Muhlestein incorrectly describes scientific testing

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Lemmie
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Muhlestein incorrectly describes scientific testing

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Meuhlestein posted an update to his response to the Ritner podcast on FAIRMormon. My main interest is his second paragraph:

Regardless of the area of study, all scholars approach any topic with their own sets of existing beliefs. It is impossible for a scholar to be a “blank slate” when it comes to any field of study. It is no surprise that my existing beliefs are consistent with what I view as the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith. It is likewise no surprise that others, including Professor Ritner, start with a set of beliefs that preclude divine involvement in the work of Joseph Smith.

https://www.fairmormon.org/blog/2020/09 ... -discourse
This description of the starting assumptions used in studying a theory is absolutely incorrect. Rather than go over this again for the errant professor, I’ll just quote Jenkins from his debate with Hamblin, wherein he quoted Robert Bishop. Bishop is specifically discussing cryptozoologists, but Muhlestein uses the exact same process, so IMO the comparison is valid:

Bishop is especially good on the temptation to believe junk science when it is presented in scientific sounding language that impresses people who don’t understand real methodologies:

“It sounds and looks “sciencey,” to use Sharon Hill’s lovely term, but that’s it.

Cryptozoologists typically don’t begin with a theory to generate a viable hypothesis, deduce consequences from that hypothesis (predictions), test those consequences, analyze the data, check for errors, critically sift assumptions, and so forth.

Rather, they begin with a bias (belief in the existence of a mystery creature such as Bigfoot) and then hunt for evidence to substantiate their belief. This leads cryptozoologists to force what they find to fit into their pre-established expectations. Moreover, they accept any evidence that remotely supports their belief no matter how weak or questionable, and discount any contrary evidence no matter how strong.

Good scientists, by contrast, practice healthy skepticism toward their hypotheses, evidence, and assumptions, even though they have some reasons for confidence in the theory that they are working with. They throw out weak or questionable evidence and take contrary evidence very seriously. Sure, scientists also have their expectations, but they critically assess the evidence for whether it genuinely supports the hypothesis or not. …

Cryptozoologists make a number of unfounded assumptions which they never challenge; scientists hold their assumptions as only provisionally true and return to critically examining their assumptions on occasion and sometimes frequently.”


https://www.patheos.com/blogs/anxiousbe ... le-beasts/

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Re: Muhlestein incorrectly describes scientific testing

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Lemmie wrote:
Thu Sep 03, 2020 12:27 pm
Cryptozoologists make a number of unfounded assumptions which they never challenge; scientists hold their assumptions as only provisionally true and return to critically examining their assumptions on occasion and sometimes frequently.”
If those cryptozoologists did critically examine their assumptions in light of available evidence, it would negatively affect their employment at Cryptozoology University. Professor Jenkins overlooked that detail.
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Re: Muhlestein incorrectly describes scientific testing

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Do Holy Ghosts fall under cryptozoology?

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Re: Muhlestein incorrectly describes scientific testing

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I’m not sure that what makes science work is a method, exactly. I learned about The Scientific Method in high school but the further I went on in science the less I heard about its great method. As far as I can tell the only real method is, Try hard not to be dumb.

That may well mean that I just take a lot of hard-won concepts for granted. But I think it’s dangerous to get reverential about any method because that’s like putting your car on autopilot and taking your hands off the wheel. No method is so good that it will deliver truth automatically just because you faithfully follow the ritual. You have to try hard not to be dumb, all the time. Reverence for method is probably a common Dunning-Kruger mechanism, giving false confidence to incompetent people.

On the other hand, though, the claim that it must be okay to have biases because everybody has them is really begging the question at hand. Nobody is perfect but that does not excuse murder; the question in a murder trial is not whether the accused is imperfect. So if you’re suspected of murder and you talk about how everybody has flaws, you’re just asking people to concede that your only flaws are of the excusable common kind. In other words your defense against the murder charge is, Please assume I did not commit murder. That’s not a defense. It’s just begging.

