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Battleground God and the Loch Ness Monster
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This game, Battleground God, is supposed to test the underlying rationality of your religious beliefs, as well as their internal consistency (via Matthew Yglesias).

Like Kevin Drum, I took one "direct hit", which is supposed to mean that the answers to two of my questions were inconsistent.

These are the two questions:

Question 10
If, despite years of trying, no strong evidence or argument has been presented to show that there is a Loch Ness monster, it is rational to believe that such a monster does not exist.

Question 14
As long as there are no compelling arguments or evidence that show that God does not exist, atheism is a matter of faith, not rationality.

Like Kevin, I answered "true" to both of these, which the game told me was logically inconsistent.

Kevin says he "thinks this is right", but he questions it. I think it's bullshit.

My objection is along the lines of one mentioned in the game's FAQ. Namely, that Loch Ness is a very small, constrained physical area, and the monster is presumably a physical creature bigger than a minnow but smaller than the Loch. Meanwhile, the universe is a big-ass place, and we are severely constrained in our ability to emperically observe or search it to anything but an extremely limited extent.

How do they answer this objection in the FAQ?

Well, imagine yourself confronted by a Nessie non-existence sceptic. They're part of some Nessie worshipping cult (and remember that many people do believe truly bizarre things, so this is not entirely gratuitous)! And they say to you: "Sure, Nessie is a physical entity, but it has the rather extraordinary (indeed unique - and possibily mystical) ability to remain forever beyond detection."

Well, I could imagine such a person, theoretically, but how many Nessie believers actually propose such a thing? In fact, most people who believe in Nessie most likely offer either fuzzy sonar readings or pixely photos as proof. Who the hell believes in Nessie while insisting that its detection is physically impossible?

Basically, absence of proof is justified if the search space is limited, constrained, and easily searchable. For example, I don't believe there is a fifty-dollar bill in my back pocket because it is very easy for me search it. Is it unreasonable for me to declare that there is no fifty-dollar bill in my pocket because there is an absence of evidence?

On the other side of the coin, if someone asked me if there were extraterrestrial life in one of the billions of solar systems in the universe, how should I respond, in order to be intellectually consistent? I'd say I don't know. Why? Because the empirical search space is mostly unreachable and unsearchable. I can't make a judgment without the means to do so.

The question of the existence of god, in my mind, is more akin to extraterrestrial life (god may exist beyond our current level of perception, in other dimensions...shit, who knows?) than to the question of the existence of the fifty-dollar bill.

Or of Nessie.

So that aspect of the test is bogus. Still, it's interesting. Have a go if you get the chance.

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