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Thread: gentle help with disagreement requested

  1. #1
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    gentle help with disagreement requested

    First, there are ground rules here. I'm having trouble communicating. I do not want anyone to take sides or otherwise pass judgments.

    Second, this question is about the question, not about the content. Do not discuss the content of this question, besides the board rules, that isn't what I'm asking.

    OK, here's the problem. I've been asked in a PM the following question by an unnamed board member:

    "According to the gospels, Jesus said "Love thy neighbour as thyself". Which scientific experiment would you say has disproven this statement?"

    My response was that there wasn't a complete question there that could be answered. What was to be disproven?, that the statement was made?, that it meant something?, that it represented something? There was no way to answer other than to say, none, because it wasn't clear what was to be disproved. But that just felt like a totally manipulated answer because not knowing what about the statement was to be disproved I wasn't really able to answer, I would have been handicapped in answering.

    The person asking the question said it was a question that could be answered and drew the conclusion that I did not want to answer the question.

    So, I was wondering. Am I missing something? Or is the person with whom I am having trouble communicating missing something? I can't follow his train of thought as stated without speculating about intended meaning but either way, I thought I'd ask how clear this question is to someone else.

    I can guess what the intended meaning was but that isn't the issue. The issue is, does the above question, on its face value really amount to a question or is it an incomplete question in the form of a complete question? And could answering the question as it is stated lead to an answer that manipulates the person answering?

  2. #2
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    How can you disprove (or prove) an order / wish ("Love thy...")? This is, if I understand it correctly, a nonsensical question, and thus can not be answered in a reasonable manner.

  3. #3
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    Agreed. Unless it is taken as a historical question, the first part of the statement is philosophical. It is not within the realm of science so the question is meaningless. If it is a historical question, then that is a matter of historical evidence, not a specific experiment. Also, it is quite clear that there is text to that effect, so the existence of the text is not in doubt.

    "The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity." Abraham Lincoln

    I say there is an invisible elf in my backyard. How do you prove that I am wrong?

    The Leif Ericson Cruiser

  4. #4
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    What is this statement?

    I may be nit-parsing, but to me this statement refers to the whole sentence: According to the gospels, Jesus said...

    It's the only statment I see there that can have a true/false value.

    (The devil in me makes me think Jesus never said what was quoted because English wasn't spoken by anyone in that day.)
    0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 ...
    Skepticism enables us to distinguish fancy from fact, to test our speculations. --Carl Sagan

  5. #5
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    And even 01101001's (non-demonic ) interpretation is easily answerable through a casual glance: "Yes, it's written right here. So what?"

    It seems to me the original question is a non-sequitor (and a poorly veiled rhetorical trap) on the part of this unnamed correspondant.
    "Words that make questions may not be questions at all."
    - Neil deGrasse Tyson, answering loaded question in ten words or less
    at a 2010 talk MCed by Stephen Colbert.

  6. #6
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    Demands from unnamed sources do not cary much weight IMO. I've done it myself and felt a right git afterwords (not on this board rest assured)

    Pete

  7. #7
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    My beginner's opinion is that the statement that was offered is no different than saying:

    "'According to Dr Seuss, Sam will not eat green eggs and ham.' Is this correct?"

    There are two things that could be the point of the question. Did Sam really say that? or did Dr. Suess really assert that he said it. Dr Suess wrote that it was said, and we have to take the author's word for it.

    If the Question was really whether it was said at all, it is a history question and there wouldn't be a way to prove or disprove it without some form of written record that could be tested and dated to rule it out as a source of confirmation. I don't think any document could prove that the statement was made, because it was spoken and transcribed by another person; if it was spoken at all. It would need a confirmed sample of Sam's handwriting that matches the hadwritten document to even have a shot at being proven he did say it.
    I'm Not Evil.
    An evil person would do the things that pop into my head.

  8. #8
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    I concur that the only thing open to being proven is the entire statement in the quotations. The only answer available is that "Yes, according to the gospels, Jesus said that."

    I would add that outside of the gospels, it becomes a matter of faith, and is not subject to scientific inquiry (can not be proven or disproven that it was said).

    If it is just the "Love thy neighbor . . . " part that they are asking about; that is more along the order of a request or command; nothing to be proven or disproven there.

    Looks to me like you are being goaded into something.

  9. #9
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    I agree with everyone else. That Jesus said "Love thy neighbour..." is unfalsifiable. Science doesn't go there.

