8 Bit Philosophy: Is God Useful? (William James + TMNT)

Is God Useful? (William James + TMNT)

Press Start for Is God Useful? by 8-Bit Philosophy, where classic video games introduce famous thinkers, problems, and concepts with quotes, teachings, and more.

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RIP Donnie. Great video as usual btw. I enjoy the hell out of this series because you guys don't make me feel like you're shoving any one answer down my throat, just asking me to ask myself a question and come up with my own answer while just giving me slices of information pizza on the way. Its hard to get that sort of objectivity from anyone these days in a discussion. Keep delivering, on time and piping hot... but no anchovies please.

I'm better off not believing as I've found people speaking for God leads to confusion.

And from there I remain a Nonreligious Agnostic-Atheist.

How do you define yourself if the questions of faith, religion and the existence of god are completely irrelevant for you? In other words, you don´t care?

Firanai:

How do you define yourself if the questions of faith, religion and the existence of god are completely irrelevant for you? In other words, you don´t care?

Easy as I'm defined by other things. And those things don't have to rely on Faith, Religion, or God.

For example I can be defined by my Love for Cheetahs, Video Games, etcetera. And I don't need anything else in order to express that Love.

RatGouf:

Firanai:

How do you define yourself if the questions of faith, religion and the existence of god are completely irrelevant for you? In other words, you don´t care?

Easy as I'm defined by other things. And those things don't have to rely on Faith, Religion, or God.

For example I can be defined by my Love for Cheetahs, Video Games, etcetera. And I don't need anything else in order to express that Love.

I think that I have been misunderstood, I mean is there an specific word to define people like that? because I fall in that category.

Interesting, you brought up some good points.

Just one major problem, I am a Christian and a student of science and my faith is not based only on emotion. You see science dictates for something to be fact you have to be able to test it and the problem with the atheist view is that it is just as untestable as the theistic position. Scientists have not been able to create life in a lab so until they do God's not going anywhere.

Firanai:

I think that I have been misunderstood, I mean is there an specific word to define people like that? because I fall in that category.

If there was I wouldn't have used 3 words in order to define just a part of me.

seiler88:

Interesting, you brought up some good points.

Just one major problem, I am a Christian and a student of science and my faith is not based only on emotion. You see science dictates for something to be fact you have to be able to test it and the problem with the atheist view is that it is just as untestable as the theistic position. Scientists have not been able to create life in a lab so until they do God's not going anywhere.

That seems more like a God Of The Gaps Argument. Furthermore Science deals with the Natural Claims. God however is usually a Super Natural Claim. Thus Science can't declare such a God to be real. Finally creating life in a lab wouldn't disprove god. That's like saying Chevy built a car in a factory therefore there is no Ford.

Pascal would have liked him.

ritchards:
Pascal would have liked him.

That was indeed what I was going to say. I'm not saying that this is strictly a Pascal's wager (because it is not), but it is really close to one. (For those who don't know, Pascal's wager states that one is better off believing in the god/gods of the speaker, often the Abrahamic god, because there is no penalty or gain if they are wrong about believing it if he doesn't exist, but there is infinite gain and loss if they are wrong about believing it if he does exist)

seiler88:
Interesting, you brought up some good points.

Just one major problem, I am a Christian and a student of science and my faith is not based only on emotion. You see science dictates for something to be fact you have to be able to test it and the problem with the atheist view is that it is just as untestable as the theistic position. Scientists have not been able to create life in a lab so until they do God's not going anywhere.

As long as you can't test a hypothesis or find evidence to support it then it has no place in science. God doesn't hold up to this fundamental basis of the scientific method thus the existence of a god can be dismissed according to the dictations of science. If you're a student of science this is something you need to accept. You can still have your faith, but don't try to mix science and religion without applying the scientific method equally to both.

Firanai:

RatGouf:

Firanai:

How do you define yourself if the questions of faith, religion and the existence of god are completely irrelevant for you? In other words, you don´t care?

Easy as I'm defined by other things. And those things don't have to rely on Faith, Religion, or God.

For example I can be defined by my Love for Cheetahs, Video Games, etcetera. And I don't need anything else in order to express that Love.

