What's the difference?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by StrangerInAStrangeLand, May 28, 2015.

  1. gmilam Valued Senior Member

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    Substitute "know" for "believe":

    a: I do not know that god exists
    b: I know that god does not exist

    These are obviously different statements. Why does changing "know" to "believe" make them equivalent?
     
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  3. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    If I was in your class I would ask to switch to someone who can grasp the difference that everyone else also seems capable of grasping.
    God is mostly held as an unscientific notion. But just because something is unscientific does not mean that it does not exist.
    We can ignore their assertions all we want. But as soon as we wish to make a positive assertion of them being wrong we have to support that assertion of ours.
    And therein lies the difference of "I do not believe that X does..." (no positive assertion) and "I believe that X does not..." (positive assertion, an explicit denial).
    Which speaks to non-belief - the not making any positive assertions - which is one of the interpretations of the "I do not believe that X does..."
    Yes, another interpretation, given the ambiguity, is that it is identical in meaning to "I believe that X does not...", but the ambiguity allows for the interpretation that we see and that you clearly seem unable to.
    Your disrespectful language earns you no favour, FR. You may not agree with those who hold theistic beliefs but please do not belittle them.
    It earns respect from anyone willing to expand their horizons and trying to appreciate how others might think, and what philosophies others might hold. Furthermore, through Popper's notions of Fallibilism it is brought up-to-date as a modern perspective on... what was it again... oh, yes... the Scientific Method.
    Give it respect or don't, FR. That's your prerogative. But your instant disdain is telling.
    Indeed - and an atheist who believes that God does not exist is making as much a positive assertion as the theist who claims that God does exist.
    The atheist who is not making a positive assertion is the one who merely says that they do not believe.
    One is an explicit denial (and thus a positive assertion), while the other is not.
    No - it is not unnecessary - they are making a positive claim. They are saying that they believe that God does not exist. The same way that I can claim that I believe that my television is not currently switched on. Only I am sure I can provide more evidence to support my claim.
    Your statement is akin to saying "I do not believe that X does..." but that differs (as most have been trying to explain) to the positive assertion of "I believe that X does not..."
    So what? Is atheism restricted to scientists? And since the matter of God's existence is accepted by most as being unscientific in nature, what does being a scientist have to do with it, other than informing the position that one might take: either making a positive claim of existence, a positive claim of non-existence, or no positive claim at all?
    Proof has very little to do with belief. Throughout this you are hung up on the notion of proof, and the scientific method, yet we are talking about belief (or not), and in a matter that is unscientific in nature.
    • Or that your other premises are flawed.
    And in this it's almost certainly easier for us all to simply agree to disagree with you.
     
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  5. Daecon Kiwi fruit Valued Senior Member

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    Belief that God does not exist - to justify that belief requires proving a negative.

    To simply not believe anything in the first place is a neutral position.
     
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  7. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Because if you do not know something, there are various possible reasons, including:

    a: You're not familiar with the subject matter
    b: You're familiar with it but you don't know enough about it to take a position
    c: You're familiar with it and you find that even the experts in the discipline are not in agreement on this particular point.

    But if you know something (or at least claim to), you are familiar with the subject matter (or again, at least claim to) and are qualified to speak on it.
    You're welcome to choose a teacher you find easier to understand. But be careful that in the process you don't always choose teachers with whom you agree. You learn less that way.
    Ever since macrocosmology (the study of universe and the space-time continuum, as opposed to microcosmology with its quarks and leptons), the origin of the universe and/or the space-time continuum has become an important issue. A large fraction of the human race (probably the majority) answer this question by saying "God made it," and going back to their religious wars. If "God made it" is sincerely presented as an answer to a scientific question, then we must be allowed to analyze it as a scientific answer.
    Poor combination of words. Matter and energy exist, but it isn't the matter and energy that are scientific; it's the way we study them.

    If gods and all the other preposterous creatures and phenomena in the world's holy books exist, then we can use science to study them. But given the fact that there is no respectable evidence to verify their existence (again, no one respects that scorched tortilla), then we have no grounds for using science to study them.

    In other words, it is not the space-time continuum and the gods that are or are not scientific. It is the way we study them.
    You guys are still looking for ways to ignore the scientific method. It is not necessary to prove a negative. We do not have to support our finding that God does not exist, when the religious idiots cannot provide any evidence that he does.
    Again, your grasp of semantics is a little weak. Have you ever taken an upper-level philosophy class?
    I think people who are so poorly raised and so poorly educated, that they still believe in fairy tales as adults, deserve as much disrespect as they receive.
    Instant??? My parents taught me that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Wizard of Oz and God were imaginary creatures when I was seven: 65 years ago.
    Again, your grasp of the scientific method is pitiful. I suppose out in daily life it doesn't matter (assuming that you're not a scientist, a quite reasonable assumption), but when you log onto a site that specializes in science, you really should be familiar with it so you don't embarrass yourself.
    Your comments would be perfectly reasonable, except for the fact that you are posting them on an internet forum that is about science.
    This isn't a university so we don't give grades. You can be as wrong as you want. What bothers me is that you will probably pass this bullshit on to your children, and we'll have more generations of religiously-inspired warfare.
     
