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...Epistemology
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Epistemology
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Exists
I do not know everything
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Dr Malthus would be pleased
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What is a newspaper?

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What is a replicator?

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pending
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To the Moon
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UBI
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Tormenting Unlucky People
Why there are oligarchs







GIGO

The consequences of sincere belief

I like writing computer programs.
I know - I'm showing my age. Nobody talks about programs anymore:-)
But 40 years ago I learned an important lesson. Garbage In - Garbage Out
A computer program is a logical structure based on assumptions.
The logical structure is easy to see - it's just words.
The assumptions are hard to see. Even if you go looking they can be elusive. I'm working on a program that isn't working right - a classic GIGO thing - and I can almost hear my false assumptions giggling in their hiding place.
This brings out an aspect of logic we don't often think about - it can become a mental trap. If your assumptions are off then your conclusions can be very wrong and you can't see it.
It get's worse.
Since you are confident of your conclusion you misinterpret the resulting problems as having other causes, and being the pattern making creatures that we are, those are often (seemingly) easy to find.
And so the error gets compounded.
Sherlock Holmes was aware of the issue. He was adamant about not making up theories about a crime until he'd spent a lot of time gathering evidence.
Any explanation is constrained by facts. We take explanations that include all the relevant facts to be better than those that don't.
For me, one of the pleasures of mystery novels is learning a whole pile of facts until suddenly one emerges that makes the rest make sense.
I think that GIGO has a lot to do with the polarization our society suffers now.
Let me take a contemporary example: abortion. Let me say up front that I think most people who oppose abortion are sincere and good people who believe that a human soul is created at conception.
This is what they say and I think they are honestly reporting what they believe. It's why they insist on calling a fetus a child. And everyone agrees that killing a child is very bad - in the proximate case it's called murder.
And I can see that many things entail if you believe that. Like it becomes no more reasonable to allow others (who may not share their belief) to have abortions than it would be to release a murderer because the murderer didn't think it was a crime.
I get that.

There is another dimension to it as well. The 'unborn child' is innocent and pure. There is kind of a metaphor for our whole lives in our physical development here: we start off perfect and cute and 70 years later are wizened and full of memories.
I'm no theologian but I've encountered a thread of thinking among Christians that holds the right of the 'unborn child' to be superior to the rights of the mother just because the mother has had time to be corrupted by the experience of living.
So, at conception, two people inhabit one body. The question is, which person's interest is dominant.
And for lots of people, the interests of the innocent 'unborn child' should rule.
And if you believe that then you are morally obligated to take a lot of the steps against abortion that we are seeing since Roe vs Wade was struck down.
I get that too.

The problem lies in the assumption that a soul is created at conception.

I don't have that assumption.
I don't think its true in fact.
So for me the fertilized egg becomes an embryo which becomes a fetus which becomes a child once it's born and living outside the mother.
So for me there is no conflict of interest between the growing fetus and the mother. I'd say that the mother's interest always dominates.
Logic set up a mental trap for me there, I confess. I said once that the fetus was a parasite within the mother. I thought that a fetus was logically equivalent to a parasite. They are not logically equivalent and I shamefully admit the comparison was hurtful.

One big difference is that the longer the pregnancy continues the more the mother wants to have the baby.
(That's an assumption on my part since I'm male and don't know the experience of pregnancy. Though once my girlfriend got pregnant and had an abortion and I could see that it was not a fun experience for her.)
I must say that in many cases when the 'unborn child' is born there is not a good support system in place. If the mother is poor and lives in poverty then the baby will too - not good.

The abortion question would become less acute if all people were enabled to live good lives.

What do you think?

Star I present regular philosophy discussions in a virtual reality called Second Life. I set a topic and people come as avatars and sit around a virtual table to discuss it. Each week I write a short essay to set the topic. I show a selection of them here.

I've been thinking and reading about philosophy for a long time but I'm mostly self taught. That is I've had the good fortune to read what interests me rather than follow a course of study. That has it's limits of course but advantages. It doesn't cost as much and is fun too.

My interests are things like evolution and cognition and social issues and economics and science in general.