Author Topic: "A Planet without Laughter" by Raymond Smullyan  (Read 17299 times)

Tank

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Re: "A Planet without Laughter" by Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #30 on: December 19, 2014, 09:12:00 PM »
..your framework isn't large enough to admit the evidences.

Quite so, superstitions and wishful thinking are way outside any reasonable framework.
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Re: "A Planet without Laughter" by Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #31 on: December 19, 2014, 09:22:20 PM »
Despite my reminder, you simply ignore my questions and repeat Knuth's interpretation of the story. It isn't a very productive way to carry on a discussion, but I've come to expect that sort of thing from you, Gerry Rzeppa.

Regarding your reference to "other kinds of evidence": What I've mentioned more than once in discussion with you is verifiable evidence. As far as I'm concerned, that's the sort of evidence that is meaningful. If your "other kinds" are not verifiable, what use are they, except to preachers and mountebanks?
"Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration — courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and above all, love of the truth."
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Gerry Rzeppa

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Re: "A Planet without Laughter" by Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #32 on: December 19, 2014, 10:28:19 PM »
Quite so, superstitions and wishful thinking are way outside any reasonable framework.

Ah, but they still must be taken into account. William James (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_James), "one of the most influential philosophers the United States has ever produced" and the man whom some have called the "Father of American psychology", has studied and written extensively on the subject. He concluded:

"Success or failure depends more upon attitude than upon capacity; successful men act as though they have accomplished or are enjoying something. Soon it becomes a reality."

"It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome."

"Belief creates the actual fact."

In other words, "wishful thinking" often matters more than actual capacity; new realities are often the direct result of real but intangible things like belief and wishful thinking.

Watson's and Crick's success in discovering the structure of DNA, for example, can be directly attributed to their "wishful thinking" regarding (a) the possibility of success, and (b) the rewards of such success. Take away that "wishful thinking" and they never would have discovered what they did. It is similar "beliefs" and "wishful thinking" that motivate the entire scientific enterprise.



Gerry Rzeppa

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Re: "A Planet without Laughter" by Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #33 on: December 19, 2014, 10:46:39 PM »
What I've mentioned more than once in discussion with you is verifiable evidence. As far as I'm concerned, that's the sort of evidence that is meaningful. If your "other kinds" are not verifiable, what use are they, except to preachers and mountebanks?

The questions being asked in all three stories is essentially the same: What can be verified? and How can it be verified? The psychologists in Smullyan's story are unable to "verify" the existence of Humor because they have no direct experience of it; their framework is too small to include such a thing. The blind in Well's story cannot "verify" that sight is a real and meaningful sense because they have no direct experience with it; again, their framework is too constrictive. The flatlanders in Abbott's story cannot "verify" the existence of a third dimension for the same reason.

The best any of these can do is to attempt to understand by analogy -- that laughter is kind of like other pleasant sensations, yet quite different; that sight is kind of like hearing, yet quite distinct; that the third dimension is the like the first and second, yet different in at least one essential way. But of course that kind of thinking requires an open mind; a willingness to consider that there are things outside of one's own personal experience that are "too unfamiliar" or "too different" or "too big" to be fully understood within the confines of one's own personal experience.

In short, demanding rational proofs and explanations for super-rational things is not rational. Investigation of such things must employ all our faculties (not just our ability to reason) and will, even then, depend a great deal on argument by analogy and other less-than-mathematically-certain evidences.


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Re: "A Planet without Laughter" by Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #34 on: December 20, 2014, 05:06:20 AM »
These stories have been around a long time, and many people find them both thought-provoking and enlightening. I know I have. I thought some folks here might enjoy them in this way as well, and we might discuss them further. But we obviously won't get very far with people who discard lasting works of literature as "just stories" or "dreary walls of text".

Rather than engaging in honest discussion, often you refuse to even acknowledge my questions and instead choose to respond to portions of my posts which you use as a springboard for more preaching. This is a well established pattern with you, and in light of that pattern, your disingenuous plaintive malarkey about "discussion" and "discarding lasting works" is laughable.

What I've mentioned more than once in discussion with you is verifiable evidence. As far as I'm concerned, that's the sort of evidence that is meaningful. If your "other kinds" are not verifiable, what use are they, except to preachers and mountebanks?

The questions being asked in all three stories is essentially the same: What can be verified? and How can it be verified? The psychologists in Smullyan's story are unable to "verify" the existence of Humor because they have no direct experience of it; their framework is too small to include such a thing.

Humor is acknowledged to exist in Smullyan's piece; it's considered a disorder.