  8. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    When it comes to matters of opinion, sure. When the teacher outright claims them to be wrong and can not seem to grasp why the pupil - and all the other pupils - disagree with him... that's a different matter.
    We do analyse it - and very quickly dismiss it as an unscientific answer involving an unscientific notion. That doesn't mean that it is not correct, however. Science can only examine scientific matters. Specific claims of God's abilities can be assessed using science, and there are varieties of god that can be studied scientifically (Greek pantheon on Mt. Olympus etc). So we have to examine what properties of God are being claimed, but God's existence itself is unscientific if God is deemed akin to "the original cause".
    No, it's a very precise combination of words with exactly the meaning I intended. Had I meant something different I would have written something different. So I'll say it again: being unscientific does not mean that something does (or did) not exist.
    There may be specific claims we can test, and the rational conclusion may be to conclude that there is no reason to accept them existing, but one can not... simply can not... use science to determine anything that happens before or outside (if either word is meaningful in context) the closed nature of the universe (that science has as a rather fundamental assumption).
    One does not need respectable evidence to verify their existence before one can use science to study them, there need only be hypotheses from which their existence can be established. The way that was done for any number of hypothesised phenomena.
    But God is generally held to be unscientific due to there being no possibility of evidence that can verify its existence. There lies the distinction.
    And if the scientific method can not be applied, from the outset, in any meaningful way to determine their existence, they are deemed unscientific. Are you struggling with this notion?
    Simply being made up of energy and matter does not make something scientific. To think that it does is a rather odd notion of what science is.
    No, it is you who doesn't understand that there are some notions that are simply outside the purview of the scientific method.
    What your ancestors did this day in 1347 at 6.45pm is not able to be tested through the scientific method, for example. Such matters are thus unscientific.
    Agreed. Noone disputes that. It is you who is confusing the positive claim of non-existence with a negative. The former requires support whereas the latter does not.
    And this is the key difference in the two statements you seem to struggle to differentiate between (albeit one of the ambiguous interpretations of one of the statements).
    Again with your disrespect. It is pathetic, FR. You clearly do not agree with their position (and nor do I) but there is no excuse for your language.
    And remember, the issue is not one of theism/atheism, or even of the scientific method, but of the difference between the two sentences given.
    Since you seem incapable of being polite in your reference to theism, I suggest you just stick to the topic in hand, okay?
    My grasp of semantics is just fine, thanks. You're the one seeming to have the difficulty here.
    As for the philosophy classes: yes, thanks. I recommend you take some as well. You might then have some more respect for pyrrhonism.
    If theism was linked to low IQ and poor standard of education, with only a few exceptions, your discourteous position might be understandable. But it hasn't been shown to be as far as I am aware - other than perhaps for American Protestantism (or so the wiki article suggests).
    But since I have a twin brother who was raised in the same way, educated in the same way, with a similar IQ, and who is devoutly theist... :shrug:
    Oh, I don't doubt that your disrespect of theism and your ridicule of theists is well ingrained, but unfortunately your age holds no currency in the accuracy of what you say.
    And FYI, "instant" was with regard to there being no prior reason within this thread to adopt the tone you have done with regard theists.
    I find that humourous, as it is actually your grasp that seems poor. Not so much in what the method is, but in what it is and is not capable of, and where it is applicable or not. In fact, I'm going to laugh again. Excuse me.
    Oh, there goes my rib cage again.
    You're the only one embarrassing themself, FR. Not only are you a self-proclaimed "expert" in linguistics that can not appear to identify the difference that seems patently obvious to everyone else who has responded here, but your view of what the scientific method is capable of concluding is humourous indeed.
    No, this is a LINGUISTICS thread. The difference between "believing in not-X" and "not believing in X". You have managed to sidetrack the issue to one of God, which is merely the X in those sentences, and science's stance on God, which is frankly irrelevant to the issue.
    Yes, 'cos I'm indulged in warfare at the moment, obviously.

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    Your language continues to do you no favours. You raise your children how you want, to belittle every theist they meet as being poorly educated and poorly brought up, and I'll raise mine as I see fit, okay? And whatever views they hold, I'll at least try to make them debate with a civil tongue and with respectful language.
     
  9. StrangerInAStrangeLand SubQuantum Mechanic Valued Senior Member

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    Do you believe there is a god?

    Do you believe there is no god?

    My answer to each is NO. Therefore I can say I do not believe there is a god yet I cannot say I believe there is no god.

    < >
     
  10. Baldeee Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    882
    And if you do not believe something, there are various possible reasons, including:

    a: You're not familiar with the subject matter
    b: You're familiar with it but you don't know enough about it to decide if you agree with it or not
    c: You're familiar with it and you find that even the experts in the discipline are not in agreement on this particular point.

    But if you believe something (or at least claim to), you are familiar with the subject matter (or again, at least claim to) and feel you are in agreement.


