Right vs. Wrong and Black vs. White
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30-11-2011, 04:19 PM
Right vs. Wrong and Black vs. White
As recent debates have begun to heat up here on the forum (as christians come pleading for us to accept Jesus based on their "truths" about his existence and place in the supernatural pecking order) I am reminded of another fundamental issue that can be very difficult for most people to wrap their head around. It is the concept that right and wrong are merely end-members of a spectrum of rightness or wrongness.

Essentially what I am saying is that trying to divide things into a category of 100% right or 100% wrong is almost always incorrect (notice how I did not say it is 100% incorrect). As we may very well be aware, there exists something we might refer to as the "gray-scale" of right and wrong. On this scale something may be more right than wrong or vice versa but is not entirely right or wrong (confusing enough yet?).

A couple of examples may shed some light on the matter.

Example 1) Hiring a new employee from a range of 30 applicants. In this case there are certainly going to be some people who are more "right" for the job and less "right" for the job but presumably all of the applicants are qualified in some way and are all therefore at least partially "right" for the job. So, how does one choose? Especially if there is no one who is 100% right or if there are 2 people who are nearly identical in their "rightness?" Often times it comes down to our opinion in this case or one category that may be given more weight than the others. The important part is that in most cases everyone is "right" for the job in some way but some are more "right" than others.

Example 2) Pepperoni pizza is the superior pizza. In this case an opinion can be neither right nor wrong. It is merely an opinion and is purely subject to interpretation. These types of arguments cannot be quantified for how "right" or "wrong" they are but someone may instead do a survey of how many agree with the above statement and if it is the majority then it gets elected as the superior pizza. Once again, this does not make it true, it only means that the majority agree with the opinion. This could be true for politics or religious opinion. Was Barack Obama a better choice than McCain? The majority felt so, but that does not make it true. The majority of people believe in God in America? This may be a true statement but it does not mean that god exists. It only means that a majority of the population would agree with the statement "god exists." Just like my pizza example.

Example 3) Partial truths. Some statements are double-edged in that part of them is true and part of them is not. For instance, I could say that "the odds of life existing elsewhere in the universe is pretty good and that they have visited Earth." Part of this statement is true (the possibility of it existing elsewhere) but part of it is not true (or not likely to be true)because there exists no evidence to back it up. In this case each claim in the statement must be evaluated for its "truthiness" (props to Colbert here). This is the same claim that "Jesus existed and he was the son of God." Part of this is almost certainly true historically (that a mortal man named jesus existed and was a preacher) but part of it is purely speculation based on no actual evidence. So, asking a question such as "prove jesus did not exist" is a faulty one in that he most likely did exist but his existence does not mean that the stories about him are all true.


A long rant I know but perhaps a necessary one. I encourage all to provide any other examples of partial truths and/or partial lies.

“Science is simply common sense at its best, that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic.”
—Thomas Henry Huxley
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30-11-2011, 04:24 PM
RE: Right vs. Wrong and Black vs. White
(30-11-2011 04:19 PM)TheBeardedDude Wrote:  Example 2) Pepperoni pizza is the superior pizza. In this case an opinion can be neither right nor wrong. It is merely an opinion and is purely subject to interpretation.

How dare you mock and blaspheme the Archangel Pepperoni, the supreme Angel to the FSM? Veggie pizza and death to you apostates!

Otherwise, an excellent post.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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30-11-2011, 04:42 PM
RE: Right vs. Wrong and Black vs. White
Example 4 - pretty much every issue in a political debate or election.
Each candidate has an opinion on each issue, and on every other thing under the sun. Two candidates, in order to be on the same ticket, have to have resolved any serious differences they had on matters of party policy, but not necessarily on every aspect of implementation - and they can certainly keep widely differing views on diet, office decor and sports.
Conversely, candidates from different parties may well agree on some policies and some methods, while holding opposing philosophical convictions.
(You won't see this admitted openly in a two-party system, but countries with several discreet political factions see blocs of consensus forming, dissolving and re-forming around various issues, maybe several times a week.)