I think that I have been misunderstood, I mean is there an specific word to define people like that? because I fall in that category.

Is there a specific word for people who simply don't care about those questions? Not that I'm aware of. Areligious apathetic maybe?

OT: The problem with the "usefulness" argument for belief in god is that it is presumptuous. Saying that belief in god is useful for say, bringing people together assumes that those people could or would not form a similar social group based around something else. Saying that belief in god causes people to give charitably presumes that people would not act charitably regardless. But, presuming you could prove that a belief in god did directly result in a good act, it still wouldn't matter because you could also prove that bad acts also occur as a direct result in the belief of a god.

What I think it is safe to say is that the better we understand reality, the better chance we have to make good decisions based on accurate information. I don't think one can argue successfully that we are more prone to make good decisions based on false information then we are to make good decisions based on accurate information.

As for belief being a choice, I do take some umbrage with that as well. We do not choose what we believe. Rather, what we believe is an automatic reaction to what we think we understand. The phrase, "You can believe what you want," is a lie. If anyone is in doubt of this, try a little experiment with yourself. I want you to stop believing your computer exists. You can't possibly make yourself believe this because the evidence before you trumps any desire you might have to disbelieve.

Take the moon landing as an example. Moon landing deniers aren't simply choosing to disbelieve in the truth, they are driven to their conclusion based on the quirks of who they are and what they believe they've experienced. We may think that we, and others, believe things based on choice, but that is simply an illusion. No matter how well founded a set of facts might be, it is still possible for someone to have a set of experiences that cause them to question and even disbelieve those facts. This disbelief will always be a reaction to those experiences though, not a consequence of what a person wants.

That is not to say that our ego doesn't have an effect on what we do or do not believe. Our ego acts as reinforcement for what we believe, it does not determine what we believe. People often think that the ego effect is what turns belief into choice, but this is simply an error of attribution. Ego can influence how strongly one believes but it does not determine the "what."

And in the time it took me to watch that video a dozen more people were murdered because "god is great".
I think this answers the question of "is it useful".

WOPR:
And in the time it took me to watch that video a dozen more people were murdered because "god is great".
I think this answers the question of "is it useful".

Except that there are far more people who help others in the name of their religion, including other muslims. You can't define a whole religion, or religion as a whole, by the actions of one small group.

WOPR:
And in the time it took me to watch that video a dozen more people were murdered because "god is great".
I think this answers the question of "is it useful".

Well, I think the issue is more the people who go around murdering innocents while saying "God is great," because I can think of only one religion that does that... If practitioners who commit murder on an hourly basis is the standard by which we judge religion, I think we should be asking "Is Islam useful" and not all religion.

And now the countdown begins...

Well for my money, people are better off not believing.

We've seen that a sense of morality to keep the world running smoothly can exist independently of religion, building on the foundation of basic human empathy, and we've also seen how religious codes of moral conduct can become twisted by focus on the letter rather than the spirit of the code, or on outdated elements that really should be excised, or simply an "us vs them" mentality, there are a lot of perfectly nice religious people out there... but I question whether that is because or despite their faith, which naturally leads into the question of what other use does faith have.

Also, just because religion places the goalposts to disprove their hypothesis in an impossible position, doesn't mean it's a similarly credible position to pointing out that there isn't actually evidence supporting it and that until there is any, scepticism is the sensible choice.

Agreed. I'm atheist myself but yes in fact I don't think faith will disappear, some humans will try find "moral support" in any other divine figures they come up with or re-use old ones, at least if its useful for them they will do so and its perfectly fine as the video says.

Thats why I also respect properly people of faith now, I'm actually fascinated by Pagans because their gods lore and culture is interesting. Hah, and to think that I used to be a militant atheist in my puberty. Now I look back and think "well most of the arguing back then was pointless tbh".

leviadragon99:
Well for my money, people are better off not believing.

Meh. Me too I guess I mean its logical... But well a real thought police doesn't exists yet (and I hope never does obvs), so no one can control a mind thaaat way to bend human free will.

But well people choose in the end and I hope this never stops being a thing in humans. William James has decent a point there.

