A Reasonable Explanation to Not Believe in the Human Soul

  • swimbikerun

    Posts: 2835

    Aug 23, 2008 5:13 AM GMT
    'Skeptics frequently talk about Occam's Razor. They use it to choose between alternative explanations for something, especially where no one alternative has been either proven or disproven. But what is it?

    Many people will tell you it says, "Choose the simplest solution". But it doesn't say choose the simplest solution. Opponents of Occam complain that it will not necessarily help you choose the correct solution. But Occam's Razor does not pretend to choose the correct solution. So what is it and what is its point?

    Occam's Razor actually says:

    "Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate",

    which is translated as

    "plurality should not be posited without necessity."

    The words are those of the medieval English philosopher and Franciscan monk William of Ockham (ca. 1285-1349).

    The archaic English needs to be interpreted for modern times. What it means is this:

    Do not invent unnecessary entities to explain something.

    An example

    Suppose I have a cat. One night, I leave out a saucer of milk, and in the morning the milk has gone. No one saw who or what drank the milk. Lets say there are two possibilities:

    1. The cat drank it
    or
    2. The milk fairy drank it

    Occam tells us to reject option 2. This is because option 2 requires us to invent an unnecessary entity - the milk fairy. It is an invention because we have no proof that the milk fairy exists. And it is unnecessary because there is a plausible explanation that does not require the milk fairy - the cat. (We know he exists.)

    Note: we haven't proven that the cat drank the milk. Or disproven the milk fairy option. Strictly speaking, we keep an open mind about both options. But Occam says that if you insist it could be the milk fairy, you have invented an unnecessary entity. And why would you do that?

    Note also that strictly speaking, both solutions are equally simple. The cat hypothesis is only simpler in that you haven't had to invent a new, unproven entity. Also note that there are additional options that we could choose if we abandon Occam. For example, it could have been ghosts, or aliens, or the boogieman or Santa Claus. Why choose one of these over the others when there is an equal lack of proof for any of them?

    Occam Applied

    Occam can be applied to a myriad of supposed paranormal events, including ghosts, psychics, UFOs, people who talk with the dead, reincarnation, the soul, spoon benders, near death and out of body experiences. Usually, the paranormal explanation for these phenomena cannot be disproven, and this is often given as the reason we should consider the paranormal explanation. But Occam says go with the natural explanation for now, until any new evidence challenges it. But if there is a natural explanation and you believe, without proof, that the paranormal one is possible, you are inventing the milk fairy. '

    ---http://www.skepticreport.com/skepticism/occamsrazor.htm
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    Aug 23, 2008 11:27 AM GMT
    Perhaps this would be why Occam's philosophy was investigated for heresy (but apparently not officially condemned).
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    Aug 23, 2008 1:03 PM GMT
    That's a good layman's summary, but someone with "faith" won't be swayed.

    Also, did you have to use a cat in the example? Do you know how many graphics of ceiling cat we're likely to endure?
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    Aug 23, 2008 1:15 PM GMT
    8531.jpg
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    Aug 23, 2008 1:16 PM GMT
    1969er saidThat's a good layman's summary, but someone with "faith" won't be swayed.

    Also, did you have to use a cat in the example? Do you know how many graphics of ceiling cat we're likely to endure?


    Notthisshitagain.jpg
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    Not_This_Shit_Again.jpg
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    Aug 23, 2008 1:34 PM GMT
    Breaking news from skepticreport.com.....
    We can't prove or disprove anything either.... so , ummm... have a good one and please visit our sponsors.


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    Aug 23, 2008 2:29 PM GMT
    and if you follow the razor too closely, we'd never have the Theory of Relativity...so suck it!
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    Aug 23, 2008 2:33 PM GMT
    So now tell me how you come up with "A Reasonable Explanation to Not Believe in the Human Soul"

    I want to hear your explanation, not just "see above." I know what Occam's Razor says. But apply it to not believing in the human soul, please, like with the milk and cat story.
  • CAtoFL

    Posts: 834

    Aug 23, 2008 2:38 PM GMT
    What? There's no Milk Fairy? icon_eek.gif
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    Aug 23, 2008 3:12 PM GMT
    Dont worry psCalif there is a tooth fairy still?


    Thats all bullshit because i have seen the so called dead ok?


    And UFO also or maybe it was the cats milk bowl flying?
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    Aug 23, 2008 3:25 PM GMT

    Occam's Razor somehow disproves the existence of the soul?

    I guess that depends on your definition of 'soul', which can also mean self. In fact, soul is often considered self.

    So the opening statement then makes little sense to me:

    "A Reasonable Explanation to Not Believe in the Human Self."

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    Aug 23, 2008 3:28 PM GMT
    Occam's razor is actually quite simple: Don't jump to conclusions.

    Something people do when faced with the unexplainable. They just stick a convenient story behind it so that it gets rationalized and can become part of rationalization.

    e.g. The saucer of milk was drunk by the milk fairy.

