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On Breaking the Perpetuation of Nonsense

Freedom of Religion, plus nonsense, plus Free Speech, poses a problem
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A culture that embraces the concept of Freedom of Religion is a culture in which anyone can believe just about anything chosen (or indoctrinated from birth). It is a Known Fact that some Religions include various statements that have been proved to be nonsense. Examples of such statements are "The Earth is only a few thousand years old." and "The Earth is located at the Center of Creation." If the culture also embraces the concept of Free Speech, it can be rather difficult to end the perpetuation of the nonsense.

So, what might be done? Remember, we don't want to restrict people from believing what they want, and we don't want to interfere with letting them say their piece. And, remember, some of what they say might not be nonsense!

So, a Modest Proposal: Let there be a Law that requires just one thing. Whenever someone spouts a statement that has been PROVED to be nonsense, then that person is now, under the Law, required to ALSO present the evidence showing why the other statement is nonsense. In this way the Law does not prevent Free Speech; it only requires Additional Speech, and then only under certain circumstances (when a statement has been proved to be nonsense).

And the listeners get the whole story, not just the nonsense. Hopefully, they will embrace the non- nonsense, which means that the perpetuation of nonsense got successfully stopped, after all.

Vernon, Apr 10 2013

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       Well, that's a major problem solved then.
MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 10 2013
  

       Some philosophical controversies already are nonsense vs nonsense.   

       The major problem I see, it's to assume that a prove of a nonsense will be accepted; even by the law.
piluso, Apr 10 2013
  

       Can you give a practical example?
tatterdemalion, Apr 10 2013
  

       //The speed of light has been slowing down since the beginning of the universe//   

       Quit that!
For a second there all of the intuitive physics I've ever managed to grok started re-writing itself to accomodate this fascinating nugget of crap.
It hurts when that happens... and it happens a lot. If I don't use the re-write function sparingly all of space-time could unravell and then where would we be? Nowhere, and ain't nobody wants that.
  

       [tatterdemalion], consider the overall Abortion Debate. Obviously the HalfBakery is not the place to take it up, but equally obviously, both sides can't be completely right, so one side, maybe even both, must be spouting nonsense here and there.   

       Perhaps I can pick a particular example without throwing everyone here into a tizzy, and an endless argument.... Many abortion opponents claim that every human, regardless of age after conception, qualifies as a person. However, when you think about the GENERIC meaning of "person", the claim turns into nonsense.   

       That's because, for thousands of years, humans have been willing to accept the possibility that non-humans might exist and also be persons. In ancient China, dragons are wise beings. In the Middle East, there are djinns. And in Europe, there are elves and brownies and other "faerie" beings. Not to mention that God, angels, and demons also qualify as person-class entities.   

       Of course, Science came along and began questioning the presumed existence of every one of those legendary entities. Nevertheless, recent news announced the discovery that dolphins have names and a language --strong evidence that those very real nonhumans might qualify as person-class entities.   

       So, if there can be two very different types of persons right here on Earth, what about the wide wide Universe, which contains more than 100 billion galaxies, each with more than 100 billion stars, and most of those stars probably accompanied by planets? To equate "person" with "human" becomes nonsensically ludicrous!   

       Which leads to a kind of conundrum for opponents of abortion. EITHER they have to inventory the Universe and make a huge long list, defining "person" as "all members of the human species, all members of the bottlenose dolphin species, all members of ...." OR they have to recognize that persons must have something in common that distinguishes them from mere animals, and that "something in common" can be distinguished by Scientific Tests, such that "A person is any individual organism that can pass these tests."   

       Some of those tests are quite simple. The "rouge test" involves a mirror and some makeup, and tests the ability of the subject to identify self in the mirror. A dolphin can pass that test, and so can a chimpanzee, and an octopus, and MOST humans. Cats and dogs generally fail the test; they act like the critter in the mirror is some other animal. And so do humans fail, that are younger than about nine months of age, after birth.   

       Like I said, there are other tests. If dolphins qualify as persons, I'd expect them to pass all of them. But very young humans FAIL all the tests; their brains simply haven't grown the person-class capabilities needed to pass those person-identifying tests. Which in turn logically means that even-younger humans, the unborn, with even-less-developed brains, only qualify as mere animals, and never qualify as persons.   

       See the conundrum? What is it that truly distinguishes persons from mere animals? If it is a species-specific thing, then why is it necessary to make a huge long list of all the person-class species in the Universe, instead of identifying the thing(s) that all those species must have in common, for personhood? Why not instead accept the Scientific Data, that individual organisms might pass or fail, regardless of species (e.g., Koko the Gorilla likely would pass most person-identifying tests, while practically-all other gorillas would fail)?   

