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Posted by Richard D. Stafford, Ph.D. on July 29, 2003 19:22:28 UTC


My initial response was complete disgust with your post. However, after some time, I decided to allow you some leeway as you have never made any pretense of having any education. You present yourself as an intelligent person and perhaps I am crediting you with too much ability to think on your own. I will relent this one time and make an attempt to explain why I find your cavils so poorly thought out.

The first issue I must point out is that English is an inherently vague means of communicating. Most words have many meanings depending upon context. This issue is particularly relevant when new ideas are being explained. One of the steps used to express new ideas is to use context as a means of discriminating between earlier meanings of words and the intended meaning of the words as used in the explanation of the new idea. I would have expected you to have picked this up in your readings; however, I will accept the idea that you are perhaps unfamiliar with such developments.

The central issue here is your apparent inability to grasp the meanings I intend in the context of my explanations and your explicit inability to apply what I am saying to your "examples". As I see it, there are only two possibilities here: either you really do lack the intellectual ability to apply what I am saying to your examples or the real purpose of these examples is solely to discredit my arguments by implying they are ridiculous.

For the moment I will accept your claim that you actually think your response is a rational intelligent argument. The substitution gig, as you have used it, amounts to no more than a debating technique designed to introduce confusion into the interpretation. You are free to make any substitution you wish so long as the substitution is consistent. However, if you insert the same word for two different purposes, then you are using the substitution to defeat the clarity provided by context. Fundamentally you then leave the cursory reader with no clear method of differentiating the intended meaning of the word.

It is very easy to see that this is exactly what you have done by performing a find and replace on your insertions. Such a move will display clearly how your double use converts to extreme misquotation of my post. In any discussion with a mature adult, I think that would be ample evidence that the purpose was to sow confusion. But, as it is entirely possible that you are only a bright teenager, I will presume you actually believe that your post is a serious logical argument, I take the trouble to specifically point out why none of it impacts my arguments in any way.

First of all, in the set of all [spiritual] problems, there exists an enormous number which have ["spiritual data"]: i.e., things which are to be [spiritually] explained by a [spiritual] solution to the problem. That is what [spiritual] problems are all about. To suggest that ["spiritual data"] as I define it is not a possible abstract concept is to hold that the set of all problems is an empty set.

Well, I have no idea if there really is 'spiritual data' as you define it. There might indeed be a need to spiritually explain spiritual problems, or it might actually be the case that any spiritual explanation is as ridiculous as a ritualistic explanation of some ancient Polynesian tribe.

So you have no idea if there really is [anything you believe to be true] when it comes to "spiritual problems". If that is the case, what is your explanation supposed to explain. You are once again bringing up a vacuous problem. But, more important than that, you imply that the set of problems which you define as "spiritual" contain nothing which anyone could believe to be true. "Spiritual" problems possess exactly the same components as any other problem; they contain things the problem solver thinks are true and which he believes requires an explanation (otherwise there is no problem). In addition the problem together with the solution may very well include things that may someday be shown to be false. To omit that fact would be to assume the solution is correct.

I stated very clearly that my intention was to make no assumptions. If I were to accept your argument as logically valid, it would be completely equivalent to the rather childish assumption that if the adjective "spiritual" is attached to a problem, common sense not only does not apply to solving the problem but must be avoided if one is to examine the problem solvers technique. I cannot comprehend how anyone who had even an introduction to critical thinking would present such a flawed argument as a counter argument to my post. I can only presume you have had no training in critical thinking at all.

Since ['non-spiritual data'] is defined to be those things which are implied to [spiritually] exist by the solution of the [spiritual] problem, the [non-spiritual] data constitutes the things which are not part of the original [spiritual] problem but which must be accepted as [spiritually] existing if the solution which implies them is accepted. They constitute that part of the solution which becomes the [spiritual] "cause" of the events which are to be explained.

Or, the spiritual data and non-spiritual data (i.e., evil data) might be something cooked up in your head having nothing to do with reality, or perhaps your definition of 'spiritual data' comes from the Roman Catholic tradition and would be rejected out of hand by a fun-loving Protestant such as myself.

Your rejection out of hand, of the existence of any specific problem amounts to an assumption that there is no problem there. Once again, you bring up what you believe to be a vacuous problem. And once again, you imply that the problem cannot exist and that no one could believe such a problem exists. You are assuming that the set of all problems lacks this problem. There are lots of problems in the world which are completely cooked up in someone's head. If those people, believing what they believe, make an attempt to rationally solve that problem they are once again confronted with exactly the same circumstance I am talking about. There are things the problem solver thinks are true and which he believes requires an explanation (otherwise there is no problem). In addition the problem together with the solution may very well include things that may someday be shown to be false.