The degree of rightness of any particular policy, legislation or method of implementation depends on the current needs of the polity. Good representatives understand this and make their decisions accordingly.

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30-11-2011, 04:46 PM
RE: Right vs. Wrong and Black vs. White
Interesting. So, what you are saying is that right and wrong are not fixed and change through time? Another very good point to make.

“Science is simply common sense at its best, that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic.”
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30-11-2011, 05:28 PM
RE: Right vs. Wrong and Black vs. White
Good post. When I think about right and wrong, I always think of my dad- who staunchly believes in a black and white reality of right and wrong. Things are not so simple as that- and really I'm glad for that, because life is never so simple as black and white.
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30-11-2011, 05:49 PM
 
RE: Right vs. Wrong and Black vs. White
As Richard Feynman said, in the video Kim linked to a while ago: "I attach a different value of probability to any statement I hear or make".

I think this covers it, unless you want to see more details on my old thread of "What is, and how to find, Truth?".
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30-11-2011, 06:43 PM (This post was last modified: 30-11-2011 06:47 PM by Peterkin.)
RE: Right vs. Wrong and Black vs. White
(30-11-2011 04:46 PM)TheBeardedDude Wrote:  Interesting. So, what you are saying is that right and wrong are not fixed and change through time? Another very good point to make.

Not exactly. Right and wrong are relative to a set of values, and those values must be applied to life situations. Circumstances and needs change over time, so one choice doesn't fit all times - but it's not the actual passage of time that affects the applicability of a value, but the change in circumstance and perception of need.

Oh, and i assumed the "right" and "wrong" here were used in the same sense as "true" and "false" that is of "correctness", rather than in the morality. But that works, too, especially in politics, where convictions are based on a desired organization of society - where, in fact, there is no absolute.

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30-11-2011, 07:40 PM
 
RE: Right vs. Wrong and Black vs. White
***LONG POST WARNING***

I can't resist the temptation -- I have to post an excerpt from the book I am writing, called:Science and Society. It illustrate so well what the OP was saying (using a lot more words Sad )

Science and Society

I often hear people argue about their country. I have heard educated, intelligent people try to explain it on television, in books, in speeches. What bothers me is the almost total lack of reference points. The body of explanation is floating in air, without an anchor in reality. We have no starting point on which we agree.

If I ask anyone in Canada to define the basic principles by which our society is organized, I get different answers. Some say it is a democracy, some say it is capitalistic; most would agree that it is a nice place to live (we Canadians are proud to be ‘nice people’).

If I ask them about the problems we have, I really get an earful: Too much taxation, too much government, too few public services, too soft on crime, too much corruption, too much poverty, etc., etc.

And when I ask, “Too much, compared to what?” - no answer. How do we define what is normal, what is acceptable? By what principle, by what yardstick? Nobody knows. We just don’t like some part of our social environment for personal reasons and we call it too ‘something’.

Take taxation. Everyone agrees that we pay too high a proportion of our income. What would be the right proportion? Why pay taxes at all? And if we do, what is the right amount? Should it be the same for everyone or should it be progressive? If yes, how progressive? Why? What determines fairness? How do we calculate it? Everyone who ever filled out a tax return knows that tax laws are insanely complicated. Who made them, based on what principle, what criteria?

Almost nobody, at least not in public media, discusses these questions. We just express emotional and personal opinions and expect others to agree with our un-stated assumptions. Sometimes even we ourselves do not know what assumptions.

Our opponents are no better off, so arguments seldom go anywhere. We keep shouting each other down, interrupting each other's statements -- nobody convinces anybody about anything; the argument is doomed from the start.

Quite often the purpose is to score points. We treat the discussion as a contest, instead of an attempt to find a solution and thus let everybody win. This attitude, of course, is consistent with the aggressive genes in our species that want to fight, rather than cooperate, for survival.

If we tried to build science and industry by this method, we would still be in the caves. It just doesn't work. It can't. The scientific method, which was so successful over the centuries in technology, is not limited to science: it is a general problem-solving method that could and should be applied to all our problems.