       Obviously abortion opponents must reject the data, because otherwise they would have to accept the logical consequences that one of their fundamental arguing points had been PROVED to be nonsense. On the other hand, refusing to accept Scientifically Measurable Facts, plus logic, means one is exhibiting a completely different type of nonsense (stupidity).   

       I think the Overall Abortion Debate would be much-improved if, from now on, everyone who spouts nonsense also had to spout the data showing why it was nonsense!
Vernon, Apr 10 2013
  

       What I learned in high school journalism class was that you have to have secondary verification for any fact in any news story.   

       There are multiple scientific sources that verify that the earth is hundreds of millions of years old, perhaps billions.   

       If someone wants to claim that the earth is only a few thousands of years old, ask for secondary verification (a source that is not the Bible).
whlanteigne, Apr 10 2013
  

       I actually think there's insufficient nonsense in the world. We have a duty to spout total garbage in order to throw people back on the evidence of their own direct experience and sow doubt about what the media present to them, that media including ourselves.
nineteenthly, Apr 11 2013
  

       // The "rouge test" involves a mirror   

       Any kind of proof that involves applying makeup to monkeys is bound to end in tears.
not_morrison_rm, Apr 11 2013
  

       ^^^ Didn't Jane Goodall say something about having either to define chimpanzees as human, or to rethink of the definition of human?
spidermother, Apr 11 2013
  

       //On Breaking the Perpetuation of Nonsense   

       Isn't this a bit recursive, posting this on Halfbakery?
not_morrison_rm, Apr 11 2013
  

       [Vernon], Lewis Carroll would like to introduce you to a Greek warrior and a tortoise, and so would Douglas Hofstadter.   

       Basically, this idea falls down because of problems with meta-reasoning.
pertinax, Apr 11 2013
  

       This idea, which has been fraudulently presented as proven fact, is utter nonsense, and I have here the published results of a scientific study which entirely disproves any and all claims made and associated with it, and also the so-called 'theory' of evolution, and all that relativity nonsense.   

       I am [The Alterother] and I approve this message.
Alterother, Apr 11 2013
  

       Bullshit I cant, [bigs]. I'm the Heathen King.   

       Actually, the last line is a sardonic reference to the spoken disclaimers that political candidates are now required to include at the end of television and radio ads here in the States. Look into 'swift-boating' or 'swift boat fiasco' for details on the origin.
Alterother, Apr 11 2013
  

       [Vernon] and heck, the whole lot of halfbakerdom is going to have to carry a card with the verbiage of one of these everywhere we go now. 'Yep, I'm a card-carrying halfbaker...'
RayfordSteele, Apr 11 2013
  

       Well, you're not wrong. I'm frequently two people in my own head, and that's on a good day. Sometimes I'm so many of myself that I can't sort out which one is me.
Alterother, Apr 11 2013
  

       Johannes Scheiver actually founded a religion back in the 1500's which demanded that no unproven statements be made and that, in the absence of proof, statements had to be qualified accordingly. He theorized that a society founded on such a basis would progress far faster than one in which nonsense was allowed to propagate unchecked. His movement ("Licht Wahrhaftigkeit" or "Light of Truth") was otherwise similar in many ways to the later Quaker movement, and gained a considerable following which continued after Schiever's death.   

       Unfortunately, it had never occurred to him that the existence of god was open to question or required proof. Gradually, with things like Newtonian science coming along, the movement ran into severe internal inconsistencies and more or less fell apart.
MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 11 2013
  

       He did not found it! It was his mistress. He spent years trying to supress it, and it was only after she died and he realised how much money it was bringing in that he turned around and became its public spokesman and leader.
pocmloc, Apr 12 2013
  

       When I first read the title I was concerned that it meant the end of Halfbakery...
whlanteigne, Apr 12 2013
  

       Personally, I think that just introducing a basic probability and statistics course to the grade school curriculum would go a long way to limiting the amount of undesirable nonsense in the world.   

       It's simply amazing to me how many people complain about a poll or paper they disagree with with the "no one polled me" argument.
MechE, Apr 12 2013
  

       Equally annoying is the consumer complaint, after a major company has spent millions advising the public that their policy has changed, "No one told me about it."
whlanteigne, Apr 12 2013
  

       // introducing a basic probability and statistics course to the grade school curriculum //   

       Shouldn't be difficult, just pay for it out of the art, music, and PE budget...oh, wait...
Alterother, Apr 12 2013
  

       It shouldn't be hard to introduce probability and statistics to grade school curriculum- just write a series of grade school math textbooks that introduce those concepts.   

