced me. The possibility that it was a dream or a hallucination would certainly enter your mind. But then why am I taking it so seriously? Maybe I need help. At the least, maybe I’ve seriously underestimated human fallibility….

In it, he raises the question of fundamentally undetectable entities - "garage dragons" - and poses this question:

"What’s the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all?"

Now, in another thread, this point was brought up regarding the deist concept of god - an entity that dwells outside the universe and does not take any sort of active hand in its creation. A garage dragon, in fact.

This led to an argument about what the answer to Sagan's question is, mostly between Stevil and myself, with occasional comments from other users. In the interest of keeping the other thread clear, I am moving this discussion to a more appropriate forum.

My answer to the question Sagan poses is as follows:

There is no difference between them. Garage dragons do not exist. There is no meaningful definition of the word "exists" that can possibly apply to them. They are functionally imaginary.

I will let Stevil present his own position, as I don't want to unintentionally misrepresent him, but the discussion is, of course, open to everyone. What is your answer to Sagan's question, and why?

"Owl," said Rabbit shortly, "you and I have brains. The others have fluff. If there is any thinking to be done in this Forest - and when I say thinking I mean thinking - you and I must do it."
- A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
19-08-2015, 04:21 PM
RE: On the Existence of Garage Dragons
From the other thread:

(19-08-2015 04:08 PM)Stevil Wrote:  
(19-08-2015 03:56 PM)Unbeliever Wrote:  No, you haven't. You went off on a tangent about the way people act when they believe that something is true, which is irrelevant.

Ummm, What?!

You astound me.

Likewise, but this is irrelevant.

(19-08-2015 04:08 PM)Stevil Wrote:  Their claim is that god exists, if they believe that god exists then they also believe that they have a purpose and a set of divinely defined morals.

If they believed that god doesn't exist then they think their life will be without purpose and they think that they will no longer have any reason to have morals.

This is the consequence. They believe that their god claim is true and they act accordingly. If they believed that their god claim was false they would act differently.
It is very important to them that their god exists.

Yyyyyyeeesss. And?

This does not alter the question one iota. The question is not in what way will people alter their behavior if they believe that a garage dragon exists?, or how invested in the concept of a garage dragon's existence can people get?, but what is the difference between a garage dragon and no dragon at all?

"Owl," said Rabbit shortly, "you and I have brains. The others have fluff. If there is any thinking to be done in this Forest - and when I say thinking I mean thinking - you and I must do it."
- A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
19-08-2015, 04:35 PM
RE: On the Existence of Garage Dragons
(19-08-2015 04:18 PM)Unbeliever Wrote:  In Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World, he proposes the following scenario:

“A fire-breathing dragon lives in my garage.”

Suppose … I seriously make such an assertion to you. Surely you’d want to check it out, see for yourself….

“Show me,” you say. I lead you to my garage. You look inside and see a ladder, empty paint cans, an old tricycle—but no dragon.

“Where’s the dragon?” you ask.

“Oh, she’s right here,” I reply, waving vaguely. “I neglected to mention that she’s an invisible dragon.”

You propose spreading flour on the floor of the garage to capture the dragon’s footprints.

“Good idea,” I say, “but this dragon floats in the air.”

Then you’ll use an infrared sensor to detect the invisible fire.

“Good idea, but the invisible fire is also heatless.”

You’ll spray-paint the dragon and make her visible.

“Good idea, except she’s an incorporeal dragon and the paint won’t stick.”

And so on. I counter every physical test you propose with a special explanation of why it won’t work.

Now, what’s the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all? If there’s no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists? Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it is true. Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless, whatever value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder. What I’m asking you do comes down to believing, in the absence of evidence, on my say-so.

The only thing you’ve really learned from my insistence that there’s a dragon in my garage is that something funny is going on inside my head. You’d wonder, if no physical tests apply, what convinced me. The possibility that it was a dream or a hallucination would certainly enter your mind. But then why am I taking it so seriously? Maybe I need help. At the least, maybe I’ve seriously underestimated human fallibility….

In it, he raises the question of fundamentally undetectable entities - "garage dragons" - and poses this question:

"What’s the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all?"

Now, in another thread, this point was brought up regarding the deist concept of god - an entity that dwells outside the universe and does not take any sort of active hand in its creation. A garage dragon, in fact.

This led to an argument about what the answer to Sagan's question is, mostly between Stevil and myself, with occasional comments from other users. In the interest of keeping the other thread clear, I am moving this discussion to a more appropriate forum.