Mormon apologists are not suspected of having only the unavoidable unconscious bias that everyone has. They’re suspected of absurd bias that overlooks strong evidence and grasps at straws. Everyone does not have that kind of bias. So “everyone has bias” is not a valid defense against the actual charge.

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Re: Muhlestein incorrectly describes scientific testing

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The right methodology is not the issue here as there are many ways to approach the concept, but there are definitely wrong ways to do it. One such egregious error is the practice, typified by Muhlestein’s approach, of assuming the conclusion.

I don’t blame Rittner for graciously declining Muhlestein’s offer of working together on such an “academic” project, given Muhlestein’s thoroughly non-academic approach.

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Re: Muhlestein incorrectly describes scientific testing

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Muhlestein is close. He needs to now go all the way and jettison the idea of evidence for historicity or proof in the ordinary sense and admit that he believes regardless of the evidence, in spite of the evidence.

F____ history, the church is true!
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Re: Muhlestein incorrectly describes scientific testing

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A note about Muhl's use of the word "paradigm" as he does the same thing as the Proprietor of a certain blog, and also other apologists, such as the great wenglund.

The apologists try to sell their pseudoscience under the protection of Thomas Kuhn. (sorry everyone, I'm sure you're tired of hearing about Kuhn) Kuhn taught that scientists should work within the paradigm -- and I may take issue with that way of saying it (later) -- and that is called 'normal science', which contrasts with 'revolutionary science'. Revolutionary science comes when data can't be accounted for in normal science. new ways of handling the data arise that conflict with the old ways, and eventually science goes one way or the other: it resolves, or revolts.

When Muhl says he's fitting data into his paradigm of the Church being true, it brings to mind Kuhn saying that science works by trying to fit all data into the paradigm, even when it appears to resist fitting. And so by Kuhn, it's actually the scholarly thing to do, to torture ones-self to save the paradigm. It almost amounts to saying that science works by being apologists for the paradigm. To the extent that's true, the Mopologists stand tall as scientists outside of Mormonism. This way of looking at science contrasts sharply with Feynman's view that science responds instantly to evidence -- 'science is the belief in the ignorance of experts'. Such a view empowers a single experiment performed within a South Carolina basement to overthrow the entire establishment. Kuhn's approach acknowledges the practicality that science doesn't have time to put the acid test to every claim that comes out from a basement in South Carolina. Ironically, for all that he's cited by the Mopologists, Kuhn gives science a great reason to ignore Mopologetics.

The apologists, for sure, aren't consistent with their use of Kuhn, but in this instance, the ploy is to make their Mopologetics hobby a "paradigm" on equal footing with any paradigm that the secular world has.

Unfortunately for the Mopologists, "The church is true" is not a "paradigm". Paradigms go deeper than opinion, even opinion held by a large community. If I am like the apologists, then I might claim my SUV gets 52 miles to the gallon, and I might get 7200 followers on Facebook who believe it with me. That's my paradigm, and as my paradigm, it's my duty to torture the evidence in order to find a way to keep my paradigm afloat, just as Kuhn says I should.

No ma'am, that's not a paradigm.

Paradigms go deeply enough that they can't be translated into each other.(if they could, then wouldn't we be interested in that thing beyond a paradigm, such that it doesn't translate?) If I take a modern physics text back in time to argue with Aristotle, then that might be an example of two paradigms clashing in a way that maybe we can't resolve the conflict. There is nothing about the positions on my vehicle's gas mileage that require fundamental world-view differences to explain.

Perhaps there aren't really a such thing as paradigms, and that someone like Gemli is right, and we can easily understand all the beliefs of the ancients and summarily refute them. Not everyone buys Kuhn, but supposing Kuhn is right, nothing the apologists offer in their theories is the least bit a stretch to comprehend. If anything, they take bits and pieces of what's out there in "normal science" and show a finished product that has the luster of routinely accepted work in our time. Further, saying "the Church is true" gives us nothing of substance by which to outline Mopologist's Abraham theories or any other theories. You could believe everything Dan Vogel has written and still believe the Church is true.