    This now becomes a valid argument in the eyes of those who made it and thus can be used in other instances, for example:

    • The cat is getting thinner everyday, that must be because the milk fairy is stealing his saucer of milk.

    • A whole carton of milk just disappeared from the fridge last night, it must be because the milk fairy was particularly hungry.

    • My neighbor told me that a gallon of orange juice she left out on her porch disappeared last night. It must be the milk fairy's cousin, the orange juice fairy


    It's why the mythologies of religion are so complex because as one erroneous explanation is applied as the premises of another erroneous explanation it becomes one big convoluted mess.

    Oh what tangled webs we weave...

    Things like: Hera hated Heracles which was why he was subjected to a lot of challenges but in the end Zeus recognizes his son and brings him to Olympus. (sounds more like a telenovela eh?), and it's only one of the simpler plots of greek mythology.

    Or how about, if you walk under a ladder, backtrack immediately so you will regain the luck you have lost and it's recommended to throw salt over your shoulder.

    Or how about leaving milk and cookies for Santa Claus and a sock for treats and you don't get presents that's because you've been a really naughty boy.

    Or how about the elaborate cleansing and prayer rituals of muslims?

    Or the partaking of the wafer... er host... on Sunday with wine to celebrate Jesus' last supper and it's supposed to be his flesh and blood as evidenced by that miracle in which the host started bleeding. Ouch.

    Hasty conclusions originate superstitions, superstitions originate folklore, folklore originate religions.

    If only they took the time to take the simplest explanations, the whole flimsy house of cards built on ridiculous premises that we call religion would never have existed.

    And tommysguns, Relativity was built on existing valid premises which would pass the Occam's razor test, religion is not.
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    Aug 23, 2008 3:32 PM GMT
    Since even believers can't agree on a definition of a soul, nor does anyone know where it is, or what it looks like, or what it does, or what it means. . . .

    I think it's reasonable to say there's no such thing. But I also think the "explaining" part is for those making the claim. So if you say there's a soul. . . present your evidence.

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    Aug 23, 2008 3:33 PM GMT
    What's being ignored in favor of Occam is the option to wait six hours for further emerging evidence: if the cat (assuming it's an adult cat) starts squirting diahrrea into the litter box, you have PROOF he drank the milk.

    Occam is supposition applied to theory. Diahrrea is evidence and, therefore, proof.

    I like detective novels. Yes, I know... it's a shitty analogy (OHHH, couldn't resist!)
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    Aug 23, 2008 3:37 PM GMT


    This from Webster's dictionary:

    1: the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life
    2 a: the spiritual principle embodied in human beings, all rational and spiritual beings, or the universe
    3: a person's total self
    4 a: an active or essential part b: a moving spirit : leader
    5 a: the moral and emotional nature of human beings b: the quality that arouses emotion and sentiment c: spiritual or moral force : fervor

    So I'd need clarification from the OP.
    Our Sed has looked at this in a religious context; we haven't.
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    Aug 23, 2008 3:42 PM GMT
    That said, I have seen a UFO. icon_lol.gif

    But even then, I do not immediately conclude that the strange light in the sky I saw was an extraterrestrial spacecraft, or maybe a host of angels practicing synchronized flying. I still gravitate toward the simpler explanations - it might be an unknown natural phenomenon like ball lightning, or simply something artificial like the Chinese conducting tests of new aircraft (LOL) or someone with a really powerful light source playing with it on the clouds.

    The main difference is that I recognize that it is UNKNOWN and I can't explain it. I do not give it a convenient rash explanation that is based solely on supposition without facts. Therein lies the rift in the thinking between a skeptic and a believer.

    It is an UNKNOWN factor, and thus can't be used in future rationalizations. I simply relegate it to the whole slew of UNKNOWNS in the back of my mind waiting for explanation. Worth wasting time investigating probably when the means are possible, but not worthy in itself as a premise.

    I remember an incident where a statue of the virgin mary started to ooze a reddish substance from her eyes. It was proclaimed as a miracle. Yet priests wouldn't let anybody touch it nor analyze it. The reason was found out later that it was rust stains or somesuch and not blood (I was very young when the issue came out). There you see that most of the religious are afraid of finding out the real reason and are much more prone to make another unsupported explanation so that it will fit in more comfortably into their own web of unsupported explanations.

    Afraid to open the eyes and see that the things they hold sacred are much more mundane phenomena.

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    Aug 23, 2008 3:44 PM GMT
    meninlove said
    So I'd need clarification from the OP.
    Our Sed has looked at this in a religious context; we haven't.