Gorrath:

Firanai:

RatGouf:

Easy as I'm defined by other things. And those things don't have to rely on Faith, Religion, or God.

For example I can be defined by my Love for Cheetahs, Video Games, etcetera. And I don't need anything else in order to express that Love.

I think that I have been misunderstood, I mean is there an specific word to define people like that? because I fall in that category.

That is not to say that our ego doesn't have an effect on what we do or do not believe. Our ego acts as reinforcement for what we believe, it does not determine what we believe. People often think that the ego effect is what turns belief into choice, but this is simply an error of attribution. Ego can influence how strongly one believes but it does not determine the "what."

I agree for the most part but this video only barely scratches the surface of the deeper implications of what defines the utility of an idea and how it can be measured (If utility is static or dynamic as Marx pointed out in his criticism of utilitarianism) or to a greater degree if anything can be known for certain at all (Descartes) while also tangential to the problem of free will vs determinism. I personally tend toward no free will and a deterministic universe as we have yet to find a circumstance in which it does not hold but is that a problem of our human inability to comprehend or an objective truth of our universe? Then there are people like Sam Harris who tries to create a dynamic framework of morality given determinism and a dynamic view of utility (His book, The Moral Landscape) He has some good idea's but to many it seems difficult or impossible to determine the usefulness of an idea or decision in a dynamic landscape where everything becomes a variable factor from childhood experiences to what you ate for breakfast with the only real constants being "Avoid the worst possible misery for everyone" on the bottom and "Maximize human flourishing" on the top of the scales. On a personal not I find the acceptance of the idea of not having free will causes me to worry less about decisions to be made and regret less after the fact while not actually caring less about their importance as those decisions still define who I am but I no longer worry about defining myself "Incorrectly" or making the wrong decision. One of the few profound lines from The Matrix deals directly with this idea "You didn't come here to make the choice, you've already made it. You're here to understand why you made it." It comes closest to explaining how I try to see the process of understanding my own motivations as already having been decided long ago before I even existed...but there you go.....you're 2 cents richer....

Shawn Crosmun:

Gorrath:

Firanai:

I think that I have been misunderstood, I mean is there an specific word to define people like that? because I fall in that category.

That is not to say that our ego doesn't have an effect on what we do or do not believe. Our ego acts as reinforcement for what we believe, it does not determine what we believe. People often think that the ego effect is what turns belief into choice, but this is simply an error of attribution. Ego can influence how strongly one believes but it does not determine the "what."

I agree for the most part but this video only barely scratches the surface of the deeper implications of what defines the utility of an idea and how it can be measured (If utility is static or dynamic as Marx pointed out in his criticism of utilitarianism) or to a greater degree if anything can be known for certain at all (Descartes) while also tangential to the problem of free will vs determinism. I personally tend toward no free will and a deterministic universe as we have yet to find a circumstance in which it does not hold but is that a problem of our human inability to comprehend or an objective truth of our universe? Then there are people like Sam Harris who tries to create a dynamic framework of morality given determinism and a dynamic view of utility (His book, The Moral Landscape) He has some good idea's but to many it seems difficult or impossible to determine the usefulness of an idea or decision in a dynamic landscape where everything becomes a variable factor from childhood experiences to what you ate for breakfast with the only real constants being "Avoid the worst possible misery for everyone" on the bottom and "Maximize human flourishing" on the top of the scales. On a personal not I find the acceptance of the idea of not having free will causes me to worry less about decisions to be made and regret less after the fact while not actually caring less about their importance as those decisions still define who I am but I no longer worry about defining myself "Incorrectly" or making the wrong decision. One of the few profound lines from The Matrix deals directly with this idea "You didn't come here to make the choice, you've already made it. You're here to understand why you made it." It comes closest to explaining how I try to see the process of understanding my own motivations as already having been decided long ago before I even existed...but there you go.....you're 2 cents richer....

It's interesting how much determinism vs free will seems to come up in this philosophy discussions. So much of what we think we are about hinges on this factor. But I think it's worth acknowledging that it really does not matter. Even if we knew for a fact that determinism was true, we'd still have to generally act as if we had free will anyway.