The blind in Well's story cannot "verify" that sight is a real and meaningful sense because they have no direct experience with it; again, their framework is too constrictive. The flatlanders in Abbott's story cannot "verify" the existence of a third dimension for the same reason.

The best any of these can do is to attempt to understand by analogy -- that laughter is kind of like other pleasant sensations, yet quite different; that sight is kind of like hearing, yet quite distinct; that the third dimension is the like the first and second, yet different in at least one essential way. But of course that kind of thinking requires an open mind; a willingness to consider that there are things outside of one's own personal experience that are "too unfamiliar" or "too different" or "too big" to be fully understood within the confines of one's own personal experience.

This assumes that none of those who dispute the existence of the supernatural have ever had experiences which believers would describe as supernatural. Of course, that isn't the case at all. Additionally, there are many who at one time believed in the supernatural and had experiences which they once attributed to the supernatural, but who no longer believe. How do you account for that?

In short, demanding rational proofs and explanations for super-rational things is not rational.

I'm not "demanding rational proofs and explanations," I'm asking for verifiable evidence.

Investigation of such things must employ all our faculties (not just our ability to reason) and will, even then, depend a great deal on argument by analogy and other less-than-mathematically-certain evidences.

Could you explain how analogy would be used as evidence? What other "less-than-mathematically-certain" things do you have in mind to be used as evidence? Again, if I can't verify what's being presented as evidence, what use is it? How does it even qualify as evidence at all? It seems to me you're saying that we should ignore our critical faculties and just buy into whatever is told to us by purveyors of the supernatural. If not, how do you propose we should distinguish between bullshit and genuine evidence for the supernatural?
« Last Edit: December 20, 2014, 05:27:10 AM by Recusant »
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Gerry Rzeppa

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Re: "A Planet without Laughter" by Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #35 on: December 20, 2014, 07:53:48 AM »
Humor is acknowledged to exist in Smullyan's piece; it's considered a disorder.

In the story, belief in the thing called "Humor" is considered a disorder (in the psychiatrists' view) because it is assumed (by them) that Humor, itself, does not exist. I think that's quite clear in this passage: "In the psychoanalytic portions of the treatment the psychiatrist carefully explained to the patient how he had been living in a fantasy world, and how when he started facing reality he would at first find it very painful. And amazingly enough, after about the third treatment, the patient actually agreed that the psychiatrist was right! He said: 'I see now that you were absolutely right. I was indeed living in a state in which I constantly confused fantasy with reality, and I moreover believed in the existence of an entity called Humor. Yes, I actually believed it to be something real rather than a mere figment of my imagination. But now I see the light. I realize how in error I have been!' "

...there are many who at one time believed in the supernatural and had experiences which they once attributed to the supernatural, but who no longer believe. How do you account for that?

I would say that they now interpret their past and present experiences differently than they did earlier. Which happens to all of us, a lot. Every time we find ourselves saying, for example, "Oh, now I see what you're saying!" It seems that when we're dealing with the purely physical we can often pin down the facts: water boils at such-and-such a temperature at such-and-such pressure, etc. But when we get to things that are more complex (and thus more interesting to us), we find the "facts" can often be ambiguously interpreted. Does she love me? Should I take this new job? Is my conscience really telling me about absolute rights and wrongs, or is it just another appetite clamoring for satisfaction? Etc.

I'm not "demanding rational proofs and explanations," I'm asking for verifiable evidence.

What "verifiable evidence" would you accept as proof that God exists?

Could you explain how analogy would be used as evidence?

All of the integral Calculus is essentially an argument by analogy -- no one has ever really seen the width of those infamous rectangles under a curve go to zero. In fact, every mathematical interpolation is an argument by analogy: we think we know the "shape" of a curve (though no one has ever seen all the points on any curve) and we use that assumed knowledge to approximate intermediate values on that curve. A non-numeric example would be when a guy says to his wife, "I bet if we did what our parents did to make us, we could make a baby too." He's arguing by analogy, saying, in effect, "Because we are like our parents in ways X and Y, I bet we're like them in way Z as well." Argument by analogy is not the same thing as proof, of course. But then very few things, relatively speaking, are susceptible of proof. Especially those things that are most interesting and important to us. So we have to make do with the tools available to us.

What other "less-than-mathematically-certain" things do you have in mind to be used as evidence?

