Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Solipsism Lite

I've had a few run-ins with trolls who believe that reality is subjective, and that our skepticality is ruining their magic whenever we show up. Awfully convenient excuse as to why they can't pass the JREF test. Anyway, it seems to me that there are a lot of problems with believing this sort of nonsense. Even before they get to quoting Yoda.

As I pointed out in the linked comment thread: If our expectations affect reality, why do scientists sometimes get wrong predictions? If a bunch of scientists are convinced Drug A will cure Disease B, why do any of them get negative results? If one group of scientists get positive results and encourage replication, why do skeptics performing the replication sometimes get positive results?

I suspect that most of these subjectivists would start reading minds by claiming that someone's subconscious held the opposite view of their conscious mind. Some will even go so far as to state that someone is being dishonest in their stated opinion. Cynicism, ho!

Whatever their excuse, this subjectivist universe would have to be extremely complex and unpredictable compared to an objective one. One would wonder how the universe could get to the way it is, with multiple people interacting. I would think if existing beliefs shape the operation of the universe, we'd all be parallel solipsists or something. I guess it would explain why woos can never hear our real stances on issues, and instead only hear what they want us to believe.

Of course, that's more easily explained by woos being closed-minded bigots most of the time.


Anonymous said...

Nah, it's not "solipsism lite", it's just plain old solipsism, but without the necessary intellectual rigour (!) to follow it to its logical conclusion.

The one that really winds me up is when they start with the old "intention shapes reality" and go on to argue that everything that happens in your life is the result of some karmic decision made by your astral soul. At which point I get this dreadful urge to punch them in the mouth and then ask which of us it was who decided that should happen. It only works if you either think (a) people never do anything which affects each other, (b) there is only one "real" person in the universe, or (c) there is some unimaginable cosmic bureaucracy aligning everyone's inner karmic desires - in which case it isn't really your intention, is it?

As for the idea that observation (meaning concious observation by a sentient entity) affects reality, even on a quantum level, that's been experimentally demonstrated to be total bunk. The quantum version of Young's double slit experiment behaves in exactly the same way when you observe which slit the photon goes through and when you merely measure it and immediately discard the measurement, without ever showing it to an observer. It's all about quantum decoherence, not "conciousness". The whole idea only got started because of a questionable translation of a single word in a single paper (I forget whose).

Anonymous said...

Yeah I understand that observation in certain quantum experiments is more accurately worded as "interaction", no conciousness or even a camera needed.

Ya know, here's the thing that gets me about this whole "if it happens you wanted it to happen" thing. Yes, you bring up the question of why anyone fails at anything and they bring up doubt, you bring up a situation where someone was SURE it would work and it still failed (dowsers in a ocntrolled test, for example), and the explanation is that somewhere in their mind, though they weren't aware of it, they doubted it.

Here's what gets me. What they are saying is that it isn't YOUR mind alone that defines reality but your mind PLUS some second mind, this subconcious, fighting with each other for control over reality. So solipsism is actually solipsism plus 1, so long as they use the "your subconcious mind was thinking it" excuse.

Flit said...

If woo really did stop working when a sceptic was nearby couldn't the woos use that to prove they are genuine? A simple test to classify subjects as believers or sceptics.

And more importantly does that mean scepticism is a wave or a particle?