Your response is totally lacking in critical thought.

The circumstance you bring up, "a problem which contains neither ['spiritual data'] nor ['non-spiritual data'] is a vacuous concept applying to nothing but an empty entry to the set of all [spiritual] problems.

Or, it might mean that 'spiritual problems' are all in your head of how you choose to see the world in your own religious tradition. Spiritual problems might only exist because you choose to see them.

The set of all possible problems must include all problems unless you can present a specific mechanism to exclude some of them. If not, the assumption that such a problem does not exist is an unwarranted assumption. Even if this problem only exists in someone's head, it still fits my description exactly: there are things the problem solver thinks are true and which he believes requires an explanation (otherwise there is no problem). In addition the problem together with the solution may very well include things that may someday be shown to be false.

I can only conclude you spent very little time thinking about any aspects of your post.

Finally, the ability to sort things into ["spiritual"] and ["non-spiritual"] categories is immaterial to the existence of the categories. A valid solution explicitly requires that both categories obey exactly the same [spiritual] rules: i.e., in the valid solution, there can exist no [spiritual] criteria which can be used to sort the data.

So, if we propose a spiritual and non-spiritual category to sort 'data', your spiritual model requires that both categories obey the same spiritual rules? Hmm... How interesting. What do you do if you change to a different church? Do the spiritual rules change too?

Solving a problem is the process of finding a solution which explains the things one believes to be true. If the things you believe to be true change, the solution will probably also change. The issue is that in both cases, the problem consists of the same three components I have pointed out: there are things the problem solver thinks are true and which he believes requires an explanation (otherwise there is no problem). In addition the problem together with the solution may very well include things that may someday be shown to be false.

You are apparently repeating the same confused argument over and over again. The essence of you argument appears to be, there are stupid problems in the collection of all possible problems thus it follows that all problems cannot possibly be divided into the three components Dick has proposed. Your proof must be "stupid problems can not be so divided because they are stupid". Sounds like an argument one might get from a six year old.

1) Failure to recognize the difference between "[spiritual] things which are to be [spiritually] explained" and "[spiritual] things which are necessary to the [spiritual] explanation" is fatal to rational [spiritual] problem solving.

I didn't realize that spiritual things required this kind of spiritual sorting.

Ha Ha! In your head!! Once again you make the rather childish assumption that if the adjective "spiritual" is attached to a problem, common sense does not apply to describing the problem. Failure to recognize that there is a difference between "what you believe" and "what else might be true" is fatal to the process of problem solving no matter what the subject area of the problem might be.

2) The [spiritual] division is an abstract [spiritually] fundamental requirement which must be [spiritually] accounted for if the field of possible [spiritual] explanations is to be left [spiritually] unconstrained.

In other words, we should be spiritually open-minded?

What I am saying has nothing to do with what you or anyone else "wants"! What I am talking about are the characteristics inherent in rational problem solving. If you do not believe there is any possibility you are wrong, then it does not seem to me that you have any interest in problem solving: you believe you have found the solution to all your problems. Nevertheless, the circumstance still fulfills my description completely: there are things the problem solver thinks are true and which he believes requires an explanation. In addition the problem together with the solution may very well include things that may someday be shown to be false (the fact that the supposed problem solver thinks that the set vanishes is no more than a statement that he has no intention of being rational).

3) The [spiritual] importance of the [spiritual] division is that the two different [spiritual] components are held to different [spiritual] constraints: in laying out the [spiritual] abstract problem of searching for all [spiritual] solutions, the ["spiritual data"] is a fixed component whereas the ["non-spiritual data"] must be left open. This fact has nothing to do with actually [spiritually] knowing which is which, it is a characteristic of the [spiritual] logic of [spiritual] problem solving itself.

I'm glad that you are taking this time to explain the spiritual ins and outs of your religion and the spiritual rules that dictate them. What time is your church service, maybe I should visit?

A direct example of my earlier complaint concerning your use of the same word for two different definitions. It appears once more that you are attempting to ridicule my attack on the problem of solving problems with an example of a ridiculous solution to a ridiculous problem of your own construction. The fact that you cannot see that your example appears to be such an attempt means either that you are lying about your intentions or that your abilities to analyze logical arguments are on a grade school level. Since you admit mathematical abilities on that level it might be that you have not attended high school yet. If that is the case, I apologize. Your abilities are quite impressive if you are not yet a teenager.

4.) The only [spiritual] situation when being able to differentiate between the two [spiritual categories] is of any significance at all is when it comes to solving a specific [spiritual] problem. So long as one is speaking of the [spiritual] logic of [spiritual] problem solving itself, the [spiritual] division must be held open as an abstract [spiritual] concept.