    So there appears to be fundamentally the same difference in the two sentences whether we use know or believe.

    And I note you have glossed over Sarkus' example with the coin toss, which I think sufficiently describes the difference in possible meaning between the two sentences?
    Does that not help you understand?
     
  11. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    24,690
    No, because you guys are still arguing over semantics. It's as though you don't really want to understand why so many highly educated people are convinced (by reviewing all relevant evidence and applying the scientific method to it--or more precisely to the absence of such evidence) that you are wrong about the existence of supernatural creatures and other phenomena. So instead of arguing over that, you argue about our words.

    These are the kinds of arguments I found enjoyable 50 years ago as a university student. Today they're about as interesting as Fox News.

    I really wish you would take your notions to one of the hard science boards. Cosmology would be the obvious choice. The people there will give you a better run for the money.
     
  12. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    Congratulations, FR, on completely sidetracking the thread to one of religion rather than language.
    For the record, no-one here (from what I can tell) believes in the existence of God, fairies, Santa or the celestial teapot. It is not a question of whether it is rational to believe or not, on what science can or can not do, but one of the difference in meaning of two sentences.
    Ignore what the subject of belief is for just a second, or preferably for the rest of this thread. Forget trying to explain to people what you think science is or isn't, and what you think scientists should or should not believe (which is a matter for the philosophy thread, not linguistics). I don't agree with your views on such matters, given what you have posted here, but I also recognise that it is irrelevant to the question asked.
    So, for Pete's sake, get back on topic.

    You say we are arguing over semantics... well dur! This is the linguistics thread, and semantics is, as I'm sure someone as well educated (or so you would have us believe) as you, and moderator of the linguistics thread, will know, the branch of linguistics associated with meaning.

    And what was the question asked in this thread? Oh, yes, what is the difference [in meaning] between the two sentences.
    So excuse us if we ignore your fanciful wander into irrelevancy, no matter how much I agree or disagree with your view of science, and request that you stick to the topic?
    Is that too much to ask?

    Given that you think we're just arguing semantics, do you now, after all your irrelevant vitriol aimed at theists, feel/agree that there is a difference between the two statements, given the plethora examples provided to you?
    Or shall we agree to disagree?
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2015
  13. Daecon Kiwi fruit Valued Senior Member

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    Pretty much every encyclopedia and dictionary recognizes and acknowledges a difference between weak and strong atheism.

    Heck, even Conservapedia of all places regards them as two different stances! You know things get real when Conservapedia and RationalWiki agree on something. It's practically a sign of the apocalypse.
     
  14. StrangerInAStrangeLand SubQuantum Mechanic Valued Senior Member

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    I certainly did not intend it to be a matter of religion or science.

    < >
     
  15. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Then I apologize for that. But as I've said several times, I'm completely exhausted by the semantic argument. I simply don't see the difference that you see. I don't know what else to say about it.

    I'm not a professor of English or literature, so if I happen to be wrong, the impact will be just about zero. I'm not going to lose any sleep over it.

    I actually am an editor, but the kind of material I have to edit these days is technical writing, predominantly written by people for whom English is a challenge. I can assure you that these nuances never come up in my daily life; a more typical problem is wondering why a sentence has no verb.
    As I said above, I don't see the difference.

    If the people with whom you customarily communicate do see it, then you're doing just fine and what I think doesn't matter.
     
  16. StrangerInAStrangeLand SubQuantum Mechanic Valued Senior Member

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    .
    Do you think a person must believe 1 or the other, that a god exists or that no god exists?

    .
     
  17. StrangerInAStrangeLand SubQuantum Mechanic Valued Senior Member

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    .
    1 - I do not believe there is other life in the universe.

    2 - I believe there is not other life in the universe.

    .
     
  18. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    No. Why can't he be undecided?
     
  19. Daecon Kiwi fruit Valued Senior Member

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    So if a person doesn't believe that God does exist, and doesn't believe that God doesn't exist, what's left...?
     
  20. Baldeee Registered Senior Member

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    Indeed.
    If a person is undecided, is it not true that "he does not believe that God exists"?
    Just as much as it is true that "he does not believe that God does not exist"?
     
  21. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    I would call that an oxymoron. Not to believe that God exists is equivalent to believing that he does not; by the same token not believing that God does not exist is equivalent to believing that he does. It is logically impossible to believe that God both does and does not exist at the same time.

    Nuances can come up, for example, not believing in God when sitting in one's university dormitory, surrounded by scholars who don't believe in him, and then believing in God on spring break, surrounded by a loving family who all believe in him. Still, that is not the same as believing both at the same time.
    If a person is undecided, then he has no belief on the subject. The most coherent thing we could say about him is that he is undecided, that he needs more evidence, that he is waiting for a sign from God, etc.
     
  22. gmilam Valued Senior Member

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    The contradictions run deep in this one...
     
  23. akoreamerican Registered Senior Member

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    it seems like binary logic is incapable of understanding god. this might be because theres something fundamentally flawed with binary logic. we should try fuzzy logic
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2015

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