We need a common starting point. If we go from there, step by step, making sure we agree on each step, then either we arrive at the same conclusion, or a point of disagreement. Work on that point, until we reach a compromise, and then resume our discussion, knowing that we are still together, solving our problem.

In the case of taxation, we would have to ask some basic questions first, before going into details or percentages:

“What are the essence, purpose, goals and priorities of a human society?”
“What are the basically different options for organizing people?”
“What are the advantages and disadvantages of these options?”
“Which of the options do we chose?”
“What is the optimum way to implement this option?”

If we answered these questions, the rest would be easy. Basic facts, simple logic, and some arithmetic would provide the answers.

The general public assumes that the scientific method is designed for, and restricted to, science. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Take the judicial system, for example. The body of laws is supposed to read like a scientific document. All the terms have to be clearly defined, all the laws clearly stated, covering every probable scenario, every possible exception. No contradiction is allowed in the document and if one is demonstrated, it needs to be revised to remove the contradiction.

Of course, no law-book is perfect, just as no encyclopaedia of science is flawless. But the intent is there and with the right attitude, things can be improved all the time.

In criminal trials both the defender and the prosecutor have to use precise logic to draw their conclusions (even though each tries to cheat as much as he thinks he can get away with) and the evidence they present has to be “beyond a reasonable doubt”.

It is a sad state of affairs that our politicians can get away with undefined concepts, gross errors of facts, blatantly illogical arguments, glaring contradictions and transparent emotional manipulation.

Just compare the public debate that lead to attacking Iraq in 2003, with the process I described above and ask yourself the following questions:

· Were all the terms used clearly defined (WMD, terrorist, democracy)?
· Were all the relevant data considered?
· Were all the statements offered consistent with one another?
· Were all the presumed facts clearly demonstrated?
· Were the conclusions reached by meticulous logic?
· Have the need for, and goals of, action been clearly identified?
· Had every alternative action been considered?
· Were the leaders ready to admit error when contradiction found?
· Was the course of action changed according to new evidence?
· Was there an attitude of honesty, integrity, openness, objectivity?

Somehow I think that it would help if the citizenry were better educated in science and logic. This is part of the reason I decided to write this book.
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30-11-2011, 08:08 PM
RE: Right vs. Wrong and Black vs. White
The naming of the ellenjanuary creates two universes; the universe within, the universe without. The same is true when a house is built. This can lead to a graphic idealization of integrity:

...___no_ellen______/_____all_ellen________/____no_ellen__________...

Where the // indicate birth and death. To be integral is to maximize the point-object truth of the self. Therefore is not a matter of right or wrong (a duality) it is a matter of structure and integrity in identity. It is time for the quaternion. Structure begins with the triangle; so too above. There is "Right Way/Wrong Way/My Way;" plus the scaling factor, "My Way." (In the manner of I am being, I have a degree of knowledge/ I am becoming, I have a degree of knowing nothing).

Did you see this trick? Take two points:
Heart
Heart
one can define a line, but take two more:
Heart

Heart
One goes from line, to plane, to tetrahedron - big difference between duality and quaternion. Wink

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30-11-2011, 08:15 PM
 
RE: Right vs. Wrong and Black vs. White
(30-11-2011 08:08 PM)houseofcantor Wrote:  The naming of the ellenjanuary creates two universes; the universe within, the universe without. The same is true when a house is built. This can lead to a graphic idealization of integrity:

...___no_ellen______/_____all_ellen________/____no_ellen__________...

Where the // indicate birth and death. To be integral is to maximize the point-object truth of the self. Therefore is not a matter of right or wrong (a duality) it is a matter of structure and integrity in identity. It is time for the quaternion. Structure begins with the triangle; so too above. There is "Right Way/Wrong Way/My Way;" plus the scaling factor, "My Way." (In the manner of I am being, I have a degree of knowledge/ I am becoming, I have a degree of knowing nothing).

Did you see this trick? Take two points:
Heart
Heart
one can define a line, but take two more:
Heart

Heart
One goes from line, to plane, to tetrahedron - big difference between duality and quaternion. Wink

man i will never tire of reading these posts. your brain is fucked up in a marvellous way...
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