Historical evidences, for example. Nothing in history is mathematically certain; and none of history can be repeated under exactly the same conditions, by definition. So historical matters are clearly a different kind of thing than, say, the boiling point of water, and must therefore be approached using different tools and techniques. Yet historical persons and events often play a major role in both our collective culture and in our individual decision-making. I'm pretty sure my wife and I would not have attempted to have a child in our old age without the historical account of Abraham and Sarah to inspire us. Nor would we have named our little guy, born of Sharon's very own way-past-menopause-57-year-old womb, Chuckles, without that history to imitate ("Chuckles" being a play on the name "Isaac", which means "Laughter"):



Again, if I can't verify what's being presented as evidence, what use is it?

See above. We couldn't scientifically verify, with repeatable and peer-reviewed experiments, that the story of Abraham and Sarah was true. But we could gather enough evidences of other kinds -- analogical, historical, testimonial, anecdotal, etc -- to make us believe in the story and, more importantly, to act on that belief. So in this case at least, the reality (the kid you see above) was, in great part, the result of a belief in an historical event based on non-empirical evidences. As William James put it in the quote I posted above, "Belief creates the actual fact." Or in more traditional terms, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not [yet] seen."

How does it even qualify as evidence at all?

Most of our lives are lived on such non-empirical evidences. Almost every decision we make is based on incomplete (and often at least partially faulty) evidence. It is necessary; there simply aren't the time and resources to ferret out all the facts before we're required to act. And, in cases like the one above -- where we're dealing with the past (Abraham and Sarah and Isaac) and the future (Chuckles) -- we couldn't get the necessary "facts" even with unlimited time and resources.

It seems to me you're saying that we should ignore our critical faculties and just buy into whatever is told to us by purveyors of the supernatural.

Absolutely not. But we shouldn't restrict ourselves to the empirical, either. There's more to reality than can be reached that way. And we can't limit ourselves to the strictly logical and empirical anyway. May as well jump in with both feet and swim best we can.

If not, how do you propose we should distinguish between bullshit and genuine evidence...

My preferred method is experiment, as above. Not knowing, for sure, that a really old couple can (or should) have a baby -- there were many who told us it was impossible, and many more who told us it was inadvisable -- we studied the available information (historical, analogical, testimonial, anecdotal, and empirical from various fertility clinics), we prayed, we investigated and attempted all sorts of alternative methods (the usual, foster children, the usual, local adoption, the usual, overseas adoption, the usual, artificial insemination, the usual, surrogate mothers, the usual, in vitro fertilization) and found out, by actual experiment, that sometimes a really old couple can and should have a baby.

...for the supernatural?

Most people find the supernatural more difficult to experiment with. Personally, I don't. As I've said in another thread, I'm persuaded that I'm a creature that has one foot in this universe, and the other somewhere else: that when I write this post, for example, I'm imposing my will on this universe, inserting events, so to speak, and causing this universe to be something it wouldn't otherwise be -- something that can't be explained by the fundamental forces of gravity and electromagnetism, etc, alone. If you'd like to get a taste of a similar experience, stare at your computer as you prepare to reply to this post and ask yourself, "What on earth could ever make the words I want to say appear on that screen?" Then type a little and stop to ask yourself, "Who just did that? How did that actually happen?" Surely, even if I'm utterly wrong and nothing supernatural is going on here, it's still something very, very mysterious...

Tank

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Re: "A Planet without Laughter" by Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #36 on: December 20, 2014, 08:00:06 AM »
Quite so, superstitions and wishful thinking are way outside any reasonable framework.

Ah, but they still must be taken into account. William James (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_James), "one of the most influential philosophers the United States has ever produced" and the man whom some have called the "Father of American psychology", has studied and written extensively on the subject. He concluded:

"Success or failure depends more upon attitude than upon capacity; successful men act as though they have accomplished or are enjoying something. Soon it becomes a reality."

"It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome."

"Belief creates the actual fact."

In other words, "wishful thinking" often matters more than actual capacity; new realities are often the direct result of real but intangible things like belief and wishful thinking.

Watson's and Crick's success in discovering the structure of DNA, for example, can be directly attributed to their "wishful thinking" regarding (a) the possibility of success, and (b) the rewards of such success. Take away that "wishful thinking" and they never would have discovered what they did. It is similar "beliefs" and "wishful thinking" that motivate the entire scientific enterprise.
What a pile of rubbish.
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Re: "A Planet without Laughter" by Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #37 on: December 20, 2014, 08:08:30 AM »
What Tank said, only with prof. Dawkins' accent.

