"Robert J. Bradbury" wrote:
> - "If I drop this ball, what will happen?"
> - "it will fall to the ground"
> - "Why does it fall to the ground?
> - "because of gravity" [if you get another answer here all bets are off]
> - "Do you think everyone believes in gravity?"
> - "yes" [we hope]
> - "So would a good system for verifying reality be the belief by
> a large number of individuals based on their personal experience?"
> - "yes"
No, it's not. What a crock! For fifty thousand years of human existence we knew *jack* about the world no matter *who* agreed about it. It's only in modern times that the majority opinion has even *begun* to swing towards the facts, and that's only because a highly vocal minority of physicists managed to impress the entire planet by vaporizing cities, got mondo respect by the media as a result, and leveraged that into making their explanation universally known and believed.
A good system for verifying reality is trusting the word of people who vaporize cities. More accurately, a good system for visualizing reality is to trust those explanation schemas which are known, in accepted history too recent to be faked, to have been used to successfully manipulate reality. So - and to hell with majority opinion - you can trust physics and electronics and computer programming, but not psychiatry or economics.
> - "So do you believe in god?" [or some other variant]
> - "yes"
> - "Do all people believe in god?"
> - "no"
> - "Then, your *belief* in god is perhaps not a good system for
> verifying god's reality."
If one uses this explanation to deconvert someone, you will be lying to them, and a single conversation with a higher-order rationalist will fully restore their faith and probably get them a bit upset with you.
It is *exactly* this kind of Plato-like shell game, the abuse of intelligence, tricks with logic played by people abusing their better education (and, yes, better minds) that lead so many quietly religious people to *correctly* conclude that their simple faith is to be trusted over a complex logic of atheism. If they don't trust elaborate flawed arguments from the door-to-door religion salespeople, why should they trust it from you? Even totally blind faith is less subject to distortion than that kind of so-called "reasoning", and will be right, on the average, more often. The only legitimate argument of atheists is Occam's Razor. Leave the elaborate Greek-philosophy arguments and leading questions to the dumber theologians.
-- email@example.com Eliezer S. Yudkowsky http://pobox.com/~sentience/tmol-faq/meaningoflife.html Running on BeOS Typing in Dvorak Programming with Patterns Voting for Libertarians Heading for Singularity There Is A Better Way