Saturday, May 31, 2008

Another Way to Prove the Negative

Why don’t you believe in Santa? The Tooth Fairy? Bigfoot? the Loch Ness Monster? Alien visitors? Gefjun the Norwegian Goddess of Agriculture? Sobek, the Egyptian Crocodile God?

It’s frequently charged to the atheist, “you can’t prove a negative,” as if to suggest that under no circumstances is it reasonable to think that something doesn’t exist. But clearly there are a lot of things that you reasonably disbelieve in. And we can say a several things about their similarities and form a principle.

In First Philosophy (1966), Michael Scriven introduced the idea, and then Michael Martin expanded on it in Atheism: A Philosophical Justification. Here’s the idea behind their Santa principle.

In general, you can’t be justified in thinking that some X doesn’t exist unless you have looked. If you haven’t considered the available evidence and reflected on the sources or areas where evidence for the thing’s existence would occur if it was real, then it would be premature to conclude that there isn’t one.

Of course, once you have looked in all the likely places, or explored the relevant concepts, principles, and ideas, if you find evidence in favor of X’s existence, then you should accept that it is real, all other things being equal. So in order to conclude that there is no X the available evidence has to be inadequate in support of it.

But what if the X that we are seeking isn’t the sort of thing that would be manifest by evidence? If it is not the sort of thing that shows itself, then searching in all the right places and then not finding anything wouldn’t be sufficient to justify concluding that it isn’t real.

So the principle that Scriven and Martin give, with a few revisions of my own, is:

A person is justified in believing that X does not exist if all of these conditions are met:

  1. the area where evidence would appear, if there were any, has been comprehensively examined, and
  2. all of the available evidence that X exists is inadequate, and
  3. X is the sort of entity that, if X exists, then it would show.

So for Santa, the Tooth Fairy, aliens, and lots of other cases of reasonable non-existence claims that we believe, these three conditions are met. If there was a Santa, then we’d expect to find some evidence of his existence at the North Pole, in the skies at Christmas, climbing down someone’s chimney, and so on. And we have looked in all the right places where he should be manifest if he is real. But the evidence is inadequate to support the conclusion that he is real. Furthermore, Santa is the sort of being that if he was real, then we’d be able to detect him in some relatively straightforward manner.

The lesson should be clear. Humans have devoted enormous amounts of energy to investigating the God question for millennia. There may be no other thing that we have all spent so much time and effort on trying to find with no results. But by widespread agreement, all of the evidence we have for God’s existence is inadequate to justify the conclusion. Even many prominent philosophical theologians concede the point. And presumably, God, who allegedly wants us to believe in him, and who is involved in the unfolding of events in the real world, would not wish us to labor away in the darkness, not knowing or being able to figure out the most important question ever facing humanity. One would think that he’d need to exert some effort to make his existence as undetectable as it is. It can’t be that he’s not able to make his existence more know to us than it is—if he wasn’t able he’d wouldn’t be worthy of the title.

So it’s reasonable to conclude that God doesn’t exist for the same general reasons that Santa does not. The burden of proof that this creates is that if you think that belief in God is reasonable, then you must either explain how God is importantly distinct from the cases that this principle was derived from, or you must give an argument for thinking that the Santa principle doesn’t apply because there is compelling evidence for God’s existence. Either way you’ve got a very hard task in front of you. It looks like in all the philosophically relevant ways, God is like the non-existing things on our list. Or if you choose to defend the existence of God on the basis of evidence, then you’ve got to produce this bit of reasoning or empirical information that makes belief so clearly agreeable. By widespread agreement, people, including believers, seem to think that belief in God isn’t or cannot be supported by evidence. Even if you think that the existence makes it reasonable to conclude that God exists, no reasonable person thinks that it is obvious or easy to see. So you’ll have the additional burden of explaining why it is that God is making it so hard to detect his existence. And that problem makes it difficult to reconcile the lack of clear evidence with God’s being good, all powerful, and all knowing.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

100 Reasons to Believe that God Does Not Exist

This is my 100th post. Despite what my detractors seem to think, a lot of work goes into each. (You'll notice that I don't post blog entries about going to store to get a newspaper.) Thanks for reading. Here are at least 100 reasons to believe that there is no God:

A 300 Year Gap

A God Who Performs Miracles is Evil

Adding Epicycles to God

Begging the Question: Miracles and Nature

Believing in God is Immoral

Bogus Probabilistic Judgments and God

Can Atheists Be Moral?