In the past I've called the LGT a paradigm, and there is a sense that Kuhn talks about paradigms where I think that loosely flies, as he ties paradigms to specific experiments or discoveries. I mean, it's closer to being a "paradigm" than "The Church is true" is a paradigm. The LGT is a way of using internal clues within the Book of Mormon to lay out the geography. While it might have been a totally different way of looking at the book for church members, there is nothing unusual about it, we could do the same with Lord of the Rings, and so that kind of thinking is well within normal science as science exists today, and a paradigm that even encompasses BYU.
Lou Midgley 08/20/2020: "...meat wad," and "cockroach" are pithy descriptions of human beings used by gemli? They were not fashioned by Professor Peterson.

LM 11/23/2018: one can explain away the soul of human beings...as...a Meat Unit, to use Professor Peterson's clever derogatory description of gemli's ideology.

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Re: Muhlestein incorrectly describes scientific testing

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Gadianton says about Kuhn:
Revolutionary science comes when data can't be accounted for in normal science. new ways of handling the data arise that conflict with the old ways, and eventually science goes one way or the other: it resolves, or revolts.
The thing I never understood about Kuhn worship is that the revolutionary science and the data that doesn't fit points toward non-belief in Mormonism and demands a paradigm change from the believing paradigm to the non-believing paradigm. Yet, try telling that to Kevin "Kuhn" Christensen from Kolob and you'll get a blank response.

Another thing is how does one choose a paradigm in the first place? Does it suddenly appear? Is it controlled by priesthood power? Does it come from the shut up and obey your elders demands kids get or used to get? Who made these guys king? Who checks the fact checkers?
"Religion is about providing human community in the guise of solving problems that don’t exist or failing to solve problems that do and seeking to reconcile these contradictions and conceal the failures in bogus explanations otherwise known as theology." - Kishkumen 

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Re: Muhlestein incorrectly describes scientific testing

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"The thing I never understood about Kuhn worship is that the revolutionary science and the data that doesn't fit points toward non-belief in Mormonism and demands a paradigm change from the believing paradigm to the non-believing paradigm."

Totally agree -- in fact, if you buy into Kuhn, then whether or not the paradigm shifts in your lifetime, the one thing for sure is that at some point the paradigm will shift to something fundamentally not Mormon. Mormonism can't be "true" as nothing is "true" in that world.

But then again, there is no consistency in use. One day, Mormonism is normal science, the next it's revolutionary science, depending on the critic the Mopologist is dealing with at the time.


"Another thing is how does one choose a paradigm in the first place? "

A fantastic question. I didn't finish my thought "Kuhn taught that scientists should work within the paradigm -- and I may take issue with that way of saying it (later)".

What I take issue with (and it's been a really, really long time since I've read anything about Structures), but I don't think it would be very easy for a scientist to work outside of the paradigm. Maybe a few way ahead of their time did just that, but yeah, it would be a little like saying I choose to be an Egyptian from two thousand years before Christ, instead of a product of 1985 America.
Lou Midgley 08/20/2020: "...meat wad," and "cockroach" are pithy descriptions of human beings used by gemli? They were not fashioned by Professor Peterson.

LM 11/23/2018: one can explain away the soul of human beings...as...a Meat Unit, to use Professor Peterson's clever derogatory description of gemli's ideology.

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Re: Muhlestein incorrectly describes scientific testing

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Kuhn has been criticized for basing his general theory of science too much on the special case of physics. I can't really judge how big a problem that is with Kuhn, but as I recall he really took the developments of Einsteinian relativity and quantum mechanics as paradigmatic revolutions, and I think he messed them up. Even though I believe Thomas Kuhn himself had studied a fair amount of physics, in his book he confuses fundamental theory as used by physicists with the qualitative explanations in ordinary language that are offered to lay people.