My answer to the question Sagan poses is as follows:

There is no difference between them. Garage dragons do not exist. There is no meaningful definition of the word "exists" that can possibly apply to them. They are functionally imaginary.

I will let Stevil present his own position, as I don't want to unintentionally misrepresent him, but the discussion is, of course, open to everyone. What is your answer to Sagan's question, and why?

My answer is the same as yours -- no difference -- and for basically the same reasons. I'm not sure what Stevil is on about. All his examples so far involve actual physical things (or hypothetical physical things, but still -- physical things) for which there could conceivably be evidence -- the evidence is just difficult or inconvenient to find. As far as I can see, Sagan is talking about things for which there absolutely cannot ever be any evidence -- by definition. Those are fundamentally different concepts, and I don't see how analogies between them can be useful. Bigfoot or a jar of marbles are nothing like God. And people's beliefs about God are nothing like God. Certainly the beliefs are real, and we have evidence for them, but that tells us nothing at all about God, or about whether or not he/she/it exists.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 2 users Like Grasshopper's post
19-08-2015, 04:37 PM
RE: On the Existence of Garage Dragons
(19-08-2015 04:19 PM)Unbeliever Wrote:  
(19-08-2015 04:03 PM)Stevil Wrote:  Let's say that the jar is sealed. I cannot count the marbles.

And now you are in the position of the man claiming that there is an invisible dragon in his garage.
Not an invisible dragon whether it is invisible or not is irrelevant. My garage dragon is my unsupported claim that a sealed jar contains an even number of marbles.

Eventually we will stop this being a garage dragon by breaking the jar and counting the marbles to find out what the truth of the matter is.

But for now the jar is sealed.
I have a feeling in my bones and claim that there is an even number of marbles.

The logic you have been presenting is that since my claim is not sufficiently supported then my result is false. The false of my claim means that there is not an even amount of marbles in the jar. This means that there is an odd amount of marbles in the jar.
You have asserted that the jar contains an odd amount of marbles merely because you recognised my claim to be insufficient.

You have rejected outright the idea that we can conclude that we don't know whether there is an even or odd amount of marbles in the jar.





(19-08-2015 04:19 PM)Unbeliever Wrote:  I ask again, phrased slightly differently to appease your new obsession: what is the difference between an even number of invisible, weightless, incorporeal, undetectable marbles and no marbles at all?
With this question you are taking the Carl's analogy to far.

For the hypothetical I have presented, we have a sealed jar, there could be an even number of marbles or there could be an odd number of marbles. We can't see them all, so we can't count them. They come in different weights so we can't calculate based on weight.
There is no way to tell until we smash the jar and count them. No difference between a jar filled with an even amount of marbles vs a jar filled with an odd amount of marbles.

I have made my claim that there is an even number of marbles.
Your logic asserts the opposite of my claim therefore you are claiming that there is an odd number of marbles.


When we finally do get around to resolving our guesses by breaking the jar and counting, we will find that the answer is either even or odd, but the answer is not dependent on our prior guesses.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 1 user Likes Stevil's post
19-08-2015, 04:43 PM
RE: On the Existence of Garage Dragons
(19-08-2015 04:35 PM)Grasshopper Wrote:  All his examples so far involve actual physical things (or hypothetical physical things, but still -- physical things) for which there could conceivably be evidence -- the evidence is just difficult or inconvenient to find.

Quite. Such as the marble example, which is entirely irrelevant for this reason - unless he wants to keep giving us reasons that we can't possibly count the marbles until it becomes a garage dragon itself.

(19-08-2015 04:37 PM)Stevil Wrote:  
(19-08-2015 04:19 PM)Unbeliever Wrote:  And now you are in the position of the man claiming that there is an invisible dragon in his garage.
Not an invisible dragon whether it is invisible or not is irrelevant. My garage dragon is my unsupported claim that a sealed jar contains an even number of marbles.

This is gibberish. Do you understand what a garage dragon is? You certainly don't seem to.

(19-08-2015 04:37 PM)Stevil Wrote:  Eventually we will stop this being a garage dragon by breaking the jar and counting the marbles to find out what the truth of the matter is.

Yes. The fact that we can do this means that it was never a garage dragon.

(19-08-2015 04:37 PM)Stevil Wrote:  The logic you have been presenting is that since my claim is not sufficiently supported then my result is false.

No, it isn't.

(19-08-2015 04:37 PM)Stevil Wrote:  
(19-08-2015 04:19 PM)Unbeliever Wrote:  I ask again, phrased slightly differently to appease your new obsession: what is the difference between an even number of invisible, weightless, incorporeal, undetectable marbles and no marbles at all?
With this question you are taking the Carl's analogy to far.

