I'd say it returns the same confidence that God is not listening and not doing what you ask, depending on decision you made before you ever asked the question.
"Live v. Die" as a prayer operates amongst the widest of terms. Contextually, if you allow that God "works in mysterious ways" and/or "has a plan" as part of the parameters of the question (assumed definition of God), then the end result of the "Live v. Die" outcome remains arbitrary. The answer is prescribed by the question -- God will do as God will do.
You asking for the Live-outcome is immaterial to the equation. The fact that you're asking and the answer would appear to be in the affirmative is only added weight to the assumption that God might do as You will ask. The certainty about God, though, has nothing to do with the "evidence." Belief in God carries with it the implication that God's choice about your mortality overrides your own, so the outcome is meaningless in determining certainty. It only has anything to do with the underlying drive to receive affirmation in the first place. So certainty here is a question of state arrived at before one asks the question.
And a question that predicts the answer still isn't really a question at all. It's a certainty.
If we assume that the question "please allow me to live today, and wake up tomorrow so that I may live the next day" is a common concern amongst the entirety of the living population, the actual odds of this coming true or not hold to many other variables, but, the chance of the answer returning in the affirmative -- across the entire population -- probably averages out to 50/50... So, we're back at Chance.
Life itself is then a flux state, with two outcomes at polar extremes, and the entire centre is a grey area. Another superposition, where both outcome remains possible at all times. However, there is a decision that has been made that one state is true, while the other is false. Yet the false outcome still remains as a possibility.
The certainty comes from the underlying decision, not from the evidence that informs the questions.
Confirmation bias always figures into our assessment of things. But you miss my point here. We assume that there are 'laws of nature' that govern our environment, and from them we derive degrees of certainty with regard to daily occurrences. But what are laws of nature really? Things we rely upon? So gravity is God and the egg will crack when it hits the ground. But we might as well call it God's will that makes it crack, and support our determination by the evidence that we pray to God daily and ask him to maintain order and stability in our world. What makes gravity necessary? what makes it real? It's reliability?
No, only the observation and experience of it makes it real. And we know it isn't reliable. The "laws of nature" are actually averages, and cumulative effects of still smaller and smaller forces. What we call the "laws" end up breaking down as we approach the smallest known possible size within our realm of existence (Planck's Length), the maximum temperature/speed (Light), the lowest temperature/speed (zero kelvin).
Couple that with other observed forces in nature, such as Dark Matter/Inflation, and we actually see a repelling force. Anti-gravity, if you will. So now we have two established poles on a continuum, and again the grey area in the middle where the reduction of the thing to its constituent parts reveals the true nature of the thing to be only the average result of still smaller forces.
Gravity isn't necessary. It's certainty is only derived by context -- and again, it's only certain because the question itself provides the possibility for the answer. As with my previous ramble, when you change the context and put the egg on the moon, the answer change. Change context further still to Phobos, and the answer is different again. Put the egg at the universe's Boundary, and its diffeent yet again. The "certainty" is only certain insofar as the context is defined. The question provides the answer.
Or another way of saying it: How we approach the question defines how we understand the answer.
Take this argument as an example. The question is: Can we ever be entirely certain? We've already defined two answers from the question itself. Yes you can/No you can't. Option C (the superposition) allows both to be true, but is paradoxically what we would call "uncertainty" provided we allow the definition of "certainty" to define the answer. If we change the way we ask the question, and define "certainty" as an average value of two extremes on a continuum, rather than a specific Yes/No value, then Option C reveals itself as the true answer. We can be certain of uncertainty.
But it's just nonsense. Word play. It does nothing to address the real, underlying element of the question. What possible need is there to ever be "certain" of anything but uncertainty? I'll take the average and be fine with that.
What do you want us to be certain of?
What do I want?? Ha. I'm not certain of anything, including who 'I' am when I type this answer.
Does it matter? No. Not in the slightest. We all pretty much manage to get by anyway. But I find what we presume to be so interesting.....
Which I guess is what I'm saying. All certainties -- beyond self-answering questions -- are presumptions. Presumptions are roughly equivalent to stereotyped knowledge. That which generally holds to be "true." There's nothing wrong with presumtpions -- they're simply how we operate. Without generalized, stereotyped knowledge, we couldn't operate. It's just how we function physiologically.