Can We Find Evidence for the Divine Properties In ...

Coherence and Atheism

Confusing Possible with Probable and Having a Righ...

Dawkins' Law

Deal With It

Did the Believers Believe?

Does Sin Corrupt our Ability to See God or Does th...

Does the Atheist Need to Respond to Faith?

Does the Theist Have a Moral Advantage Over the At...

Don’t like my tone? Am I being rude?

Everything is to the Glory of God

Fine Tuning's Fatal Flaw

Fitna, documentary about violence, hatred and Isla...

Garbage In, Garbage Out

Gibberish? Non-Cognitivist Speech Act? or Seriou...

Giving God A Free Pass

God and Suffering

God Blind Spot

God Doesn't Do Miracles, full version

God is Not a Watchmaker

God or Gratuitous Evil?

God Wouldn’t Leave Room for Agnosticism, There Are...

God Wouldn't Do Miracles

God's Evil

Grave robbers or Magic?

He Has No Brain, So God Doesn't Exist

Heroism and the Duty to Rescue Demonstrate that th...

How Big Would God's Universe Be?

How Probable is God?

How the Surreal becomes Commonplace

If There is a Satan, then There is No God

If There is a Satan, then There is No God

Incoherent: I Believe Because It Makes Me a Moral...

Is He Keeping His Distance? Or Is He Just Not The...

Is Heaven Guilt Money?

Is Religious Education Child Abuse?

Isn't "God" Just Another Word for New Age Nonsense...

Jerry Falwell: Exploiting Religious Tolerance and...

Knowing Your Own Mind About God

Miracles Make It Harder to Prove God is Good

Miracles Prove That There Is No God

Monkey Morality or Goodness Isn't Magical

Moving On

No Moral Truths? No God.

Non-Cognitive Religious Utterances Produce Beliefs...

One of Several Ways to Prove the Negative

Perfect Word of God? Reliable Historical Document...

Possible, Possible, Possible: Overdrawing the God...

Proving the Negative

Putting the Fox in Charge of the Hen House

Reasonable Belief, Proof, and Uncertainty

Reining In the Fallacious Human Belief Machine

Religion is a Mind Virus

Religious Memes and Rational Autonomy

Remembering God

Sam Harris: The Problem with Atheism and Being Sp...

Science Always Replaces Supernatural Explanations

Science is Not A Religion

Self-Deception: Religion and Science are Compatib...

Should We Believe that Jesus was Resurrected?

Sinking the Raft I’m Standing On

Stephen Pinker: Instinct for Morality

Textual Exegesis Will Not Solve Religious Problems...

The Believer's Moral Double Standard for God

The Burden of Proof is on the Atheist

The Burden of Proof is on the Atheist Redux

The Double Standard of God’s Goodness

The God Urge

The Hidden Costs of Religious Belief

The Inductive Problem of Evil Argument Against the...

The New Ten Commandments

The Paradox of the Soul-Building Defense of Evil

The So-Called Right to Believe: Confusing Hoping ...

The Super Evil Challenge

There Is No Psychic Contact with The Dead

There is No Right To Religious Belief

Top Ten Suggestions For Performing Better Miracles...

Treating Religious Affiliation as Ethnicity

Trying To Be Moral Through The Distorted Lens Of T...

Videos: Dawkins, and Gay Scientists Isolate Chris...

Washing in Blood, Human Sacrifices, Cannibalism, G...

We Are Wired to Resist the Truth About Pointless S...

We Don't Have the Right Dataset to Make the Design...

What If the Lie Really Is Good For Us?

What Would be Evidence for Life After Death?

What Would Change Your Mind?

What Would Make the Atheist Happy?

Wide Atheism: There Are No Gods Whatsoever

You Don't Really Believe In Miracles

You don't Really Expect Us To Believe That, Do You...