       Slip in some concepts about critical thinking into the grammar and "social studies" texts, while you're at it.
whlanteigne, Apr 12 2013
  

       Actually, [Alter] I'm proposing replacing pre- calculus/calculus, so junior/senior year of high school in most states (not sure about overseas). Most people who end up needing to take calculus in college also end up needing to to take Probability and Statistics. Whereas those who go into fields where calculus is not needed would benefit more from a basic understanding of statistics.
MechE, Apr 12 2013
  

       Originally proposed this idea in 1992. Brought it up again in 2004, then again in 2012. :   

       For-profit education.   

       A broadcast television station, airing accredited courses in a variety of degree programs. The broadcast facility is funded by commercial advertising, just like any other station. Viewers can watch and videotape courses- regular testing and/or "homework," via fax, mail, or email, is charged a small fee for grading. Final exams would be administered at rented locations, again for a relatively small fee.   

       This project requires the purchase of a broadcast television station, a startup budget to pay salaries the first year or so, and 9,000 hours (approximately) of orignial educational programming.   

       I believe degree courses in several areas could be offered- math, physics, engineering, history, literature, etc.   

       The targeted audience are those who are not computer-savvy, or may not have access to broadband, or may not have any internet access. Televisions are cheap and almost universal, computers are still not found in most homes.   

       Television University is an anti-elitist concept.   

       We are, in fact, already being educated by television, in the guise of entertainment. We are bombarded by bad science, improper ethics, inappropriate behavior- but no one complains that "Seinfeld" or "Friends" or "NYPD Blue" has created any conflict of interest.   

       I'm proposing that bad, misleading information be replaced with good, accurate information, and that viewing TV be transformed into something constructive. Turning a profit will insure a continuing private investment, rather than existing at the whim of political hacks.   

       The hope would be that the programming would be picked up by a satellite service, once the concept has proved itself to investors to be profitable. Actually, the programming could be started as a cable-access channel operating 24/7/365. I would have suggested this first, but the real stumbling block is obtaining the 8,760 hours of original college-level programming.   

       A few years ago, I went so far as to make out a programming schedule, having 13-week semesters, 4 semesters a year, so that a BS or BA degree could be earned in two years (of very intense, condensed study). I think I calculated I could schedule 20 or so possible degree programs running simultaneously- thus the name Television University. Some material would be run at odd hours, but that's what VCRs are for.   

       Television is the most powerful communications technology in human history, yet in its present form it's being used to make people stupid. I propose Television University, a television channel that broadcasts college course material 24/7, to make people smarter. Degree courses would be offered in Aptitude/Essential Skills (math, language skills- reading, writing, vocabulary, spelling, problem solving), Management, Industry Specific Knowledge (specific industries- automotive, aerospace, finance, health, etc), Office Skills, Computer Software and IT, Languages and Communication, History, Psychology, Philosophy, etc.   

       Course material would be presented in traditional broadcast format with commercial advertising breaks: 10 minutes of advertising per hour of programming. Advertising would be appropriate to the course material, and advertising revenues would be used to support the programming, rather than charging tuition.   

       The hook is that, after watching the course material, the viewer/student pays a fee to take a proctored test for course credits, which add up to an accredited degree in the degree program studied. Some courses will require material to be submitted, such as term papers or other materials; these would be submitted via mail, email, or fax, graded for a fee by a qualified instructor or advisor, and credits issued toward the appropriate degree.   

       My original idea would have allowed viewers to tape the material with a VCR for convenient viewing later, but "On Demand" would make material available at any time, but would have to include advertising (the price you pay for free education).   

       Now, I just need about 8,700 hours of original educational programming...   

       Originally, back in the '90s, I had thought to use a traditional broadcast TV station. VCRs were high tech at the time, but technology has progressed to the point that cable and/or satellite TV is fairly common and reasonable in cost for most people. Whatever the medium, the idea is to have tuition costs paid for by advertising, having students pay only for taking exams and having assignments graded.   

       Brainbench.com offers something similar, in the form of a specialized learning program and fee- based examinations for certifications. My proposal goes a bit beyond in offering accredited degree programs.   

       Television is a powerful educational tool. Currently it educates people to be mindless, gullible consumers, and provides cheap, shallow answers to very complex questions.
whlanteigne, Apr 12 2013
  

       [MechE]: I love it. Calculus is useless unless you go into a field that requires you to learn it all over again anyway.   

       I had the luxury of attending an alternative high school that allowed upperclassmen to 'upgrade' to college courses, so I filled out my senior year with geometry.   

       [whlanteigne]: post it, and they will bun...
Alterother, Apr 12 2013
  

       Posted.
whlanteigne, Apr 12 2013
  
      
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