Fung declaring certainties to be roughly to be presumptions sounds wrong to me. Let me explain
with the the egg example: I looked at the set of outcomes with the presumption that all experiments
are done on earth. With this presumption and the presumption that the egg is not somehow armored
or slowed down I looked at the set of all possible outcomes and decided that the vast majority
of the outcomes where the egg breaks is enough for me to be certain that the egg breaks.
So the first step in reaching certainty is looking at all posiblities and this is very dependent
on which presumptions you take into account.
As you pointed out earlier the process of deciding whether something is certain is the second step
in reaching certainty. If you want to be REALLY certain, then one set off possibilities must be
infinite and the other finite, so the probabilty is exactly 1 for one of the alternatives. For normal
certainty a vast majority of one alternative seems sufficient. But be warned, we are prone to
'cheating' we simply declare sometimes some possibilties to be non existant/do not count as in
the two alternatives god exists/god doesn't exist proves.
By declaring one choice for void you are a theist or an atheist (decision). By altering the presumptions
other religions become possible (first step)
i KNOW that I have 5 fingers on each hand. i KNOW that I'm at work right now ;)
As Wittgenstein said, if you know for certain that's your hand in front of you, then the discussion is over. But for him, that's where it begins....
Falcon -- you're using a sort of statistical model here, right? You're more or less saying that in the egg-drop situation, a standard curve will be produced. A very steep curve, no doubt. The mean of the curve will approach infinity (Chance) at a certain height where break/no break can be said to "uncertain." The statistical derivaton from the mean will likewise be a fairly small value, with the majority of cases falling within one derivation. But the two ends of the curve will not be returns to absolute 0, but will instead be limits, approaching infinity. Over infinite trials, there is always the possibility that for some reason the egg doesn't break no matter how high to drop it from (or that it will break regardless of how low you drop it from).
So, is it accurate to say that a return value of 0.00002 or 0.00098 is sufficient as it is close enough to 0 and 1 to be said to be certain? In other words, are you allowing a statistical margin of error to exist within your definition of "certainty"?
But how do you even know that it's your hand dropping the egg? Or that what you're seeing is in fact an egg at all? The formula may be consistent in the end, but the elements that precede it may not be.
how do you know that gravity really exists?
Not to add to what we know, but more to look at what we don't know. I think this goes for most people, that we need to see something before we believe it, but why? Our eyes can be tricked just as easily as anything else.
On the basis of what do we know, I think it goes back to beliefs. Where do you stand in the universe?
Most of what we know are theories, like the theory of gravity. But this theory has also gotten us into space and to the moon.
Are you trying to tell us that we are all brains in vats?
I guess what I'm trying to say is that there is so little we actually do know and that it's more about where you stand.
PhD's are the same as everyone else, they've just studied more about a topic. But they're the same people that keep reversing their opinions about "what is true". Each one disproves the next. People used to think the world was flat and that was common "knowledge". Now we know the world isn't flat right? or do we? Or are we just as naive as everyone else in our history?
I stand by religion because it can be proven in a different way.
Fung: Let's put the egg example away for the moment and play a game! I let you pick a natural number then I
pick randomly a natural number. You win when I pick the same number as you did otherwise I win. Of course
your chances are slim playing only once therefore we play for an arbitrary long period of time. I won't
bother you with a proof, but you always loose. You even loose when I let you pick not just one number but a
really huge number of numbers. You still loose. In this game I am REALLY certain to win, even when nothing
stops me from picking your number, it just won't happen.
The second game that I propose you is that you can pick either even or odd, then I pick a randomly a natural
number. You win if the number is that what you chose. The second game is 'fair' you have a 50% chance to win.
The third game is I let you pick a number samller than 10'000 and then I pick randomly a number also below
10'000. You win if I pick the same number as you did otherwise I win. I have a roughly 99.99% chance to
Actually they are competing models for what happens to an egg in earths gravity: The first two state that
there are infinite possible outcomes, while the third takes only a finite number of outcomes into account.
It is even difficult falsify those models, you would need an egg surviving a 10 meter drop to rule out model
one. What is fascinating about model one is the fact that even though in some outcomes the egg survives
but it is certain that it won't happen, if it happens anyway then the model was not appropriate.
Gary: In those games there is no mention of eggs but neither tomatoes, melons or coconuts. The "eggishness"
has been spririted away by declaring them unessential for the model. Basically I did the same as the
as the theist/atheist, I simply say the "eggishness" doesn't count. You can't be certain of real objects,
they just are. It makes no sense to be certain of an egg, but it makes sense to be certain/not certain
of what happens to an egg dropping from 10 meters.