4 Important Modern Atheists Discuss Their Work

500 Dead Gods

What Would Change Your Mind?

Dogmatism is the death of reason. If a person’s belief about anything is indefeasible, if she would not be willing to modify, revise, or reject in the light of any new information or evidence, then that belief has co-opted her reason, her freedom, and her consciousness. She no longer merely believes it; now it is believing her.

The real sign of intellectual integrity, is a willingness to change your mind. So here’s the challenge: Whatever it is that you think is true about God, what would it take, hypothetically, to change your mind? Is there any sort of experience that would indicate that there is a God or that there isn’t one? Could an argument do it?

The problem with some forms of evil atheism (atheism that is motivated by the problem of evil) is that there appear to be no circumstances under which the non-believer would relent and concede that the amount of suffering or the sort of existence we have in the world is commensurable with the existence of an omni-God. See What Would Make the Atheist Happy? for a more detailed explanation. The problem described here The Paradox of the Soul Building Defense for Evil gives the evil atheist a decisive answer to attempts to reconcile God and evil by soul-building.

So it’s a useful exercise, and a vital reality check to explore scenarios, experiences, events, reasons, or arguments that could possibly convince the non-believer that there is a God. The atheist, like any person with sense, should be prepared to admit that X, Y, or Z would possibly lead them to reconsider their position.

By hypothesis, God is the ultimate creator of reality, the infinitely great, powerful, knowledgeable, and morally perfect foundation of the universe. And by hypothesis, God seeks to have a relationship with humanity.

The existence we find ourselves in is finite, ambiguous, full of unanswered questions, and isolated. A person is confined to the wants, thoughts, experiences, and relationships that are made possible by a limited set of sensory faculties, a powerful but constrained set of reasoning abilities, and set of organic idiosyncrasies and neurological quirks. Our discursive consciousness is constituted by a set of concepts and properties that we can form into propositions. Our experience is full of mysteries and confined to the relatively continuous path through time and space that our experiences lead us through. Along every vector devise for our inquiries, the world we live in resembles one in which no God exists. In the world where we exist, if there is a God, he has conspired to erase every real, compelling indicator of his existence so completely that the world is indistinguishable from one where there is no God at all. If he’s there, he has managed to hide perfectly.

Those considerations suggest an answer to the “What would it take to change your mind?” question: if there were a God, then the nature of our existence, our experience, and our relationship to the universe would be radically different than it is. We would have a profoundly different relationship to reality and to God than the sort of existence and experience we have now. This transcendent form of existence is hypothetical and difficult to speculate about. But if there were a God, then it is difficult to conceive how our consciousness would be confined to the narrow sliver of space and time as it is now. It seems that our knowledge of the world would not be mediated by concepts and propositions. We’d have some sort of direct, non-discursive access to God and the world. God wouldn’t be hiding. Suffering would not exist. Nor would doubts or ambiguity. Nor would it be an existence where we have an existence like this one first and then later achieve a transcendent unity with God. All of humanity would have been in this transcendent state from the start. God doesn’t wait around to get what he wants. Nor does he have to employ indirect, circuitous, and ineffective means to achieve his goals. It’s also difficult to see how the individual foibles, desires, beliefs, and states of consciousness that constitute the individual as we know ourselves in this world would be present in an existence with a God being. That leads to an interesting paradox, however. If it is the particular beliefs, weaknesses, and confined perspectives that essentially constitute the individual as she is in this world, and those would not be present in an existence with a God, then it would seem that the individual wouldn’t exist at all in a world shared by God. How could a being like that, who seeks after a direct, morally perfect, and loving relationship with other entities, be thwarted or restrained in any way? And how could the restrictions that make us individual consciousnesses be sustained in a world with a being like that?

The Buddhists talk about ultimately achieving a state of nirvana where all the trappings and confines of the individual melt away. It’s a wild speculation, but wouldn’t existence with a God be like that? How could there be personality distinctions between you and me in heaven? Those are what isolate us from the world, knowledge, and enlightenment.

So let’s bring all these far-flung mystical musings back to reality. It's all making me kind of queasy:

1. If there were a God, then the experience had by humanity would be utterly transcendent beyond the form of existence we find ourselves in.

