I have been pondering rationality. We all (I assume) like to think that we are rational to some extent - that we consider the available information and make decisions to achieve the most favourable outcome. Of course, if it were that simple there would be no free will and we would all agree.
It is not that simple - for a start we do not all have all of the information, or the same information, and the information we have may be wrong. A key part of assessing information to make a decision is predicting the future, and we all have different luck and skills in that. We also have lots of bias based on our previous success in predicting the future. There are a huge number of psychological effects that are well documented that create lots of bias in our decision making processes.
The other obvious factor is how we decide what is a favourable outcome. We "feel" that we want certain things and certain outcomes, but what makes us feel that way is not necessarily rational in itself. Ultimately "what makes us happy" is a key factor, or perhaps "what we think will make us happy". I don't know how that comes about - our previous experience, genetics, what?
One of the reasons I was pondering rationality is seeing again the phrase "We are all atheists for almost all gods in human history, it is just that some people take it one god further". I was pondering the impossibility of debating religion with people. It is not totally impossible, but often one hits a brick wall where any rational debate falls down.
A rational debate involves one party trying to change the mind of the other - and if we assume people are rational then that means changing one of the parameters. Change the available information or change the perceived future prediction based on providing other experience of such predictions, or perhaps even change the views of what is a favourable outcome. It is not always possible, but in an ideal world it should be possible for two parties to agree the set of facts and rules and hence find that they have to agree on a decision.
I find it quite useful in a debate to try and get people to "step back", and try to agree on the desired objectives, and then how one measures success against those objectives. You can then back track to considering the alternatives and assessing against the agreed metrics to reach a decision on which all parties must agree (having agreed the test / metrics to follow).
Religious debates do not always follow such "logic", sadly. For a start - people are rarely prepared to specify their objectives in such debates!
If the world had one religion you could almost understand that the religious would not fathom the arguments of the non religions. But when there is a world with lots of religions, you end up with each group believing a set of arguments in favour of their own religion, but somehow dismissing the identical set of arguments presented by an opposing religion. It means that one person has to somehow hold conflicting logic and apply it differently depending on the context.
To be honest, that is a clever trick!
I am reminded of the electric monk: “The Electric Monk was a labour-saving device, like a dishwasher or a video recorder... Electric Monks believed things for you, thus saving you what was becoming an increasingly onerous task, that of believing all the things the world expected you to believe.” One of its key features is described later "The man from the Monk shop said that it needed a whole new motherboard, but then pointed out that the new improved Monk Plus models were twice as powerful, had an entirely new multi-tasking Negative Capability feature that allowed them to hold up to sixteen entirely different and contradictory ideas in memory simultaneously without generating any irritating system errors, were twice as fast and at least three times as glib, and you could have a whole new one for less than the cost of replacing the motherboard of the old model."
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