    You make a good point. Religion does not own the soul but it is constantly referenced in these sorts of discussions.
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    Aug 23, 2008 3:45 PM GMT
    funny pictures
  • nerdalert

    Posts: 54

    Aug 23, 2008 3:45 PM GMT
    Caslon6000 saidSo now tell me how you come up with "A Reasonable Explanation to Not Believe in the Human Soul"

    I want to hear your explanation, not just "see above." I know what Occam's Razor says. But apply it to not believing in the human soul, please, like with the milk and cat story.


    I am with Caslon. You have just copied an article that does not have much to do with the title. Yes, it mentions the soul but only in the most casual way. Perhaps you could put some original thought into this and describe how Occam's razor theory actually affirms your disbelief in the human soul... with an example pertaining to your subject rather than a cat at the milk bowl.
    You have made it clear that YOU believe it doesn't exist in your previous postings but this article only states that it is much easier and more logical to believe what is proven rather than create a "mythical" experience to explain the unexplained. This reasoning is nothing innovative or enlightening.
    Turning your back on every illogical experience or unexplained theory and simply choosing the most simplistic answer based on what we already assume to be correct would deny most of the advances we make as human beings in our quest to understand the universe.
    Ultimately every discovery just leads to more confusion.
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    Aug 23, 2008 3:52 PM GMT
    meninlove: I'm talking about it in the religious context but not specifically. I did not even cover the soul. LOL

    Funny thing is, the Old testament (read: jewish) version of the soul is not this immortal invisible thing that outlives the flesh, but simply life itself (as evidenced by the terminology used in which the term is synonymous with 'Breath' and 'Living Thing'). When one dies, the soul DIES with it. The concept of resurrection for them is really resurrection - reconstituting the body and thus the mind/soul with no out-of-body consciousness in between. Christians think that as soon as the body dies it goes to heaven. The old testament says that when the body dies, it dies, including the soul. It only goes to heaven at the apocalypse when it is resurrected.

    Note that that version of the soul fits in the provable spectra of science and that is Soul = Consciousness = Mind/Body.

    No purgatory, no ghosts, and whatnot. The modern myths of the soul is a hodgepodge of misconceptions, mistranslations, and superstitions.
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    Aug 23, 2008 4:00 PM GMT

    Thanks, Sed!

    That's why I felt it necessary for the OP to describe what he refers to when saying 'soul' - there are all kinds of interesting references to the word's origins.

    Ancient Greeks had it as 'psyche', as an example to add to your own.

    icon_smile.gif

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    Aug 23, 2008 4:00 PM GMT
    Sedative saidmeninlove: I'm talking about it in the religious context but not specifically. I did not even cover the soul. LOL

    Funny thing is, the Old testament (read: jewish) version of the soul is not this immortal invisible thing that outlives the flesh, but simply life itself (as evidenced by the terminology used in which the term is synonymous with 'Breath' and 'Living Thing'). When one dies, the soul DIES with it. The concept of resurrection for them is really resurrection - reconstituting the body and thus the mind/soul with no out-of-body consciousness in between. Christians think that as soon as the body dies it goes to heaven. The old testament says that when the body dies, it dies, including the soul. It only goes to heaven at the apocalypse when it is resurrected.

    Note that that version of the soul fits in the provable spectra of science and that is Soul = Consciousness = Mind/Body.

    No purgatory, no ghosts, and whatnot. The modern myths of the soul is a hodgepodge of misconceptions, mistranslations, and superstitions.


    Again sed, you are referencing religion when the OP has not suggested that this was a religious discussion. Knowing his penchant for stirring controversy, I am guessing that was his point, but for all practical purposes, the soul most certainly can die with the person or that energy can continue on. It can have an endless variety of ending places based on the fact that it is energy.
    You can"t disprove the souls existence simply because your can find fault in religion.
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    Aug 23, 2008 4:00 PM GMT
    As for arguments that science wouldn't have progressed this far if Occam's razor was consistently applied. Note that as zeebyaboi said, Occam's razor is only for usage in unexplainable phenomena at the absence of PROOF.

    When proof comes into play, it's a whole different ballgame. And it's called the Scientific Method.
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    Aug 23, 2008 4:05 PM GMT
    Sedative said

    The modern myths of the soul is a hodgepodge of misconceptions, mistranslations, and superstitions.



    EXACTLY... Why does everyone assume that they are relieved of this confusion and misunderstanding just because they believe they have it right.
    You can be no more certain than someone who believes can.
    That is the beauty and the curse of spirituality.
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    Aug 23, 2008 4:06 PM GMT
    mnjock, I'm making examples of religion because it is the direct opposite of Occam's razor. Note that I do not even make exclusive comparison with religion but also to mere superstition and folklore.

    I am not making a religious discussion, merely stating examples in the religious context.

    I could make a nonreligious example, like when a car suddenly stops, the driver assumes something's wrong with the Engine when it could actually be quite simple... no gas. LOL

    The applicability of Occam's razor is why it is necessary to always look at and prove/disprove the SIMPLEST explanation you can find as opposed to jumping immediately at the most complex reason (often unprovable).