2. The experience had by humanity is not utterly transcendent beyond the form of existence we find ourselves in. (You still have to get up and go to work tomorrow.)

3. Therefore, there is no God.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Heroism and the Duty to Rescue Demonstrate that there is No God

Contrary to the standard view that miracles are a blessing from God, a miracle, when performed by a being that has the power and the knowledge to do vastly more good than that miracle alone, is evil. The doctor who arbitrarily withholds a perfect vaccine from countless needy people and gives it to only a few would be morally reprehensible. In the bathroom of a Las Vegas casino in 1997, Jeremy Strohmeyer brutally killed a little girl in a Las Vegas casino bathroom and his best friend, David Cash Jr. watched and did nothing about it. Strohmeyer was tried and convicted for the murder, but even though he confessed to Cash, the law had no provision for prosecuting Cash for his gross failure of moral duty to report the crime. The California state legislature quickly passed a law obliging witnesses of felonies against minors to report them. The murder of Kitty Genovese in New York while dozens of neighbors listened and did nothing catalyzed the New York legislature to do the same. Most would agree that the doctor, David Cash, and the witnesses to the Genovese murder should have done something, particularly since so much good could have been accomplished with so little effort. But that moral judgment cannot be reconciled with a supernatural being who performs a miracle while idly standing by in the presence of so much suffering in the course of history. Such a being would be guilty of gross negligence, and unfairness. Furthermore, these final examples of the capricious doctor, David Cash, and Kitty Genovese suggest that if there are real moral obligations of stewardship towards those beings who are weaker than you, and a duty to rescue, then a supernatural being who performs a miracle is in violation of those moral duties too. Such a being, like Cash, the Genovese witnesses, and the hypothetical doctor, would be morally evil.

Whether or not there actually is a duty to rescue is a point of some controversy in moral theory, however. But even if there is no duty to rescue, there are reasons to think that a morally perfect being would go above and beyond the call of moral duty. Earl Conee has argued that “supererogatory acts are morally right alternatives that are morally better than other alternatives that are also right. Any morally perfect agent would do whatever is supererogatory at every opportunity, because this would be the morally best course of action and morally perfect conduct could not be improved upon.” 1 What we find most noble and most morally praiseworthy about heroic acts is that someone does so much more good than is required of them, sometimes with great sacrifice. If doing one supererogatory act is good, then doing them at every opportunity is better. And there are abundant opportunities that have been ignored by a God who is willing and able to perform miracles.

So there are three reasons why God would not perform miracles: The problem of omission/fairness—God wouldn’t perform one miracle while ignoring an endless list of others that are morally equivalent. It would be unfair to single out some and neglect others; God’s duty to rescue—moral decency requires that one help those in need, particularly when their needs are great and the required effort from you is so minimal; God’s supererogatory acts—going above and beyond the call of duty is good, doing it at every opportunity is better.

The final two arguments that I have offered concerning God’s duty to rescue and supererogatory acts for God provide us with a new argument for atheism. Morally good beings have a duty to rescue, but none of the mitigating factors that might absolve a human such as fear for their own life or inability will apply to an omni-being. Conee’s supererogatory argument expands God’s moral culpability. A morally perfect being would pursue every good act that is above and beyond the call of duty. By implication, insofar as there are rescues that have not been enacted and heroic acts that have not been performed, then we can infer that there is no morally perfect omni-being. And if there is no morally perfect, omni-being, then there is no God.

1 Conee, Earl. “The Nature and Impossibility of Moral Perfection,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. LIV, No. 4, December 1994.

Ultimately, Conee employs this reasoning to show that moral perfection is impossible. He doesn’t draw out the implication that since moral perfection is an essential property of being God, then the existence of God is impossible (yet another disproof of God.)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sinking the Raft I’m Standing On

In The Non-Existence of God, Nicholas Everitt says, “the right way for the open-minded enquirer to approach the question of God’s existence is to look for grounds or reasons or evidence for thinking that God does exist, then to do the same for thinking that he does not exist, and finally to perform a metaphorical subtraction of one from the other. This will then yield the net grounds, or the grounds all-things-considered, for believing that God does or does not exist.”