Understand. We should keep our spiritual options open. It sounds like you might be a Unitarian.

A substitution which does not use the same word for two different meanings!! Wonderful! If you had any facility with critical thinking at all, you would recognize that all you have done is constrained (via the adjective "spiritual") the statement to be dealing only with "spiritual" problems. You again appear to think that "spiritual" problems are some special breed of problem which is exempt from common sense of any kind. However, even if the "problem solver" is totally devoid of common sense, the problem still divides into the same three components I discuss. There are things the problem solver thinks are true, he believes these things require an explanation and the problem together with the solution may very well include things that may someday be shown to be false.

Restricting my statement to "spiritual" problems does not make the statement false as it applies to any problem, spiritual or otherwise. I do notice that you seem to make a concerted effort to imply that my concerns are religious concerns. Again, from any mature person, I would take that to be substantial evidence that his true purpose was am attempt to belittle what I do and deflect serious thinkers from considering my thoughts? If your posts are not inspired by malice, you certainly do have a very strong tendency to jump to such implications anytime the opportunity arises. If it is your intention to achieve recognition as a critical thinker, you should make a more concerted effort to avoid making such emotional implications.

You should be able to comprehend that when a [spiritual] solution to a [spiritual] problem is [spiritually] discovered (and subsequently [spiritually] believed) aspects which, from an abstract [spiritual] perspective were, not known but were [spiritually] required (implied) by the [spiritual] solution acquire the status of [spiritually] known information[(i.e., 'spiritual information')]. If that is going to be the case in all successful [spiritual] solutions, it should be clear to you that it is a [spiritual] requirement of a valid [spiritually] successful solution that, within that [spiritual] solution, there can exist no [spiritual] criteria which can be used to sort the [spiritual] data into the two categories.

I'm mot sure why there should be no spiritual criteria to sort the spiritual data into the two categories? Can you give me a little more detail about your religion so that I can understand why this is the case?

Again you have managed to use "spiritual" in only one sense. Again, the only consequence is to constrain the statement to a subset of problems (those you define as "spiritual"). It also takes at least a minimal ability to think to recognize the problem with your interpretation here. Ordinarily I would expect a serious thinker to realize the source of his confusion in such a simple example; however, I will take the trouble to explain it to you in detail.

If criteria exist which will separate the "things you believe are necessary to explain your solution" into separate categories (those which you believe to be correct and those which you do not believe to be correct) either you have not found a solution to your problem or you are talking about two different problems.

However, it should be equally clear to you that, in designing [a spiritual] algorithm which will span all possible [spiritual] solutions of all possible [spiritual] problems, the categories themselves must be held as fundamentally [spiritually] different. The [spiritual] concepts are important to the issue of [spiritual] understanding the range of [spiritual] possibilities available to solve a [spiritual] problem.

But, what if your concept of 'spiritual' is all messed up? What if there are no real spiritual problems or real spiritual solutions?

Ok, again I think you have used "spiritual" only as an adjective to constrain the problem under discussion to "spiritual" problems only. That being the case, why are you bothered by your concept of spiritual being all messed up? Lots of problems and lots of solutions proposed are extremely hair brained. What does that have to do with the problem of solving problems. So what if there are no "real" spiritual problems or "real" spiritual solutions? Again, you seem to be saying that the existence of vacuous problems deny my analysis of problems in general. The existence or non-existence or the stupidity or lack of stupidity of any specific problem has absolutely nothing to do with the logical structure of problem solving! No more than it has anything to do with the structure of a logical step in a syllogism.

Furthermore, consider the [spiritual] situation where one thinks one has discovered a [spiritual] solution to [spiritually] understanding the universe. He then believes all of the things he [spiritually] "knows" are true [(i.e., at least spiritually so)]. Suppose at some time in the future, he discovers his [spiritual] solution is flawed. Does it not follow that some of the [spiritual] things (perhaps all of the [spiritual] things) implied by that [spiritual] solution are [spiritually] false? That is, some of the [spiritual] things he thought he [spiritually] knew were [spiritually] wrong! Now how could it be that some of the [spiritual] things he thought he [spiritually] knew were not [spiritually] true? The only [spiritual] possibility is that those [spiritual] things were not really ["spiritual"], they were in fact, merely [spiritual] consequences of that presumed [spiritual] solution. This is the component of [spiritual] I give the title ["non-spiritual"]. To say the category does not [spiritually] exist is to presume that there can be no [spiritual] errors in your [spiritual] solution to the [spiritual] problem.

I don't get it. How is it that if a category does not spiritually exist lead to the conclusion that there can be no spiritual errors in my spiritual solution to the spiritual problem? Maybe we are paying a bit too much attention to spiritual matters?

