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The Rationality of Worshipping Nessie

feanelwa recently shared this quiz about consistency of beliefs, which somehow I seem to have mostly made it through ok inspite of generally being all over the place.

Anyway before I get on with failing to accept where they tell me I'm wrong, let's add an extra question to their quiz:

Poll #1606918 Pretentious Philosophers

It is perfectly rational to want to brutally murder pretentious philosophers.

True
1(50.0%)
True
1(50.0%)


So, question 10 says:

If, despite years of trying, no strong evidence or argument has been presented to show that there is a Loch Ness monster, it is rational to believe that such a monster does not exist.


Now, to me, if you have a situation like this where you've got no strong evidence or argument to demonstrate the case either way, it's perfectly rational to believe either existence, non-existence or uncertainty. The one you choose is then a matter of belief. (Personally I don't believe in the Loch Ness monster, but am open to arguments to the contrary)

Hence this is true.

Now 12 says:

As long as there are no compelling arguments or evidence that show that God does not exist, atheism is a matter of faith, not rationality.


Now, again, to me, if you have a situation like this where you've got no strong evidence or argument to demonstrate the case either way, it's perfectly rational to believe either existence, non-existence or uncertainty. The one you choose is then a matter of belief. (Personally I don't believe in God, but am open to arguments to the contrary) (Can you tell I just cut and pasted that argument and swapped Nessie for God?)

Hence this is also true.

To me, my answers given the reasoning behind them are perfectly consistent, but apparently they're not. The answer to both questions would still be the same even if you swapped the being in question.

However, now I've have my intellectual inferiority pointed out to me, I will have to bow to the superiors and start worshiping Nessie as God.

I think this may be why I generally don't take internet quizzes...

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
cartesiandaemon
17th Aug, 2010 22:44 (UTC)
Hm. I'd not heard your argument that both believing Nessie and not believing Nessie are rational, but I agree it's correct (if you use a weaker meaning of belief than the one the quiz apparently assumes.)

I thought it was a very interesting idea, and very good for an internet quiz, but inevitably full of little uncertainties that make it inconsistent, especially when so many important questions hinge on varied usage of the same word in normal English.

In fact, perhaps an appropriate intermediate question would be "do you believe in the Loch [Somewhere Else] monster?" If you think all the evidence for (or against) a loch ness monster is spurious, is it more sensible to believe in the loch ness monster or the loch somewhere else monster? In fact, since people have LOOKED for the loch ness monster, it's probably more likely there's a large sea monster in a DIFFERENT body of water. But I think most people would be reasonably happy to assume there wasn't.

FWIW, I think, in the absence of evidence, and all the reasons why it's unlikely, it's correct to believe there probably isn't a large aquatic monster lurking, even though it's the sort of thing that MIGHT turn out to be true.
helflaed
18th Aug, 2010 08:50 (UTC)
Surely, due to their limited range of allowed responses, these quizzes are the antithesis of philosophy, as they stifle the well thought out arguments which should normally flow as a response to the questions. Some of the questions sound interesting though.
packbat
18th Aug, 2010 17:46 (UTC)
The problem is that the presentation is intelligent enough that the mistakes are aggravating.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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