One thing that humans are highly prone to do regarding matters of cognitive and emotional importance is to form a view, often before considering the evidence, and then backfill that conclusion with reasons, evidence, and arguments that corroborate it. That is, it is quite common for us to form our important beliefs in precisely the opposite manner that Everitt suggests. We believe, then we gather our evidence. We leave off before seriously considering evidence that would disconfirm the cherished view. When we do encounter negative evidence, we scrutinize it with abnormal levels of skepticism and hold it to inconsistently high levels of proof. We take a liberal and forgiving view of the sources of evidence that support the conclusions we favor. We have a powerful disposition towards confirmation of conclusions that we arrived at before we considered the evidence. We blur and sift the evidence in our favor by confusing the difference between propositions that support a favored conclusion with ones that are merely consistent with it.

But that’s all reasoning backwards from the conclusion to satisfy your gut. That’s enslaving reason to the passions. Atheists in particular loudly and proudly proclaim that they are the reasonable ones, they follow the evidence, they live by rationality, not by superstition and myth. But the real acid test here is whether we’re willing to ride the boat of reason to whatever shores it takes us to. Reason doesn’t lock onto atheism. There have been far more careful, reasonable, and very smart people in history who believed than who did not. What if in the end reason really does indicate that there is a God? Will we accept that conclusion? Or will we find a way to avoid the implication?

The only problem with Everitt’s passage the suggestion that once one has performed this investigation and metaphorical subtraction, then the matter can be settled. But what science has taught us is how to resist the temptation to settle on any answers, even ones we think are decided. The most important lesson we can learn from science is how to actively and perpetually seek out disconfirming evidence.

Lots of believers and non-believers go to the experts who favor their view, who agree with them, to get corroboration for what they already think is true. And when that outspoken and articulate champion of your view presents it in a pithy, clear, powerful, or insightful way, we feel vindicated. But we’ve got to resist the urge to seek out backfill for the conclusions we want to draw. We need to openly and honestly confront contrary views, not for the purpose of refuting them or scoring rhetorical points, but in order to give them long and serious consideration, and give them credit where credit is due. It’s more important to know the truth than to feel vindicated. It’s more important to consider every available source than to draw a premature and tilted conclusion.

The question is, how hard have we tried to understand the opposite viewpoint? How much serious consideration have we given to the counter-evidence?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Reining In the Fallacious Human Belief Machine

We are aggressive belief machines. We form beliefs at the slightest provocation, with little or no evidence, and on the basis of wild speculations. We construct elaborate causal explanations for phenomena whose existence is under supported by the evidence. We mistake correlations for causation. And we leap to theorize about some alleged pattern of events before we have evidence that anything has occurred.

Against the backdrop of all of this promiscuous and faulty belief formation, we do a systematically bad job of inferring conclusions from the evidence. Just to identify a few of the long list of fallacious inferences that we regularly commit:

Confirmation bias: we have a pronounced tendency to pick out those events that we think provide us with evidence for a favored hypothesis while neglecting to find or ignoring evidence that would disprove it.

Magical thinking: We are highly prone to attribute magical powers of causation to our thoughts. We suspect that our negative thoughts about a person are causally responsible for bad things that might happen to them. And we credit positive outcomes to the fervent optimistic wishes we harbored beforehand in our minds.

Bias Blindness: We readily blame the reasoning mistakes of others on the presence of biases in their thinking while failing to acknowledge our own propensity to do the same.

Mistaking Changes in Self for Changes in the World: Upon noticing some different trend in events we are prone to attribute those changes to the presence of causal factors outside instead of recognizing that changes in our own thinking and attention would produce the same appearance of change.

The Failure of Introspection: We are demonstrably bad at identifying stimuli that have an important influence on our responses and beliefs. We are frequently unaware of our own stimulus responses that contribute to belief. And people are very bad judges of what they believe and why they believe it on the basis of introspection.

These fallacies and many more are corroborated by hundreds of carefully constructed psychological studies. The mistakes are manifest nowhere more flagrantly than in our religious beliefs. We form fallacious beliefs about miracles, prayers, blessings, punishments, God’s guiding hand in our lives, communications with God, evidence for God’s existence, attacks on non-believers and those of different religious faiths, and so on.