Physics is kind of like Islam, in that its only authentic scripture is written in a language that most people don't know, namely math. The mathematical formulation is not just some working out of details that follow from the grand ideas that get put into words: it's the other way around. The mathematical formulation IS the theory, and nothing you hear in words about relativity or quantum mechanics is anything more than a crude attempt to give some idea of what the formulas mean. These attempts don't succeed very well.

That's a theorist's viewpoint but much the same can be said on the experimental side. The precise measurements that reveal relativistic and quantum mechanical phenomena use technology that most people have never seen. It takes years to learn how that stuff all works and why its results can be trusted. Experimental scientists routinely work with those devices, however. They don't rely on picture books of crude analogies.

So here's the thing about Kuhn's famous thesis that alternative scientific paradigms are "incommensurable", meaning that they just can't be directly compared because they can't be translated into each other's terms. What's true is that the vernacular explanations for lay people that are offered for rival theories in physics may well sound so utterly different that you would never guess they were trying to describe the same world. The incommensurability is entirely an artifact, however, of rendering a technical subject into crude caricatures for lay people.

At the technical level both rival theories are directly comparable. They both consist of equations that are similar and different in precisely definable ways, and they both predict what numbers the meters will show when you measure things in the lab. One prediction is more accurate. The fact that rival scientific theories are very clearly commensurable is why scientific revolutions happen.

Kuhn messed up that point badly, but Mormon apologists are getting it even more wrong by misreading Kuhn, if they are invoking Kuhn's incommensurability of alternative paradigms to justify their own resistance to adverse evidence. However Kuhn may have garbled some things, he was still writing about how one scientific theory yields to another under pressure of evidence. His book wasn't called The Structure of Permanent Scientific Stand-Offs.

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Re: Muhlestein incorrectly describes scientific testing

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I have to admit that I am tired of the bias argument and Kuhn paradigms being misused to justify nonsense. But what can one do? These silly and transparent arguments will remain until the church is able to jettison history as a selling point and move to selling "today" and the "future" instead of selling the past.
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Re: Muhlestein incorrectly describes scientific testing

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I can buy that about Kuhn taking weirdness in physics too far. But to give him a quick defense here, would you say that the mathematical translation between relativity and quantum mechanics was true in the days the theories were coming out? It could be true today, but maybe back then it was harder to see the connections?

And what about the failure to quantize gravity -- as I understand the situation today -- could that be used to support Kuhn somehow?
Lou Midgley 08/20/2020: "...meat wad," and "cockroach" are pithy descriptions of human beings used by gemli? They were not fashioned by Professor Peterson.

LM 11/23/2018: one can explain away the soul of human beings...as...a Meat Unit, to use Professor Peterson's clever derogatory description of gemli's ideology.

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Re: Muhlestein incorrectly describes scientific testing

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I hope Dan Vogel doesn’t mind me quoting him, he made some excellent observations about Muhlestein’s comments that also fit very well here:
Dan Vogel wrote:
Fri Sep 04, 2020 7:34 pm

I hate when apologists begin by saying everyone has a bias and therefore Mormons have a right to make things up to explain away negative evidence.That's not how scholarship works.

The dividing line is not between believers and non-believers, it's between good scholarship and bad scholarship. Just because Muhlestein is a believer and he offers explanations that are consistent with a fundamentalist view of Joseph Smith sand Mormonism does not mean that his scholarship isn't "abhorrent," to use Hauglid's term.

Haulid's scholarship used to be abhorrent, but his more recent work was, as he promised, more rational and reasoned. Yet he and other Mormon scholars are seeking an explanation for the Book of Abraham that is both faithful and reasonable. Muhlestein's and Gee's approach relies on the invention of several absurd theories: the long scroll; an actual Book of Abraham now missing; the translation was completed by July 1835; the translation came first and then the Egyptian Alphabets; the Alphabets were the work of Phelps, not Joseph Smith; the Hebrew elements in Abraham 3-5 were added in Nauvoo to an already existing text, etc.
[bolding added]

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Re: Muhlestein incorrectly describes scientific testing

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Gadianton wrote:
Fri Sep 04, 2020 4:26 pm
[W]ould you say that the mathematical translation between relativity and quantum mechanics was true in the days the theories were coming out? ...

