Apart from causing discussion, I'm not sure what this scale achieves
Apart from causing discussion, I'm not sure what this scale achieves
I think it's a useful way of thinking about beliefs and the justification for them.
I tend to do a similar thing myself. I break things down into both a rational and an empirical component in order to take a position on things.
For example, the question "is there life on other planets" has zero empirical evidence to support it. So, do I therefore decide that life doesn't exist on other planets? Well, no. That's because a good rational argument can be made in favour (as well as against) so I'm quite prepared to believe that life could well exist in other parts of the universe.
What about homeopathy? There is some evidence that it works. Not very good evidence but there is evidence nonetheless. So why do I dismiss it completely? Well, there's no good rational argument that can be made for it working and everything we know about the laws of nature predicts that it couldn't work. So the fact that there is some evidence for it strongly suggests that the evidence is due to false positive, noise in the data etc.
And I could come up with more combinations but the point is that belief (accepting the truth value of something) has more than one component and it's a good idea to examine beliefs as multi-faceted rather than just a dichotomous believe/don't believe angle.
From the OP
Why not give a score of 10,000, in fact give a score of 500,000. And for each score which is given to one side give a negative score to the other. This is a nonsense. Do try looking at the mass of evidence and you might conclude that the a young earth creationist idiot would score such a low figure that it would be indescribable without Latex.The cumulative mass of evidence from many areas of research that life, the Universe and all that have developed over a huge period of time is strong enough to score plus four; the belief that all of this was created in six days about six thousand years ago is therefore clearly a minus four proposition.
It is usually journalists who come up with this sort of thinking. I have an internationally reknowned scientist giving a point of view, how do I balance it? I know, a reflexologist. Faeces
My my, what a constructive, intelligent and civilised response ???
Surely, god would score -4. No evidence, not rational basis, simply not possible to disprove as unfalsefiable - same as fairies etc. While zero would represent the possibility that there are creatures of sizes similar to whales undiscovered in the oceans.
The art of medicine consists in amusing the patient while nature cures the disease. Voltaire
The theory of QED has been used to predict various numbers. The further the theory is pushed to increase the precision of those numbers the better it is matched by the experimental evidence. What scale would you apply to this theory?
The theory of evolution also predicts certain things. It predicted that Tiktaalik would be found in a certain geologic strata. To within a few millions of years, the prediction was correct. What scale do you apply to the TOE?
Do you have a mathematical equation that allows you to calculate your scale? Without that, all you have is a personal belief.
I agree with that. A simple way of evaluating the "firm evidence" (or lack of it) is what my scale is all about.The intelligent question is 'Does this belief fit in with our understanding of how the universe works?' If the answer to that question is 'no' then the next question is 'Is there any firm evidence that would make us change our understanding of how the universe works?' This is the falsifiable bit. It's the point that most purveyors of woo either cannot understand in relation to their own theory or use in a totally inappropriate way.
Certainly "personal belief" is involved, but that is backed by evidence. I believe that the Earth is a spheroid and not flat. I believe that the universe is many billions of years old, that life has evolved over a long period of time and that natural selection has played a vital role in that.Do you have a mathematical equation that allows you to calculate your scale? Without that, all you have is a personal belief.
But there are other who believe, with equal certainty, that everything was created by God only six thousand years ago. The purpose of my scale is simply to demonstrate, in a way which most people could understand, that not all beliefs are equally supported by evidence, and that an attempt should be made to evaluate the available evidence before reaching conclusions. It's not sophisticated, and is not meant to be: that would defeat the purpose. You can certainly argue with some of the suggested rankings because a degree of opinion is involved, but that's what I posted the link for.
Finally, being uncivilised is nothing to be proud of; it is a major character flaw. Civilisation, and the behaviour which sustains that, is something we should all be trying to uphold. Otherwise we slide back into barbarity, as events in less fortunate parts of the world keep demonstrating.
Even assuming you get people to agree on 'scores' for particular subjects, which are subjective, I still don't see where it gets you. Homeopathy is -3, say. What does that tell anyone?
A military man, on reading the article, commented that it reminded him of a rating system used to evaluate the reliability of intelligence information, which seems to be quite a close parallel.
No, sorry, I don't get it. You can't reduce a complex argument to a star rating.
Now, just because it doesn't fullfill the objective you might set for it doesn't mean it's useless.
Tony has mentioned some of the objectives in passing - getting people to realise that not all forms or evidence are of equal value - to get people thinking and discussing.
At first glance it may well do that but is hardly unique in that respect. I find no intrinsic reason why it couldn't possible have that effect but one the other hand I've yet to see positive evidence that it's of any notable effect. What rating does it give it's own effectiveness in these stated goals?
Clearly reducing complex arguments to a star rating is not an objective.
I can see something like this being quite useful in an educational context - perhaps as a diagram to show schoolchildren, which might provoke debate about the distinction between faith-based and evidence-based conclusions.
I thought that one of the most striking things about the recent Richard Dawkins TV series was the opening sequence, where the students were talking about how 'science told them to believe certain things', and so on. They genuinely didn't seem to distinguish between the scientific method of enquiry and the experience of believing religious statements because that was what they'd been told. As far as they were concerned, both science and religion were just telling them what to believe, and they didn't have sufficient insight to distinguish between the different categories of information.
I could see a visual tool, such as the one Tony proposes, being very helpful in clarifying that distinction and encouraging classroom discussion.