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Thread: Unscientific Things You Believe

  1. #81
    schlemiel Faust's Avatar
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    Finally, the perfect thread for you Guess Who.
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  2. #82
    New Member Noodler's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Guess Who View Post
    When I said prediction, I wasn't necessarily referring to fortune-telling. I had in mind cause and effect - "Doing X will cause Y to happen." If the effect is a fortune-telling prediction coming true, then that would be easy to measure. However, it could be something else such as the gaining of deep insights, a decrease in the levels of stress hormones, an elevated mood or an increase in people's bank balances. What are some of the effects claimed for tarot reading? Which ones can be easily and reliably measured?

    The idea that tarot reading is a tool that helps people to think about their situation in new ways to allow them to obtain deeper understanding is a naturalistic explanation of a mechanism. A supernatual (non-scientific) explanation would be that it summons spirits who provide spiritual guidance.

    Step one would be to demonstrate that tarot reading actually produces some measurable effects. Step two would be to try to check whether a proposed naturalistic mechanism is the right one.
    I have an inkling that language, words, and definitions may be getting in our (my) way. Maybe this is what happens when we try to break things up as scientific vs. un-scientific, which is really just wordplay.

    Meditation seems to have repeatable measurable affects on people's stress levels, but I would not therefore say that the act of meditation itself is scientific. Do we understand how it works? Do we know what is going on in the mind and what direct effect that has on stress or health in the body, or how that connection works? Does the same set of meditation methods - mind-clearing, visualizations, body scanning, moving of awareness, etc. - yield the exact same results for everyone who uses them? Perhaps so, I'm very poorly read in this meditation-meets-neuroscience field.

    Similarly, using tarot may yield some scientifically repeatable effects (I have no idea what those are), but the tarot cards and the interpretation process themselves are not scientific imo. Or rather, we do not yet understand them in a way to describe them scientifically.

    I think we just differ in definition here of what is scientific vs. what is non-scientific, and that's OK. I come from a physics background so, to me, a "deeper understanding" or "gaining of deep insights" is not something easily measured. I'd leave that to the sociologists or psychologists, which physicists wouldn't consider a real science. I know, what a bunch of asshats. I don't agree myself but unfortunately that is my bias; when someone says something is scientific I perceive that to mean it is something that could be replicated over and over and over again with different people pretty much always getting the exact same results.

    Tarot is not about the tarot cards themselves (to me) but about the people and their interpretations, which don't exactly fit into my personal definition of repeatable science above. Two people reading the exact same spread will typically have two (or more!) different interpretations. That is why I would struggle with ever calling tarot scientific. I think tarot is a bit like a placebo. If an individual believes the tarot will tell them some truth, provide them some deep insight, or even lower their blood pressure then it may. If they are resistant to the idea of tarot then I would expect no measurable effects for them. But, to me, measuring those random things misses the whole point of tarot anyway. Just as monks may think that measuring stress levels misses the whole point of meditation, and yogis may believe that measuring body fat % lost misses the whole point of yoga.

    Coming at this from a completely different thought-angle now. Let's say one were to measure whether or not tarot made you richer, or happier, or less stressed. I'd guess the following would happen. My current assumption is that every individual in life is on their own unique quest. We all share the same game map with everyone else in the world, but really everyone is on their own unique quests running after different things. Some characters are after more money, some after more fame, others for peace, still others are not into running after things at all. Therefore, in my idea of the world, each individual who uses tarot will use it for different ends. So each person might get different results or different measurable outcomes. I'm after understanding myself so tarot helps me to do that. If I'm not out to get rich tarot isn't going to get me rich. Perhaps if someone was after money tarot may help them to focus on that intention and to do that too, if they believed in its 'power'? I'd be curious to find out if that is the case! In which case, my understanding of the 'purpose' of tarot would just be a mirror to/of myself. Hmm... I've gone way off on tangent, sorry Guess Who!
    Last edited by Noodler; Yesterday at 11:03 PM.

  3. #83
    Senior Member Senseye's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hephaestus View Post
    Your conception of scientific seems to be missing the experimental proof part.
    How so?

    Although I suppose that regarding the OP, belief in unscientific things could be considered as believe in the supernatural, which I simply don't (or at least, I can't think of anything).

  4. #84
    Meae Musae Servus Hephaestus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Senseye View Post
    How so?

    Although I suppose that regarding the OP, belief in unscientific things could be considered as believe in the supernatural, which I simply don't (or at least, I can't think of anything).
    Two things. The first is that there is a hidden divide in this discussion that stems from how people interpret being scientific. Your view of the question is "can be assessed by science". The more common interpretation has been "things yet unproven by science" which handily includes "things science has shown untrue but you believe anyway".