I do see what you are saying, Gerry, but I also think it's completely wrong.
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Tank

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Re: "A Planet without Laughter" by Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #38 on: December 20, 2014, 09:07:58 AM »
If religions were TV channels atheism is turning the TV off.
“Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt.” ― Richard P. Feynman
'It is said that your life flashes before your eyes just before you die. That is true, it's called Life.' - Terry Pratchett

Gerry Rzeppa

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Re: "A Planet without Laughter" by Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #39 on: December 20, 2014, 09:44:58 AM »
[quoting Ricky Gervais] "Opinions don't affect facts..."

Sure they do. Opinions play a major role in the creation of new facts. Barack Obama, for example, is the current president of the United States -- and it was the various opinions of the electorate that made that possibility a actual fact. Twice. And you've already seen, regarding my wife and I, how our opinion that the Biblical story of Abraham and Sarah was inspiring led to the tangible fact that we call Chuckles. Opinion is a very powerful force in the universe. Able even to overcome gravity, in some cases: it was the Wright brother's opinion that three-axis control was the missing ingredient in fixed-wing flying machines that led to the fact of successful powered flight in 1903.

« Last Edit: December 20, 2014, 10:05:08 AM by Gerry Rzeppa »

Tank

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Re: "A Planet without Laughter" by Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #40 on: December 20, 2014, 10:31:08 AM »
[quoting Ricky Gervais] "Opinions don't affect facts..."

Sure they do. Opinions play a major role in the creation of new facts. Barack Obama, for example, is the current president of the United States -- and it was the various opinions of the electorate that made that possibility a actual fact. Twice. And you've already seen, regarding my wife and I, how our opinion that the Biblical story of Abraham and Sarah was inspiring led to the tangible fact that we call Chuckles. Opinion is a very powerful force in the universe. Able even to overcome gravity, in some cases: it was the Wright brother's opinion that three-axis control was the missing ingredient in fixed-wing flying machines that led to the fact of successful powered flight in 1903.
So you think that belief overrides reality. Utter fucking tosh Gerry. No amount of faith/belief/wishful-thinking is going to make gravity go away. Go find a tall building and jump off it Gerry and just believe you won't die. And again your disingenuous word play, the only weapon in your delusional armoury, raises it's ugly head. Opinions don't change facts. Ideas may lead to the discovery of new facts. Simply substituting opinion for idea doesn't change the fact that a difference of opinion about that fact will change that fact. The Wright brothers didn't 'wish' the Flyer into the air. Hard work, experimentation and development got that first flight into the air not religious bullshit, wishful thinking or superstition. I am getting seriously fucking pissed off with your unmitigated stupidity and delusional world view. This place isn't a platform for obfuscationist creationist preachers like you.

To quote OG "No amount of belief makes something a fact." remember that Gerry. You might actually learn something today.

If you carry on like this I will kick you out.

If religions were TV channels atheism is turning the TV off.
“Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt.” ― Richard P. Feynman
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Re: "A Planet without Laughter" by Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #41 on: December 20, 2014, 10:34:04 AM »
[quoting Ricky Gervais] "Opinions don't affect facts..."

Sure they do. Opinions play a major role in the creation of new facts. Barack Obama, for example, is the current president of the United States -- and it was the various opinions of the electorate that made that possibility a actual fact. Twice. And you've already seen, regarding my wife and I, how our opinion that the Biblical story of Abraham and Sarah was inspiring led to the tangible fact that we call Chuckles. Opinion is a very powerful force in the universe. Able even to overcome gravity, in some cases: it was the Wright brother's opinion that three-axis control was the missing ingredient in fixed-wing flying machines that led to the fact of successful powered flight in 1903.

I think you miss-understood the quote.
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Re: "A Planet without Laughter" by Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #42 on: December 20, 2014, 11:54:28 AM »
Go find a tall building and jump off it Gerry and just believe you won't die.
Other people get warned for encouraging suicide.  :P

Quote
To quote OG "No amount of belief makes something a fact." remember that Gerry. You might actually learn something today.
There is a difference between facts and philosophical constructs. I think wishful thinking may actually give a philosophical construct a decent working over, but facts, no matter how much you twist them, are what they are. The rest is semantics.
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Eric V Arachnid

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Re: "A Planet without Laughter" by Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #43 on: December 20, 2014, 12:54:26 PM »
The opinions of humans effect the world but not magically in my experience.
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Re: "A Planet without Laughter" by Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #44 on: December 20, 2014, 01:56:54 PM »
Other people get warned for encouraging suicide.  :P

Yes that's right and proper.
If you are going to dabble with suicide you should tie a piece of cotton around your big toe and put the other end between your favourite pages of "Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There" and then you'll be able to come back if you don't like being dead.
No I haven't done it yet but it is my reality altering opinion that it's factual.
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