The single most effective and important tool that people have discovered for finding their way through the dark jungle of our faulty belief tendencies, biases, and mistakes is science. One and only one epistemological virtue governs the conduct of science, and it is this idea that represents our single greatest hope for liberation as a species: For every hypothesis that we take to be true we must do everything in our power to find disconfirming evidence, if it is out there, to undermine it. Only when we have repeatedly vetted an idea from every angle, sought out all the possible alternative explanations, and tried to disprove it every way we can do we provisionally accept it as supported by the evidence. And still we must remain prepared to abandon the belief if new evidence demands it. The goal in science is always to try to pull the rug out from under our feet. We must find new, better information that will overturn what we take to be true. Believing is easy. But resisting the temptation to believe and exhausting every available bit of evidence to disconfirm takes vigilance, self-discipline, and a rejection of dogma.

Religious believing, by contrast, tends to exhibit every epistemic vice that science strives to eliminate. Believing by faith, ignoring the evidence, overcoming doubts, refusing to change your mind in the light of new information are actively sought within religion instead of being a source of embarrassment. Adherents cling to the edicts of authority, instead of holding all claims up to the harsh light of blind, peer-review. With a thousand actions, when we practice religion we train ourselves to be poor reasoners. We chant slogans that we don’t believe, we stifle questions and skeptical inquiry, and we struggle to accept that which we know isn’t so. Religious believing represents our worst epistemic habits and vices, science embodies our best.

The insidious and widely popular view that religious believing and science are compatible disguises a dangerous urge in us that would destroy the one greatest hope for humanity. Science and religion are not compatible. They represent fundamentally different approaches to the question of human knowledge. Religion would have us accept on authority without analysis, suppressing doubts. Religion would have us accept the principles of dogmatic doctrine and then make everything else we encounter conform to that unyielding and indefeasible set of claims. Science is a method for analyzing, testing, corroborating, and rejecting hypotheses. Science is never about slavishly conforming to ideas that we have resolved to hold on to no matter what evidence arises. No claim in science is immune to criticism, disproof, and analysis. And if any hypothesis cannot withstand the harsh light of disconfirmation, then it must be rejected. More than anything else that humans have discovered, the scientific method for understanding the world has proven to be successful, accurate, and beneficial.


Here’s a very short list of some of the research on the failings of human reasoning:

Boynton, David M. “Superstitious responding and frequency matching in the positive bias and gambler’s fallacy effects,” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 91 (2003) 119–127

Eibach, Richard P., Libby, Lisa K., and Gilovich, Thomas D., “When Change in the Self Is Mistaken for Change in the World”

Emily Pronin, Daniel Y. Lin, Lee Ross, “The Bias Blind Spot: Perceptions of Bias in Self Versus Others,” PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY BULLETIN, 369-381

Fessler, Daniel M.T. *, Pillsworth, Elizabeth G., Flamson, Thomas J., “Angry men and disgusted women: An evolutionary approach to the influence of emotions on risk taking,” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 95 (2004) 107–123

Gilovich, Thomas, “Biased Evaluation and Persistence in Gambling,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1983, Vol. 44, No. 6, 1110-1126

Gilovich, Thomas and Kenneth Savitzky, "Like Goes with Like: The role of representativeness in erroneous and pseudoscientific beliefs," Skeptical Inquirer, March April 1996.

Gilovich, Thomas, Vallone, Robert, and Tversky, Amos. “The Hot Hand in Basketball: On the Misperception of Random Sequences,” Cognitive Psychology, 17, 295-314 (1985)

Kermer ,Deborah A., Driver-Linn, Erin, Wilson, Timothy D., and Gilbert Daniel T., Loss Aversion Is an Affective Forecasting Error,” Psychological Science Volume 17—7—Number 8 649-653

McCloskey, “Na├»ve Theory of Motion.” in D. Gentner and A. Stevens (eds), Mental Models, Hillsdale:Erlbaum, pp. 229-324.