And what about the failure to quantize gravity -- as I understand the situation today -- could that be used to support Kuhn somehow?
Einsteinian relativity—the concept of relativity was old but Einstein changed it—and quantum mechanics were two separate revolutions. So it wasn't a matter of translating them into each other. For relativity the issue was translating previous concepts of space and time into the new one of spacetime, while for quantum mechanics it was, well, a bigger can of worms: things we thought were continuous were now discrete, but on the other hand every either-or was becoming a how-much-of-each, in a weirdly dumb-seeming way that didn't fit probability theory.

In both cases, though, the new and the old theories each made definite predictions for the same measurements, predictions which disagreed either slightly or violently, depending in definite ways upon circumstances. So in particular the new theories of Einsteinian relativity and quantum mechanics, respectively, could each account for all the successes of the old theories, by agreeing with them closely enough under previously well-tested conditions that we wouldn't have noticed the tiny differences. The new theories made dramatically different predictions, however, for the novel circumstances that had only recently become technologically feasible.

The new theories were, it's quite true, different in fundamental ways from the old ones. Those fundamental differences could still be directly compared both mathematically and observationally, however. It was only at the level of popular description in ordinary language that it was hard to relate the different pictures at all.

There was a later phase, mostly in the 1930's but extending into the 1960's, of putting quantum mechanics and Einstein's relativity together. That involved some startling new discoveries, but nobody talks about it as a revolution. It wasn't a matter of one established paradigm yielding to another, but of building up a paradigm where previously there was none. Different approaches were tried, but none of them succeeded well enough to become accepted as a paradigm, until eventually a single consensus emerged.

That's a phase of science that I think Kuhn overlooked, the frontier settlement phase, which is neither Kuhn's "normal science" nor a revolutionary contest. It's the phase we're still in now with quantum gravity. There are rival approaches to quantum gravity but none of them is yet confident enough to set up as a paradigm the way Galilean relativity and classical mechanics were. It's not even clear that the rival approaches are incompatible; they might be in a blind-men-meeting-elephant kind of scenario. Or they might all be wrong.

Normal science, in which the starting points are unchallenged and the task consists of working out details, is definitely a real thing. Most of science is like that. Revolutions do also happen, and I think Kuhn had some good insights about how. I think he had some wrong ideas about the nature of the revolutionary conflicts, however, mostly based on taking too philosophical a view of what scientific theories mean, and not sufficiently appreciating their technical nature. Much of what he said about paradigms was only true about paradigms-in-translation.

Back to Mormon apologetics, I don't think "we're just sticking to our paradigms as good normal scientists do" is a valid defense because—pacete all the apologists indignantly demanding that we "engage" with their mountains of Bigfoot literature—Mormon apologetics doesn't really have a technical level. It's an amateur enterprise in which the practitioners never engage with each other in any significant detail, but merely agree that they are all on the same side. So the level of vernacular description in which things can be incommensurable is all that apologetics has. It has no analog to the math or the lab, where everyone speaks the same language whether or not they agree.

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Re: Muhlestein incorrectly describes scientific testing

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Physics Guy wrote:
Thu Sep 03, 2020 3:45 pm
Mormon apologists are not suspected of having only the unavoidable unconscious bias that everyone has. They’re suspected of absurd bias that overlooks strong evidence and grasps at straws. Everyone does not have that kind of bias. So “everyone has bias” is not a valid defense against the actual charge.
Religious people, especially in Mormonism, are conditioned to believe no matter the evidence. It does rise to an absurd bias such that most who get involved professionally in science cannot over come that bias to see the truth of what the facts tell us. While you might see some atheist's with this level of absurd bias, it is not common with religious claims. Most atheists and all agnostics are not that vested in God not existing or the Book of Mormon not being true. I have no problem finding out God exists, or that the earth really is flat.
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Re: Muhlestein incorrectly describes scientific testing

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I'm pretty biased against a flat Earth.

