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Open letter to science editors

 

Is it possible for a person to take intellectual responsibility
and root out their own personal superstitions?

Superstition and Myth versus
Intellectual Responsibility

A starting point is to note that Western science can be seen as a religious attempt to eliminate unproductive and debilitating superstition, or at least move away from it. Although it has fostered its own special type of myth, it is a noble attempt because at its heart the scientific method is to do the necessary reality checks to determine the truth..

First of all, definitions:

Superstition

Oxford - Superstition: a widely held but unjustified belief in supernatural causation leading to certain consequences of an action or event, or a practice based on such a belief:

"she touched her locket for luck, a superstition she had had since childhood"

Info-Galactic - Superstition: Superstition is the belief in supernatural causality—that one event causes another without any natural process linking the two events—such as astrology and certain aspects linked to religion, like omens, witchcraft, and prophecies, that contradict natural science. The word superstition is generally used to refer to the religion not practiced by the majority of a given society.

The Free Dictionary: 1. An irrational belief that an object, action, or circumstance not logically related to a course of events influences its outcome.

2a. A belief, practice, or rite irrationally maintained by ignorance of the laws of nature or by faith in magic or chance.

2b. A fearful or abject state of mind resulting from such ignorance or irrationality.

1. an irrational belief in or notion of the ominous significance of a particular thing, circumstance, occurrence, etc.

2. a system or collection of such beliefs.

3. a custom or act based on such a belief.

4. irrational fear of what is unknown or mysterious, esp. in connection with religion.

5. any blindly accepted belief or notion.

Merriam-Webster: 1a : a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causationb : an irrational abject attitude of mind toward the supernatural, nature, or God resulting from superstition

2 : a notion maintained despite evidence to the contrary

Mysticism

Vague, obscure, enigmatic or confused thinking or belief.

Myth

Oxford: 1. a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.

2. a widely held but false belief or idea.

Merriam-Webster:

a : a usually traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon
b: parable, allegory

a : a popular belief or tradition that has grown up around something or someone; especially one embodying the ideals and institutions of a society or segment of society
b : an unfounded or false notion

Suggested methodology to challenge personal belief positions

Structured questions around:

FOISTER

1. Facts and Falsifiability: Are there any facts that support this position, and if so, what are they? Is this position falsifiable? IOW, is there or can there be any set of facts or any developments in the real world that can show this position to be false.
2. Opposition: Are there any facts that undermine or negate this position, and if so, what are they?
3. Insinuations: What is it about this surviving information that suggests this conclusion?
4. Selection bias: Have the facts and information been selected without bias?
5. Totality: Has the totality of the relevant facts and information been assayed and considered?
6. Evaluation: Are there other or better ways to interpret and evaluate the information?
7. Ramifications: What are the ramifications or effects on or concerning the other aspects of my belief system?

PIFFLE

1. Philosophy: Does the belief violate any Metaphysical or Epistemological principles? If so, it should be discarded.
2. I
mplications:
3. F
acts: Do the totality of the facts and opposing facts justify holding to this position?
4. F
alsifiable: Is there any set of facts or any developments in the real world that can show this position to be false.
5. L
ife Benefit: What is the benefit to lif and for the human race in believing this way?:
6. Extraneous: Is this position or belief relevant or germane to me personally?

ICILY

1. Implications: What are the implications for further understanding the truth?
2. Compatibility: Is this position compatible with my paradigm and all the other aspects of it?
3. Impact: Is this position even relevant or very germane, and if so, what is the impact on my worldview?
4. Life Benefit: What is the benefit to humanity and human life in believing this way? Is this view inspirational or depressing, edifying or demoralizing, empowering or disempowering?
5. Yardstick: Does this position violate ANY worthy yardstick for being rational, logical,  reasonable or intellectually responsible?

The above acronym is designed to foster a hands-on-mind approach for personal responsibility to have our belief system to be intellectually defensible.

Real Example:

"I think that the planets are not alive in the sense that they are not "human," but from a more indigenous view, I would consider them to be alive,  I think everything is alive and has consciousness. But anthropomorphizing and making them be what we think and want is not what they are. But I do believe they are beings with their own consciousness, not to be interpreted and defined by us."

So, how does the above position—little different from that of the ancient mythmakers except for anthropomorpihsizing—hold up under our list of questions?

[P]. Firstly, this position violates the epistemological principle that for anything to have meaningful identity it must have some distinction, some contrast with everything else. In this case life and consciousness must—and do—have opposites. Dead or death and unconsciousness. If everything is alive and has consciousness, then life and consciousness lose their meaning, along with their counterparts.

[I]. Not many if any general implications except that they would be truly and fully alien to us.

[F]. Supporting facts: The planets move and change, they appear and disappear. Evidently most of the ancient people believed that they were alive and that they had godlike powers to influence and control people on earth. They clearly rained down rocks, fire and brimstone upon the earth and its inhabitants, and this was interpreted as a reaction of anger towards people on earth.

[F]. Opposing facts: The planets don't show some of the major aspects that go into being alive and conscious. They have no discernible needs and desires to sustain and enhance their "lives" and consciousness. They don't communicate, and show no sign of freedom of movement.. They don't have an organic structure that can be damaged to the point of dying. Etc.

How could this view be falsified?

[L]. Without any idea of their intentions, and no communication, the impact on human life would seem to be only negative because we have not idea of what we can count on from them on an ongoing basis.

[E]. No further relevance to me personally, and I can only relate to them as material or physical fixtures.

Here is another acronym approach:

In the realm of knowledge, theories and paranormal claims should be subject to what the acronym FLIPPERS stands for.

Falsifiability - It must be possible to conceive that the theory or claim could prove to be false.  If it cannot be conceived as false then it is not significant or meaningful.

Logicality - Any argument offered in support of a theory or claim must be logically sound.

Integrity - The evidence offered in support of a theory or claim must be factual or true, and the evaluation of the evidence must be honest, open and unprejudiced.

Predictability - Any theory or claim must offer some implied and inferred predictions, which can be checked.

Productivity - Any valid theory or claim must have an aspect of productivity in that some implied and inferred benefit or usefulness would construe in its adoption.

Extensiveness - The evidence offered in support of any theory or claim must be exhaustive—that is, all of the available evidence must be considered.

Replicability - Empirical data or experiential evidence to support an experimental result must be replicable, or at least historical.  Total reliance upon non-replicable historical evidence at least tends to reduce the worth or validity of the theory or claim.

Sufficiency - The evidence offered in support of any theory or claim must be adequate to establish the validity beyond an agreed upon reasonable doubt of that claim or theory, with these stipulations:

(1)        The burden of proof for any claim or theory should rest primarily on the claimant(s).

(2)        Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.

(3)        Paranormal claim evidence based upon authority and/or testimony is always inadequate by itself.

If the theory or claim being offered cannot meet or satisfy the above criteria, it must be considered to be either invalid, or inadequate, or at least primarily in the realm of dogma, opinion or unsubstantiated possibility instead of being useful or in the realm of knowledge.

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