Nisbett, Richard E. and Wilson, Timothy DeCamp, Telling More Than We Can Know: Verbal Reports on Mental Processes” Psychological Review, American Psychological Association, Inc., Vol. 94, No. 3, May, 1977

Pronin, Emily, “Perception and misperception of bias in human judgment” Trends in Cognitive Sciences Vol.11 No.1 37-43.

Pronin, Emily, Berger, Jonah, and Molouki, Sarah, “Alone in a Crowd of Sheep: Asymmetric Perceptions of Conformity and Their Roots in an Introspection Illusion,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 92, No. 4, 585-595, 2007.

Pronin, Emily, Gilovich, Thomas, Ross, Lee, Objectivity in the Eye of the Beholder: Divergent Perceptions of Bias in Self Versus Others,” Psychological Review, American Psychological Association 2004, Vol. 111, No. 3, 781–799

Pronin, Wegner, McCarthy, Rodriguez, “Everyday Magical Powers: The Role of Apparent Mental Causation in the Overestimation of Personal Influence” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2006, Vol. 91, No. 2, 218–231

Schwartz, Barry. “The Tyranny of Choice,” Scientific American, April 2004. 70-75

Tversky, Amos and Kahneman, Daniel, “Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases,” Science, New Series, Vol. 185, No. 4157, (Sep. 27, 1974), pp. 1124-1131

Tversky, Amos and Kahneman, Daniel, “The Framing of Decisions and the Psychology of Choice,” Science, New Series, Vol. 211, No. 4481, (Jan. 30, 1981), pp. 453-458

Wason, P.C., Shapiro, D. (1966). "Reasoning", in Foss, B. M.: New horizons in psychology. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Wason, P.C. (1971). "Natural and contrived experience in a reasoning problem". Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 23: 63–71.

Wheatley, Thalia, and Haidt, Jonathan, “Hypnotic Disgust Makes Moral Judgments More Severe,” 2005 American Psychological Society 16—Number 10 780-784

Willis, Janine and Todorov, Alexander, “First Impressions Making Up Your Mind After a 100-Ms Exposure to a Face, ‘ Volume 17, 2006 Association for Psychological Science 7

Friday, May 2, 2008

The New Ten Commandments

Now With 100% Less God!


1. Treat others as ends in themselves, never as mere means. (Kant)


2. A man [should]be willing, when others are so too, as far forth as for peace and defense of himself he shall think it necessary, to lay down this right to all things; and be content with as much liberty with others as he would allow them against him.(Hobbes)


3. “If a being suffers, there can be no moral justification for refusing to take that suffering into consideration. . . . The principle of equality requires that its suffering be counted equally with the like suffering of any other being.” (Singer)


4. Eudaimonia, or flourishing, for humanity can only be achieved by acquiring virtue with regard to that which sets us apart, or our capacity to guide our own behavior by reason. Fulfillment can be achieved by living well according to this essential nature over the span of a whole life. (Aristotle)


5. Act according to that principle that will promote the greatest happiness for the greatest number. (Mill)


6. Only have aversion for those things that are in your control If you are averse to sickness, or death, or poverty, you will be wretched. . . .If you desire any of the things which are not in your own control, you must necessarily be disappointed; and of those which are, and which it would be laudable to desire, nothing is yet in your possession. (Epictetus)


7. “Man first of all is the being who hurls himself toward a future and who is conscious of imagining himself as being in the future. Man is at the start a plan which is aware of itself, rather than a patch of moss, a piece of garbage, or a cauliflower; nothing exists prior to this plan; there is nothing in heaven; man will be what he will have planned to be." (Sartre)


8. It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and honorably and justly, and it is impossible to live wisely and honorably and justly without living pleasantly. (Epicurus)


9. Each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive basic liberty compatible with a similar liberty for others. And social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that : a) they are to be of the greatest benefit to the least-advantaged members of society b) offices and positions must be open to everyone under conditions of fair equality of opportunity (Rawls)


10. Refraining mutually from injury, exploitation, and putting one's will on a par with others, may lead to a certain degree of good conduct among individuals. But to make it a fundamental principle of society is a will to the denial of life, a principle of dissolution and decay. (Nietzsche)