As far as determinism extends to belief though, I don't think that's in question. Even if we do have free will, our free will does not trump what we think we understand. Even if we could prove that your choice of breakfast this morning really was a choice, whether you accept the existence of cereal isn't a choice, it's merely a reaction to having experienced its existence. You can't choose to stop believing in something you think you know to be true, no matter how hard you try. The question of whether free will exists at all, I think, has no bearing on belief.

I am not a utilitarian myself since what is useful to one person may very well be detrimental to others. Even if you change the scope to include "what's best" for all of humanity, utilitarian arguments become too centric to the needs and wants of the subject. While some utilitarian outlooks can work within the context of specific frameworks, adhering to utilitarianism in general doesn't work. As you mention, how can a utilitarian argument be made if you can't have all the facts? What seems like a good utilitarian decision now can have devastating unforeseen consequences later.

Now not all utility arguments necessarily fail. What one needs to do when making a utilitarian argument is build in a way to correct errors as new knowledge arises. But this is where religion tends to fall flat on its face. Religion, generally being based on faith, is designed from the ground up to resist new knowledge. This makes any utilitarian argument for religion practically useless. If your rules are dogmatic and your belief predicated on faith, it makes the whole structure of your understanding highly resistant to reform. If we admit that utilitarian arguments MUST adjust to new knowledge as it becomes available and also understand that religion is resistant to or even flat out denies new knowledge, then how can any utilitarian argument for religious belief stand up?

I really like that "Matrix" quote by the way, it really does encompass just how interesting it is or would be to observe thinking beings in a deterministic universe. Thanks for sharing, too, I appreciated the read. My response isn't so much an argument against anything you've said as much as it just expands on why I think the idea of utilitarianism and religion can't work together.

Shadowsetzer:

WOPR:
And in the time it took me to watch that video a dozen more people were murdered because "god is great".
I think this answers the question of "is it useful".

Except that there are far more people who help others in the name of their religion, including other muslims. You can't define a whole religion, or religion as a whole, by the actions of one small group.

You are correct in saying that one should not define a whole religion by what a small group (proportionally small, let's not be blind to the fact that there are a lot of them by volume!) of people do in its name. But what I can justifiably do is say that the utilitarian and faith arguments backing up religious belief are not good ones no matter which interpretation any group of believers decides is the "right" one.

I think it's fair to say that there is no good act that a person could do, justified by religious moral principal, that they could not also justify by secular moral principal. I think it is also fair to say that there are many bad acts that a person could do, justified by religious moral principal, that they could not justify by secular moral principal. That's really the problem many people of an a-religious or non-dogmatic stance have with dogmatic religion.

Lazule:

leviadragon99:
Well for my money, people are better off not believing.

Meh. Me too I guess I mean its logical... But well a real thought police doesn't exists yet (and I hope never does obvs), so no one can control a mind thaaat way to bend human free will.

But well people choose in the end and I hope this never stops being a thing in humans. William James has decent a point there.

Well of course I'm not suggesting that anyone be made to believe anything, in addition to being plainly morally reprehensible, such tactics have questionable effectiveness from what we've seen of people applying them before now.

I'm just saying that for me personally, I don't feel any inclination to seek out religious faith and don't find any inherent value in it that couldn't be found independent of it.

I do not believe and I prefer not to believe. I do not have to believe that God, the creator of myself and the universe, is cruel and uncaring. I don't have to believe that he lets children starve, lets humans be beaten, raped, and imprisoned. To believe that my creator was cruel and capricious and allowed such terrible suffering for humans and all living things.

Instead I believe that we exist as we do because it could be no other way. The very fabric of existence dictated that the universe form, planets form, and life develop just as they have. That means no one created us to suffer, it is just inherent to existence. It means we have the responsibility to minimize suffering and overcome our baser instincts to better our own lives and that of all humanity and all life.