    If I were a cynic (and I very well may be), I'd say that this person is trying to get you to admit that science doesn't have all the answers, and then lead you down a slippery slope into a false dilemma. If it can't answer this, how can it answer that, or that, or that? And, since science cannot deny this part of their faith, it cannot deny any part of it. Earth is flat, and at the centre of the universe, was formed as we know it in 6 days, and we're not monkeys.

  10. #10
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    Ask him if science can prove that the BBC didn't report that David Icke said that he was the son of God and what it would mean if "science" couldn't?

  11. #11
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    Re: gentle help with disagreement requested

    Quote Originally Posted by worzel
    Ask him if science can prove that the BBC didn't report that David Icke said that he was the son of God and what it would mean if "science" couldn't?
    Works for me.

    Son of a gun!

    Yet another enigmatic conundrum offered as evidence that we don't know anything.

    This gets quite tiresome after a ..., well, it's already quite tiresome.

    My reply?

    Your proposition makes no sense. Please rephrase.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tog_
    "'According to Dr Seuss, Sam will not eat green eggs and ham.' Is this correct?"
    [pointless diversion]No, it's not correct. "Sam I am" is the one trying to persuade the unnamed narrator to eat green eggs and ham, and so presumably likes them himself, though I suppose that's never explicitly stated, if someone is interested in picking even smaller nits than I have here. [/pointless diversion]

    On the question at hand, when given an ambiguous question to which a partial answer may seem to state something I didn't intend to imply, my inclination is to give as full an answer as possible, making all possible interpretations clear. So, I'd start by pointing out that if the questioner is merely asking if science somehow shows that the gospels do not make this claim, then it's clear that science does no such thing, and it's obvious that the gospels do indeed state that Jesus said that. If instead the questioner is asserting that Jesus was a real historical figure who made that statment, I'd point out that there is probably evidence on both sides of the issue (and I might provide links to such evidence), but that it's really a historical question, not a scientific one. It's certainly possible that this was the case, but there is also evidence that the apparently eyewitness accounts of the gospels may have been written many years after the events in question. And if the questioner was intending to ask whether "love thy neighbor" is a tenet that everyone should accept, then I'd make it clear that science is about explaining the universe that we see, and so has nothing in particular to say about prescriptions of behavior or ethics. At the most, science might be able to make predictions about what might occur if certain types of behavior were accepted as the norm, but it's not an endeavor that is intended to, or capable of, making determinations about what is good or bad.

    Perhaps I've strayed too far over the line of talking about the content of the statement itself here, and if so, I apologize. But I thought it would be simplest to explain how I'd handle such a question by example. Sometimes just saying "that question isn't clear" doesn't help move the conversation forward, and though I wouldn't consider it an evasion, someone else might accuse you of that. So explain why the question isn't clear, give all the possible interpretations that you can think of, and ask them which one they meant, or if they meant something entirely different. And if you're feeling like moving things along as much as possible, answer all those possible meanings ahead of time.

  13. #13
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    That's definitely a question that would have to be answered with a question or three, although you can pretty well immediately say that none of the content is fully open to scientific investigation.
    Does the Bible record that...?
    Did Jesus say...?
    or perhaps what would be the only interesting question to answer:
    Should you love your neighbour as yourself?
    And since this is emphatically a question of morals, science will not answer until you attach a measurable objective, eg:
    On average, does loving your neighbour as yourself make you richer/happier/longer-living/fatter/taller etc.
    -- but not just "a better person", since that's not objectively measurable.

    [content observation]
    Game theory suggests that social interactions are best approached positively to start with, but that does assume a simple metric of how well a social interaction has succeeded.
    [/content observation]

    [pedantry]
    Jesus said nothing of the sort, of course, since English was not available at the time. He might have said something (in Aramaic, with a Nazarene accent?) which can be translated that way.
    [/pedantry]

  14. #14
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    Is rabbi giving command on way for life to students, prove nothing. Rabbi may make same command for rock, plant, tiger.

    For proof, need scientific investigation to povide evidence indicate human capable or incapable to carry out command.

    Significant evidence show rock do not carry out. Evidence mixed for people.

  15. #15
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    Assuming we are dealing with just the "Love thy neighbor as thyself" portion, it's a command, and so does not have a truth value. It's like asking science to disprove "Go to the store".

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by beskeptical
    The person asking the question said it was a question that could be answered and drew the conclusion that I did not want to answer the question.
    You may have already done this, beskep, but my response would have been to ask what was their answer. If they thought it could be answered, they must have some sort of answer in mind. That would be a starting point for further discussion--maybe convincing you that there is an answer, or maybe allowing you to understand why your idea of "an answer" doesn't agree with theirs.

