Monday, June 16, 2008

Out of internet, not able to think?

I am traveling right now, and I am not able to have a consistent Internet connection. If you are an Internet addict like me, I am sure you can realize that this is actually a distressing situation. So many little tidbits of information that I want to verify that I am putting in my PDA to check later, so many events that I want to check on that I can’t. This obviously made me think about the correlation between thinking and information. Obviously that we need certain data to start our reasoning pathways, but do we really need further data along the process? In cases of, for example, scientific reasoning, there is an structural necessity for new data to continue the reasoning process, although the beginning of it could be based (I can tell you by experience!) in false, incomplete or in certain occasions even non-existent data. There was this idealistic view in the past about scientific knowledge, where the investigator, this god-like figure, only observed the phenomena that occurred around him, and after he/she obtained the data, then, and only then,she/he was able to postulate a hypothesis. Obviously time and behavioral/sociological investigation has shown us that this is a fallacy. Popper and Kuhn with their incisive thinking about science and the scientific process also gave us the philosophical bases to sustain this observations.
But what about other types of thought processes, like rhetorical, “day to day” thinking, or even theological/artistically thinking. You could say that Socrates always was asking questions to the public/disciples/poor victims, but I have the clear impression that he knew perfectly where he wanted to go with his line of reasoning and the questioning was only to give him more time to exercise (yep, the peripatetic school of philosophy must have had a very low rate of cardiovascular disease). That is one of the reasons why I agree completely with Bertrand Russell when he mentions that Socrates (or Plato if you think that Socrates was only a figment in Plato’s imagination, this obviously I will leave to other more knowledgeable people to discuss) was a really hypocritical philosopher. I still remember the first time I read Russell’s commentary about Socrates, I was so shocked, but at the same time relieved that somebody with a much bigger intellectual stature than I was having a similar opinion of Socrates. Coming back to my main point, Socrates had a thought pathway already planned from the beginning, and with his talent for conducting a discussion, he guided other people to reach the conclusions he already had (again, this is my opinion on Socrates’ discussion technique, I am sure than there are people that will disagree). This shows a reasoning pattern that looks like it “needs” outside data, but it actually doesn’t.
Artistic reasoning, on the other hand, seems to me that requires constant information feedback due to the nature of the beast. I’ve have not know of somebody that can paint a remarkable piece without reevaluating constantly what they have done and their interaction with their subject until now.
Why should we care about the interaction between information and thinking processes? Well, while I was thinking about it, I realize that it’s an essential factor to decide how to proceed with certain thought pathways compared to others. I could see this mainly by analysis of my reasoning mistakes.
On my own thinking, I’ve realized that due to my poor training for it, I have troubles separating my styles of argumentation, this leading to dumb reasoning mistakes. For example my logical arguments are contaminated by statistical data or life experience data, leading to horrible conclusions, and some of my life experience evaluations are botched by trying to “logicate” them, that is using logic in a realm not appropriate for it.
I’ve also seen/read other peoples’ mistakes (at least I consider them as mistakes) in this same realm. For example, in Dawkins’s book the god delusion, which I’ve read only some parts, you can see this. As a caveat, I have to admit that I am aware that evolutionary theory is a scientific fact, just like gravity, although for the mechanism of it, there still lot to know (intelligent design is NOT an alternative, it is more like a nice tale to tell your children, but it is NOT a scientific theory unless they come up with a way of falsifying the idea of God, which until now I have not read about). I do not want to discuss at this time the topic of Neo-Darwinism/evolutionary theory versus ID, although I am sure that if somebody read this and cares enough about the topic I am going to hear more than I would like. I will probably talk about it in the future, as is very near to my scientific principles)
Returning to my argument about Dawkins’ book, you can see how he proceeds to explain in a very consistent fashion his arguments of a non directional evolutionary process. This he does by using scientific evidence which is completely fine by my reasoning process. He also tries to use sociological /historical arguments to prove the worth (or lack)of the social institutions that maintain religions as a structure for living. Some of them are OK, some of them are kind of weak, but sadly the research there is in its infancy. But then he proceeds to use this data to support some of his value arguments about the importance of the idea of God. And this is where I think that he is not reasoning in an adequate fashion. Value argument are based on your opinions about a certain topic, in this case God. The fact that the church may or may not be harmful for us as a group is a completely different aspect in the realm of thinking than the usefulness or value of God as an idea. I think that he is completely entitled to give the idea of God a certain personal value, but I don’t think that his arguments are the appropriate ones in a thinking-as-a-procedure kind of way to prove the value of it.
Another thing that sounds like a reasoning hole to me is the conflation of the value of God as an idea and the value of the hypothesis of the existence of God in our reality or not. The opinion (I actually wrote fact on the first go, then I realized that I was making the same mistake, you see, it is so easy to make those) that you may or may not appreciate the idea of a god has nothing to do with your argumentation of his/her/its existence.
You shouldn't use the evidence/techniques from a realm of thinking in a different realm, at least not directly, as it leads in some occasions to improper conclusions. I really consider that different types of thinking need different type of information, and even, that they actually may be dependent differently from influx of information, some of them needing continuous feed back and some of them needing only the basal information. I have not found a logical argument against this, neither scientific one, although it’s not my domain of expertise, and this is where YOU come from, dear reader, to debunk/find holes in my reasoning. Oh I am sure there must be some, but hopefully I will be able to improve.
And that is what I think…
Time to think another thought

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