And I'm not sure you're quite making a fair comparison of the degrees of open-mindedness of religious believers and atheists. People who merely believe that some kind of a God probably exists are generally also fairly open to changing their minds about that. The people that are really invested in God are mostly the ones whose belief entails demanding religious observances. Are you really more willing to adopt their beliefs, with all those consequences, than they are willing to switch to your viewpoint?

I think a lot of people are willing to adjust their beliefs a bit, but not many are open-minded about making a large move, especially when that would change their lives a lot. This makes it easy for everyone to think of themselves as more open-minded than others, by positional gerrymandering. Here's what I mean by that.

If I happen to define the lines between my belief and other beliefs to be close to my own position—which of course seems natural to me—then it's easy to count myself as being very open-minded and willing to change my beliefs, because I'm going to count a small shift as a change. But someone whose belief is far from mine, deep in the middle of what I count as "other" territory, would have to shift a long way to get all the way over to my borders and make what I'm going to count as a change. So it's easy for me to count them as closed-minded and unwilling to change their beliefs.

They may well draw quite different borders from me between what seem to them to be significantly different belief systems. On their map I may be the one who sits in the middle of a wide county and is unlikely ever to cross any lines, while they see themselves as just a few steps away from big changes, which they would be totally willing to make.

So we can each think of ourselves as open-minded and of the other as biased, when the truth may be that we are both equally willing to change our views by a little and equally unwilling to change them a lot.

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Re: Muhlestein incorrectly describes scientific testing

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Physics Guy wrote:
Sun Sep 06, 2020 5:34 am
I'm pretty biased against a flat Earth.

And I'm not sure you're quite making a fair comparison of the degrees of open-mindedness of religious believers and atheists. People who merely believe that some kind of a God probably exists are generally also fairly open to changing their minds about that. The people that are really invested in God are mostly the ones whose belief entails demanding religious observances. Are you really more willing to adopt their beliefs, with all those consequences, than they are willing to switch to your viewpoint?

I think a lot of people are willing to adjust their beliefs a bit, but not many are open-minded about making a large move, especially when that would change their lives a lot. This makes it easy for everyone to think of themselves as more open-minded than others, by positional gerrymandering
. Here's what I mean by that.

If I happen to define the lines between my belief and other beliefs to be close to my own position—which of course seems natural to me—then it's easy to count myself as being very open-minded and willing to change my beliefs, because I'm going to count a small shift as a change. But someone whose belief is far from mine, deep in the middle of what I count as "other" territory, would have to shift a long way to get all the way over to my borders and make what I'm going to count as a change. So it's easy for me to count them as closed-minded and unwilling to change their beliefs.

They may well draw quite different borders from me between what seem to them to be significantly different belief systems. On their map I may be the one who sits in the middle of a wide county and is unlikely ever to cross any lines, while they see themselves as just a few steps away from big changes, which they would be totally willing to make.

So we can each think of ourselves as open-minded and of the other as biased, when the truth may be that we are both equally willing to change our views by a little and equally unwilling to change them a lot.
[bolding added]

Physics Guy, just a reminder that many here have already shown that they are open-minded enough to willingly make massive changes in their beliefs, so your argument is not really making an accurate comparison across relevant groups. Just speaking for myself, it was definitely a very “large move,” one that involved a complete change in my beliefs, which then changed my life completely and totally. It’s not “positional gerrymandering” that makes me think some people are more open-minded, it’s factual observation.

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Re: Muhlestein incorrectly describes scientific testing

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Well, if it’s common for Mormons to make large belief changes, then they must be an open-minded group after all. If it’s not, then I think my point stands as a general tendency, which may have a few outliers.

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Re: Muhlestein incorrectly describes scientific testing

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Lol. Those open-minded Mormons!

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