Friday, July 12, 2013

Epistemology and Family

I wasn't going to comment on anything today, because grrrmmmptptpth, but now I want to say something.


One of my more strange personal rules, is that I'll only argue with people I don't know. The reason for this is simple - I'd rather not sour my personal relations. As a corollary, I'd hope that other people argue with my friends/family.

Religious/spiritual/supernatural beliefs appear to have an exception, or are specially privileged, in that they cannot be countered. Any attempt to do so is seen as some kind of personal attack.

If I was in a work environment, and I came across a co-worker who was attempting to install the printer's toner cartridge backwards, I'd help out by correcting the person's effort, so we could all get back to productive business. My discussion/debating epistemological issues with people online is pretty much a intellectual process... like two or more people working through an issue to come to a good solution.

I would not expect that co-worker to regard my aid as a personal attack, or effort to undermine him/her.

When it comes to supernatural/superstitious issues - it's a mine field. Do I try to correct these people when they bring up something incorrect, or just let it slide, and allow the disinformation to propagate?

In my private Facebook life, I'm friends with a number of people who "share" things that set my bullshit detector ablaze, on a fairly regular basis. Usually, I keep my mouth shut.

Not today.
Share this lucky penny (photo of a penny). You WILL receive good luck and you WILL attract money
Gah. Okay. As usual, my skepticism was raging, but I.. just couldn't hold it in.

I comment, "I'd love to know how this supposed mechanism works."

Person 1 says, "Sshhhh...I don't think it does, but it's now sharable on my page for anyone who wants to give it a shot."

I was going to let that go, although I'm not thrilled with a propagation of superstition (which seems extra odd to me, since she doesn't even buy into it).

Person 2 says, "Last time I did this, I went to cleans someone's house,,,, they gave me money, so I must share it ,,,,, it really really works."

Now, this was an actual Poe for me (see Poe's Law). I couldn't tell if the person was being serious, or satirical. I figured I'd bite, and post this:

Link to YouTube Vid of a clip from the show "West Wing" where they talk about the concept of "post hoc, ergo propter hoc"(which doesn't appear to be embed-able). My point was, just because she vaguely received money after sharing it, doesn't mean this was the cause.

Person 1 says, "In lingua Romana, ergo veritas."

I had to look that up. It translates as "In the Roman Tongue, therefore truth".

I responded, "The truth of the logical fallacy is unrelated to the fact it has a Latin label. It's another way of saying "Correlation does not equal causation"."

Tense little argument, right? It's tense because it's with people who are now wondering why I came out of the woodwork and picked a fight. I must be having a bad day, or something, right?

Well, no. I've engaged in much more intense, and sometimes hostile, debate with people on much more deep issues. For me, this is incredibly casual, like pointing out that she might want to comb her hair before going out into public. We managed to stop arguing amicably, but it's still awkward.

I can't read her mind, but it's not unusual for the religious/spiritual to see it as an all-out assault on their world view... whereas all I wanted to do was point out the absurdity of the notion that posting a photo of a coin on Facebook leads to some kind of manipulation of reality, where one can suddenly get a bunch of money... maybe.

It's weird.

Then again, it's weird that this even has to be explained, in the first place.

We were talking the other day about a list tips about things that "Keep you from succeeding". I took issue with one of the items being "Stop thinking". I though a better formulation was "Stop over-analyzing". Most seemed to agree with me... and it was not contentious.

When an item comes across like this good luck coin photo, I can't help but think that maybe this person wouldn't be struggling so much in life, if they weren't wasting time/energy/money on nonsensical superstitious gibberish... like pointing out to someone that they may want to lay off the lottery tickets. In order to make good decisions about life, time management and key decisions, it's absolutely critical that our understanding of reality is accurate. The damage done by these superstitious beliefs is cumulative, like erosion, but only a little at a time.

In reality, I try to point these things out (where appropriate) because I care about people being more effective with their ability to navigate their own lives.

That's not an attack.

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