Maybe you are Harv. I find it very difficult to believe that you could be so intellectually simple minded that you would actually think what you have said has anything at all to do with what I said. You went back to using the same word to convey two different ideas again, engendering major confusion (thankfully, you are the only person confused by the result). Correctly interpreted, your sentence is, if the possibility of error is not accepted then you have presumed that no errors can exist in your solution. You have done nothing to the statement except use your sloppy substitution to make it as unclear as you possibly could; apparently for the sole purpose of ridiculing your ridiculous result.

Finally, let me point out a subtle aspect of this [spiritual] duality of ["spiritual"] and ["non-spiritual"] data. The ["non-spiritual"] is what is implied by the presumed [spiritually] valid explanation. That is, if the [spiritual] explanation is [spiritually] valid this data is [spiritually] required. Note that if the data is [spiritually] false, then the [spiritual] explanation is [spiritually] invalid. If that is the case, then ["non-spiritual data"] may be thought of as that [spiritual] information which was [spiritually] created in order to make the [spiritual] explanation work [(i.e., in a spiritual sense of the term)]. That is no more than an alternate [spiritual] perspective on exactly the [spiritual] circumstances common to any [religious] explanation.

So, this is how religious wars happen...

More sloppy substitution, followed by a non-sequitur. Please explain to me how this can be taken except as a malicious attempt to imply what I wrote is ridiculous without actually dealing with what I wrote. It is extremely childish for you to make such extensive simple minded cavils. The only possibility I can conceive of (unless you can enlighten me further) for your action is that you were hoping the shear volume of your cavils would lead me to ignore you. I assure you I will not bother reading another post of such meaningless drivel.

From that [spiritual] perspective, it should be seen that the [church goer] has the [spiritual] freedom to [spiritually] create whatever ["non-spiritual data"] he desires so long as it will yield the [spiritual] data under the [spiritual] explanation he holds forth. If that is [spiritually] true then the [spiritual] explanation implies both the [non-spiritual] and the [spiritual] data are [spiritually] true and it becomes a valid [spiritual] explanation of what is [spiritually] known. The issue here is the trade off between ["spiritual explanations"] and ["non-spiritual data"]. The fact that such a [spiritual] duality [spiritually] exists is missed by most [church goers]. The [spiritual] duality will certainly be overlooked if the concept of ["non-spiritual data"] is omitted from ones thoughts.

Again you use double meanings to confuse the supposed quote! Apparently you felt the confusion you created in your mind was sufficient and didn't think you needed to come up with a ridiculous comment. Thank you for small favors!

It is more like one of those circus mirrors which distort the image. Yes, one could substitute just about anything in those brackets and produce a result as confusing as you have here. And yes, to a simple minded person the result would be ludicrous; however, anyone with more than a modicum of intelligence would be able to pick through the distortion and comprehend that your comments were not at all germane (of course, they would have to take a look at the original in order decipher your use of multiple definitions; not the kind of logical effort one could really expect to find on this forum). Nor is it the kind of effort I have any interest in expending.

Again without presenting a single logical argument to refute any part of what I said, you instead pour on volumes of poorly conceived examples buried in emotional implications that what I have said is not logical. You suggest your distorted presentation should be posted on a religious site and then try to imply your analysis is a serious reply. What is the common denominator to this? The common denominator is that you have no idea what I am doing. The only real question which exists is, is your position just malice or is the idea of abstract thought just so alien to you that you cannot comprehend it!

I do not concern myself with metaphysics at all. That is your bailiwick. I have solved a problem. Fundamentally it is a very simple problem; however, the solution has unbelievably far reaching consequences. I have a lot of patience and am willing to go to substantial lengths to help people understand; however, if they have no interest in learning, any effort is a waste.

I will say that I have a lot of room in my heart for anyone who really wants to understand something; however, I don't talk for the fun of it.

I would like very much an explanation as to why you persist in making every effort you can to present a distorted copy of what I say on the forum. If you really believe your presentations are not distortions then you are no where near as intelligent as I thought. I am sorry if that is the case. Actually both possibilities, that you are just intentionally trying to discredit what I say at any cost or that you are intellectually incapable of comprehending my comments, are equally depressing.

I would love to carry on an intellectual discussion; however, I am afraid I would expect you to raise the level of your intellectual content a bit. You should place understanding what I am saying ahead of distorting and ridiculing it.

You can make any substitution you wish so long as it is a consistent substitution.

I am getting awfully tired of beating a dead horse! By the way, I wouldn't insult Alan's intellect if I were you; your arguments are very nearly on exactly the same level.

This was no fun at all -- Dick

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