It is the exact question that Carl Sagan asked, but substituting marbles for dragons.

Again, do you understand what a garage dragon is?

"Owl," said Rabbit shortly, "you and I have brains. The others have fluff. If there is any thinking to be done in this Forest - and when I say thinking I mean thinking - you and I must do it."
- A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
19-08-2015, 04:44 PM
RE: On the Existence of Garage Dragons
But you can break the jar and count them, so it is not a true garage dragon. With a true garage dragon, there is no jar to break. The garage dragon is undetectable by definition.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
19-08-2015, 04:46 PM
RE: On the Existence of Garage Dragons
(19-08-2015 04:44 PM)Grasshopper Wrote:  But you can break the jar and count them, so it is not a true garage dragon. With a true garage dragon, there is no jar to break. The garage dragon is undetectable by definition.

If it is undetectable, how is that any different than something that does not exist?

Having problems with your computer? Visit our Free Tech Support thread for help!
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
19-08-2015, 04:46 PM
RE: On the Existence of Garage Dragons
(19-08-2015 04:46 PM)Free Wrote:  
(19-08-2015 04:44 PM)Grasshopper Wrote:  But you can break the jar and count them, so it is not a true garage dragon. With a true garage dragon, there is no jar to break. The garage dragon is undetectable by definition.

If it is undetectable, how is that any different than something that does not exist?

It isn't. That's his point.

"Owl," said Rabbit shortly, "you and I have brains. The others have fluff. If there is any thinking to be done in this Forest - and when I say thinking I mean thinking - you and I must do it."
- A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
19-08-2015, 05:00 PM
RE: On the Existence of Garage Dragons
(19-08-2015 04:35 PM)Grasshopper Wrote:  Those are fundamentally different concepts, and I don't see how analogies between them can be useful. Bigfoot or a jar of marbles are nothing like God.
The claims themselves for Big foot are similar as the claims for god and similar as the claims for the garage dragon.
The claims do not offer any means to discover the truth of the matter. The claims do not provide a way to falsify them and do not provide a way to distinguish physically the difference between the entity existing or not.

The claims of Big foot’s existence do not provide a way to falsify Big foot’s existence.

Carl’s garage dragon analogy is not about whether the claim’s focus is true or not. Carl’s analogy is to highlight that the claim itself is invalid, not the result. That the result is unknown and that the claim is insufficient to make an assessment with regards to the result.

(19-08-2015 04:35 PM)Grasshopper Wrote:  And people's beliefs about God are nothing like God. Certainly the beliefs are real, and we have evidence for them, but that tells us nothing at all about God, or about whether or not he/she/it exists.
This is true. But if the claim were sufficiently formulated and we falsified the god claim then this would make an impact on the religious folk.
To them it matters if god exists or not.
To us we would only be interested in poking and proding the god in order to prove or disprove its existence. So to us there is no difference between the existence of their god or the non existence because by their definition we can’t poke or prod their god.
For them they are more interested in their “divinely bestowed purpose” their “divinely commanded morals”, they aren’t interested in physical evidence of their god. So for them it is sufficient just to assert god’s existence, they care not for our inability to physically examine the god.

So we are asking the question “what difference does it matter if god exists or not” and the answer is that it doesn’t make a physical difference but philosophically, theologically speaking it does make a difference to the religious folk.
Sure they can continue to believe in a god that doesn’t physically exist, in that way it wouldn’t make a difference but here you are assuming that we are talking about a physical existence. If the concept of god didn’t exist then it would make a huge difference.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
19-08-2015, 05:02 PM
RE: On the Existence of Garage Dragons
From the other thread:

(19-08-2015 04:54 PM)GirlyMan Wrote:  What if I changed that to "Now, what's the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, undetectable (at least to date) passive computer virus which only interacts with the environment by monitoring it and collecting data? If there's no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my computer virus exists?"

Does that change anything?

No.

Computer viruses exist within the computer's memory. If a computer is infected with a virus, it is necessarily detectable, even if the means of detecting it is so difficult as freezing the computer in its current state and going over every single bit in its memory banks individually. Even the slight interaction you mention is detectable.

If there were no means to detect the virus, then it would not exist, but there are. Therefore, it isn't a garage dragon.

"Owl," said Rabbit shortly, "you and I have brains. The others have fluff. If there is any thinking to be done in this Forest - and when I say thinking I mean thinking - you and I must do it."
- A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
Post Reply
Forum Jump: