Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Blik - Prove Me Wrong

Sunny, Blue, Summer, All-powerful, Debate, Unfalsifiable
The Blik Lemon controls the universe.
(photo by Karen Wang)

BLIK

Noun. Mid-20th century.
[Arbitrary.]

PHILOSOPHY. A personal slant on something; a conviction, especially a religious one.

Someone once told me that God created the universe 6,000 years ago. I countered that this was impossible, as the geological processes that we see on Earth today could never have formed our mountains and landscapes in that time. "Ah," she countered, "but God created the mountains and landscapes."

Taking a more cosmic tack, I explained that the universe is expanding, and scientists have measured the speed of its expansion. If you play that expansion backwards, like rewinding a tape, you can get an approximate measure of when the universe started, and it's considerably more than 6,000 years ago. "Ah," she said, undeterred, "but 6,000 years ago is the point at which the universe and time began, and everything started moving from then."

Determined to make headway, I queried her on the geological accumulation of sedimentary layers and the fossils they contain; how these show that countless species have lived and died over a period far in excess of 6,000 years. "God created everything in situ," she explained. "He could have put the fossils in the ground when he created the Earth."

"Why on Earth would God do that?" I asked.

"Who knows?" she said. "God's ways are unknowable. Perhaps he did it to give us something to study."

The problem with this lady's assertion (or, more correctly, the problem with my debating her assertion) is that it's a blik, a word coined by the philosopher R. M. Hare. He defined a blik as an unfalsifiable belief that forms part of one's worldview. No matter what I said to this woman about her belief, she would have an answer, as all 'evidence' I could suggest was inherently part of God's creative act 6,000 years ago, making her belief unfalsifiable. Hare himself illustrated a blik with a story of a student who believed that all of his professors were plotting to kill him. How could anyone ever empirically disprove that? Any nice prof that assured him "No, honestly, I'm not planning to kill you," is just saying exactly what a conniving, murderous professor is going to say, right?

However, the really odd thing about bliks is this: they're not necessarily false. As utterly bonkers as it might sound, the fact that no one can falsify the statement that God created everything in situ 6,000 years ago does not automatically render it untrue (maybe he did). The fact that no amount of 'evidence' can prove that the professors aren't planning to kill their poor student doesn't automatically prove that they aren't (maybe they are). Hare was of the opinion that we all have bliks, whether we're religious or not, and they're not necessarily meaningless as they form part of our worldview and the structure by which we understand the universe around us.

Personally, I believe that if you assert something to me, you're the one that has to prove your belief, rather than me having to disprove it; I believe that the burden of proof is on the one making the assertion. But then that's just my blik, right?

Do you hold any bliks?

Have you ever told someone they're talking a load of bliks?

Do please comment below.

13 comments:

  1. My brother is convinced that everyone who doesn't do manual labour doesn't have the right to feel tired at the end of their day, because "sitting in front of the computer is no real work". I guess that's (one of) his blik(s). And I beg to differ.

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    1. Having done both in my time, I would beg to differ also. But then those with cushy desk jobs would beg to differ wouldn't they?

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  2. How about that sports commentators who say: the visitors surely can't score in the time left remaining to them...

    should never be allowed anywhere near a microphone ever again?

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    1. But surely they can't, Sally. It's just not possible. But ... wait ... could it be .... GOAAAL!

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  3. I once saw this in the Tate gallery in London (us Blatherskites sometimes take an exploratory stroll into the cultural in an effort to be slightly more tolerable to normal people like Bibi)

    http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/craig-martin-an-oak-tree-l02262

    To my horror when I left the gallery, after musing on, and failing to juggle, conceptual little balls of puzzling oddness under a glass of water on a bathroom shelf purporting to be an oak tree (that's the first time that sentence has occurred in the universe's 6,000 year history), my car had been clamped.

    Which only served to reinforce a dislike for philosophy I'd acquired since a teacher at school urged me to question 2 + 2 = 4, before I handed in my mathematics coursework, in the interests of 'getting some wisdom.'

    Ed you're my Blik and, despite not being able to prove you, I believe in you.

    -clueless.

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    1. I find you to be reasonably tolerable even without venturing into the cultural, Clueless. No need to strain yourself.

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    2. While I would hate to further compound any simmering contempt you feel for philosophy, I did wonder when reading that article if that really qualified as a blik. Did the artist really have that as a belief, and one that affected his worldview? Or was he rather just trying to make a point about semantics or existentialist perception? If he was, I'm not sure that's a blik at all.

      You could even say ... it's not ablikkable.

      Ho ho ho.

      PS: Did you not appeal the clamping? I thought there was some kind of waiver for those that ran overtime if they did so while pondering the vagaries of reality.

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    3. One might, were one suspicious, feel that the entirety of your reply were contrived around the wonderful 'it's not ablikkable' bit, but I don't mind at all. It made me giggle.

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    4. Is there any chance you could develop that suspicion into part of your worldview? Because then, dear C, I believe we would have a bona fide blik.

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  4. That's easy to say when you're at least 4 countries away. My wife, however, displays the kind of tolerance which holds bridges up.

    -clueless.

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    1. That's why she's your wife and I'm just a random chick on the Internet.

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  5. My husband's blik would be that there is life on other planets. We do both believe in creation, and for some reason this makes me surprised that he believes in intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. My blik would be that I don't believe there is intelligent life other than on earth.
    We have some intriguing conversations about the topic sometimes.

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    1. Ah ... extraterrestrial life! That's a subject I find very interesting, and one I'm sure will be explored through Lexi when the appropriate word comes up.

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