  17. #17
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    Jesus said: "Love thy neighbour as you love thyself." It can't by neither true nor false! It is not a statement in the narrow meaning of the word, neither it is a predicate, so you can't tell whether it is true or false, therefore you can't prove or disprove it. This kind of sentence is called an imperative.

    Let's take the Three Rules of Robotics as an example.

    "A robot must not make a harm to a human being neither by acting nor by not taking any actions." You can't say whether these ar true or false, because it is an imperative. It means that a robot must act this way and any other acting is erratic. But you can't prove this statement neither disprove it. All you can do is prove or disprove a statement "The First Law of Robotics is erratic" - which is a statement, not an imperative.

    I hope you see what I'm talking about.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grey
    If instead the questioner is asserting that Jesus was a real historical figure who made that statment, I'd point out that there is probably evidence on both sides of the issue (and I might provide links to such evidence), but that it's really a historical question, not a scientific one.
    Objection, your honour! History is a science as well, though not an exact one.

    Sorry for the diversion, please continue...

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fram
    Objection, your honour! History is a science as well, though not an exact one.

    Sorry for the diversion, please continue...
    History if science if facts known. Determine what is facts very difficult sometime.

  20. #20
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    True! But looking for the facts is the best part ;-

  21. #21
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    Didn't we already have this "is history a science?" debate on the Bad History thread?

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kristophe
    I agree with everyone else. That Jesus said "Love thy neighbour..." is unfalsifiable. Science doesn't go there.

    If I were a cynic (and I very well may be), I'd say that this person is trying to get you to admit that science doesn't have all the answers, and then lead you down a slippery slope into a false dilemma. If it can't answer this, how can it answer that, or that, or that? And, since science cannot deny this part of their faith, it cannot deny any part of it. Earth is flat, and at the centre of the universe, was formed as we know it in 6 days, and we're not monkeys.
    I felt the same about the intent, but I'm asking about the question. What isn't falsifiable? There is no question put forth about faith to be addressed. Do you see a question put forth?

    If you do then you see what the other party sees and I don't. Do you see where the question asks about faith? And if so, what is the question in different words?

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by hhEb09'1
    You may have already done this, beskep, but my response would have been to ask what was their answer. If they thought it could be answered, they must have some sort of answer in mind. That would be a starting point for further discussion--maybe convincing you that there is an answer, or maybe allowing you to understand why your idea of "an answer" doesn't agree with theirs.
    So far that request has not been responded to.

    Neither was any request to clarify 'what' about the statement was science to address.

    That's why I'm asking for other opinions. I've been accused of refusing to answer despite protesting there was not a complete question there to address.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Walrus
    Didn't we already have this "is history a science?" debate on the Bad History thread?
    Remember this isn't about content, it's about identifying a question.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by beskeptical
    So far that request has not been responded to.
    I'd leave it at that, and not worry about it.

    They're a friend of yours, right?

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grey
    ...

    Perhaps I've strayed too far over the line of talking about the content of the statement itself here, and if so, I apologize. ...
    A little but I appreciate the effort. Answering all the possible speculations about what the question really meant wasn't the point of the thread and not the issue at hand.

    But you make the point that one cannot answer without changing the incomplete question into a complete question by adding what about the statement is to be answered.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by 01101001
    What is this statement?

    I may be nit-parsing, but to me this statement refers to the whole sentence: According to the gospels, Jesus said...

    It's the only statment I see there that can have a true/false value.

    ..
    So technically, the answer would be, science would review a copy of "the gospels" and verify the passage is there. That is all that can be deduced as being asked from the way the question is worded.

  28. #28
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    Thank you all for your answers and assistance. It's much appreciated.

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by beskeptical
    A little but I appreciate the effort. Answering all the possible speculations about what the question really meant wasn't the point of the thread and not the issue at hand.

    But you make the point that one cannot answer without changing the incomplete question into a complete question by adding what about the statement is to be answered.
    Right. So my specific recommendation was that you not simply stop with "this isn't a complete question, I can't answer it", but instead move to "maybe you mean this, in which case my answer would be this, or maybe you instead mean this, in which case this is my answer, or...". Pace's idea isn't bad either.

  30. #30
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    Modern english didn't exist at the time, so there's no chance whatsoever that Jesus said "Love thy neighbour as thyself".
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