I find religion to be a fickle thing. Too many 'Gods'. The biggest problem is the mass discounting of certain gods. For example, why doesn't anyone believe in the Greek or Roman gods anymore? I think we could all use a little Aphrodite in our lives. Why is it crazy to believe in a god of the harvest or god of laughter? This is my biggest issue. People laugh at religions that are not their own, but what makes a guy in the clouds watching over everyone better than a spaceship full of aliens? Let's also remember that Christianity was forced on a large percentage of the world. So I think rather than asking yourself about one God, you should be asking what happened to all of the others that came before 'him'

~gasp~ You killed Donatello! How could you!?

seiler88:
Interesting, you brought up some good points.

Just one major problem, I am a Christian and a student of science and my faith is not based only on emotion. You see science dictates for something to be fact you have to be able to test it and the problem with the atheist view is that it is just as untestable as the theistic position. Scientists have not been able to create life in a lab so until they do God's not going anywhere.

While I agree with your position on a rational level. (I'm not religious, but that's irrelevant.)

The reason you get into that position is that while, yes, 'something cannot be proven true' is logically equivalent to 'something cannot be proven false', and thus the supposed atheist position is no more logically sound than the religious position,
The reason this argument tends to get challenged so much by athiests is that science doesn't function that way in practice.

There's several things going on that undermine that position. (which, I incidentally don't especially agree with, but again, not relevant.)

Firstly, there's occam's razor. "if two theories make equivalent predictions, then the simpler one is correct" - This is often used in dubious ways, and people especially seem to ignore the equivalent predictions thing.
It's also not a statement of truth. But a pragmatic one, because simpler theories are easier to work with.
In the same sense that in mathematics, 1 + 10 - 10 + 1 = 2, is the same thing as 1 + 1 = 2, but the second is simply more convenient.
It's not explicitly saying that the first statement is wrong, merely that it is harder to work with, and accepting it as valid doesn't really get you anything useful.
It's very much a pragmatic 'rule' rather than a guide to what's true and what isn't. (Though people love to misuse it to claim some aspect of 'truth')

The next is, that in spite of what pure logic might say, the scientific position turns out to be 'false until proven otherwise.'
As a personal point of philosophy I go with the logically equivalent 'true until proven otherwise', but I'll admit that while logically equivalent it is much harder to work with, because to really do it properly you have to accept literally everything that cannot currently be proven as potentially true. You can't really pick and choose.
If you assume 'false until proven otherwise', you basically start with nothing, and never have to consider something unless it has some proof behind it.
This is much easier to handle mentally, which is likely why it is used in science. (as with Occam's razor).

But, it should be immediately obvious why taking 'false until proven otherwise' would lead atheists to take the position they do on religion.

The final one is 'burden of proof'. This one is a little mean-spirited in a way, but nonetheless, it has a certain logic to it.
Basically it is this: "The person making an 'extraordinary' claim is the one that has the burden of proving it to be true. the person who doesn't believe it is not in any way obligated to prove why not'
The reason why it's mean-spirited, obviously, lies in the choice of definitions for what, exactly constitutes an 'extraordinary' claim.

For science it's not that hard to work out. An 'extraordinary claim' is one that is radically different from all known established theories and laws that have to do with the same subject.
But when discussing something inherently unanswerable it does come across as a bit arbitrary.

Anyway, part of the reason I don't have any formal religious beliefs isn't because of needing 'proof' that God exists... But rather that there are so many elements of most religions that aren't 'unprovable' at all, they are outright false by any objective measure.
Strip away these blatantly false elements and I might believe it, but I'm certainly not going to blindly accept things which to me are obviously untrue.

Anyway, that was probably a totally unnecessary explanation. If so, sorry about that.
Call it a bad habit or something...

I don't know.



As to the topic the video actually raises, I personally don't see any particular use for religious beliefs, but I can see that there might be some use to it for some people as a principle.

I question the notion that religious beliefs are special in this sense though.
The assertion that believing in fairies is less of a risk doesn't seem to ring true to me.

I first of all is highly dependent on what beliefs you associate with 'fairies', and it's consequences.
Secondly, if you include the effects having those beliefs have in regard to how people around you behave, truly believing something as seemingly silly as 'fairies' can have some pretty serious consequences in fact.
Being declared silly at best, or 'insane' at worst is not as trivial as it sounds...

 

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