    The second thing is more directly related to your question.

    There is an old gag, "Did you hear they took 'gullible' out of the dictionary?"

    There are three basic responses. You can reject the assertion as a lie. You can accept the new information. You can test it. For some reason, the last two are considered proof of gullibility, even though the third option is a challenge to the assertion, not a belief in it. The third option is the scientific one.

    You should never believe a hypothesis. Belief in a hypothesis is the enemy of testing it. You believe the evidence of testing supports the hypothesis. The most testable hypothesis is one you don't believe, because you will be more able to find a test whose outcome could tear the hypothesis apart.

    Admitedly this walks into the observation that @CJWoolf made regarding a similarity between science and religion, in that both expect better humans than humans have historically managed to be. In this case it's opposite expectations--religions call on you to put faith without evidence into a hypothesis. Science asks us not to believe in something just because it seems like it fits an observation, and to test it without preference toward a specific outcome.

    Personally I think it's the nature of useful ideals to strain your ability to live up to it.
    Most of time, when people ask why something terrible happened, they don't realize they are looking for someone to blame.

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  5. #85
    Senior Member Senseye's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hephaestus View Post
    You should never believe a hypothesis. Belief in a hypothesis is the enemy of testing it. You believe the evidence of testing supports the hypothesis. The most testable hypothesis is one you don't believe, because you will be more able to find a test whose outcome could tear the hypothesis apart.
    Sure. This is semantics mostly. In the context of this discussion when I used the phrase believe in the hypothesis, I really meant I believe the evidence of testing supports the hypothesis.

    So if we put it in these terms, when there is a hypothesis with little or no evidence of testing to support it, I fail to believe the evidence supports it. Sounds kind of obvious when one says it that way.

  6. #86
    Sysop Ptah's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Guess Who View Post
    @Ptah and @Noodler,

    If you claim that tarot is unscientific yet you believe in it, then how does that work exactly?
    I don't believe in it, in say, the sense anything occult, or spiritual or any other such, or of having any hard predictive value, etc -- the usual things presumed of Tarot. In short, I take it to be a particular form of "food for thought" (including: imagination), nothing more. Rather like cloud-gazing, inverted. Apart from that, an amusement, a hobby. An imaginative make-believe. An art, not a science. And like all such things, you get out of it what you put into it.

    Can you come up with concrete predictions that can be objectively measured so that tarot could be scientifically evaluated?
    Of course not. That isn't what it is about, anyhow.

    Spoiler: Further elaboration, quoted from the post linked in my sig.


    Inspiration and/or insight can be gained from even the simplest or lowest or most chaotic of random things, if you ask me.

    This is the essence of potential value I associate to Tarot. Not any occult or mystical belief. Not any hard factual correspondence, except by accident and/or mental association. At the very least, an enjoyable entertainment/diversion.

    Just as we can gaze at the clouds and find images among them, just as we can listen to random sounds and find rhythm therein, we can find a kind of enjoyable if not necessarily useful introspective prompting from some cards on a table, in terms of some traditional meanings, if you ask me.

    It is an occasion for a kind of introspective exercise if not also a seeding of further introspection to come.

    What differentiates the Tarot from tea leaves or die rolls or just a good old brainstorming session if not raw daydreaming? Well, in the essential value as stated above, little. But in content and form, Tarot offers an interesting assortment of archetypes and universals which are broad enough to cover most of human life yet narrow enough to each have relatively unambiguous meaning/import in a reading.

    I don't mean to speak for all Tarot readers/querents/enthusiasts, only to explain my approach and evaluation of it's nature and value, which amounts to: it can provide somewhat nontrivial food for thought, or at the least intriguing entertainment.
    Last edited by Ptah; Today at 07:17 PM.

  7. #87
    Member Guess Who's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ptah View Post
    I don't believe in it, in say, the sense anything occult, or spiritual or any other such, or of having any hard predictive value, etc -- the usual things presumed of Tarot. In short, I take it to be a particular form of "food for thought" (including: imagination), nothing more. Rather like cloud-gazing, inverted. Apart from that, an amusement, a hobby. An imaginative make-believe. An art, not a science. And like all such things, you get out of it what you put into it.
    That's fine. I don't demand that everything must be scientifically validated to be considered useful. Science has its limits. It is great at discovering the natural laws by which the universe operates, the so-called hard science, but less applicable in other areas where things are more difficult to define and measure.
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