Pharyngula

Doors

Here’s an entirely hypothetical scenario.

You’re in a room with two exits, marked Door A and Door B. By each is a guardian, Guardian A and Guardian B. You need to go through one of the doors.

Door A is light and flimsy, easy to open—just turn the knob and you’re through it. Reasonably enough, before charging through, you ask Guardian A what’s on the other side.

“Joy and delight, an eternal life of perfect happiness, an end to doors and constant traveling…and all you have to do is turn that little knob, and believe.”

That sounds too good to be true, so you ask him how he knows, and whether he has been through the door.

“No, not yet, I can only go once my tour of duty here is done. But I dream of it every night, and I can also tell you that almost everyone who has come here has gone through Door A.”

You want confirmation, so you turn to Guardian B and ask if that’s true.

“Yes,” he says, “most people do go through Door A. I don’t know if it’s true about what’s on the other side, though.”

Door B is rather imposing: it’s a huge steel block, bristling with locks and complicated gadgets. It looks like it’s going to take a lot of time and cleverness and strength to get it open. It’s so intimidating, you’re not even sure that you’ll be able to figure out how to open it. You ask Guardian B if it’s as difficult as it looks.

“Oh, man, yes…it’s hard. At least it was when I was your age—now I’ve had so much practice at it that I can go through this door easily, all the time. I’m afraid I can’t just open it for you, though. I can give you suggestions and hints, but you really do have to do all the work yourself. It’s a kind of admissions test to see if you’ll be able to cope on the other side.”

This is not entirely encouraging, and you hope there’s something as good as joy and delight beyond the door, so you ask what’s over there.

“Knowledge,” says Guardian B. “Hard work. Interesting ideas. And doors—many more doors, each one harder than the next, and no end to them in sight. Clever people, all working together to open more doors. It’s a whole world, a good but complicated place.”

Guardian A screams, “HE LIES! There’s a tiger on the other side that will kill and eat you. I think it’s on fire, too. And worst of all, if you go through Door B, you’ll never get to experience the beautiful life behind Door A. Guardian B is evil, and he wants you to suffer!”

Guardian B just rolls his eyes. He’s heard this before.

“Look, kid, Guardian A means well, but he doesn’t know anything. I’ve told you the truth about what’s behind my door; maybe ol’ A is right about what’s behind his door, but all I’ve ever seen when someone opens Door A is a dark room beyond. You get to make the choice, at least so far—A and his friends want to seal off my door to ‘protect’ all the travelers who come through here.”

Your choice. What door do you go through?

Comments

  1. #1 Rik
    March 31, 2006

    Door B, of course. Knowledge and growth, with the opportunity to always learn more. Sounds like paradise to me.

  2. #2 LBBP
    March 31, 2006

    I already cast my vote. Door B of course.

  3. #3 Ray
    March 31, 2006

    Even if Guardian A is right about what’s behind his door, it sounds like life would get pretty boring there after the novelty wore off. Wasn’t there an old Twilight Zone episode like this once?

    Anyway, I’d be inclined to pick B, however, you left out one very important piece of information: where’s the beer?

  4. #4 Great White Wonder
    March 31, 2006

    Which door did Jimi Hendrix go through?

  5. #5 decrepitoldfool
    March 31, 2006

    Another group on the other side of door B is people who got tired of standing around swapping stories about the wondrous things behind door A.

    I love this analogy.

  6. #6 LBBP
    March 31, 2006

    Oh yeah, does door B have stripper factories and bear volcanoes, or was that Door C?

  7. #7 LBBP
    March 31, 2006

    oops.. I meant beer volcanoes…

  8. #8 Jason Bock
    March 31, 2006

    Technically, you didn’t say I could go one AND ONLY one door (you said, “You need to go through one of the doors.”)…so I’d go through A quickly, find out the truth, and if it sucks, go through door B (eventually).

    😛

  9. #9 Jody
    March 31, 2006

    Great. Now I want a bear volcano.

  10. #10 PZ Myers
    March 31, 2006

    If Guardian A were a little wordier, he’d explain to you that the presence of beer volcanoes and strippers on the other side of Door B is another reason to choose A.

  11. #11 Patrick
    March 31, 2006

    I’d wait for Monty Hall to open a door with a goat behind it and then switch my choice.

  12. #12 Dianne
    March 31, 2006

    Duh. Door B. Both guardians are lying–there’s nothing on the other side of either door–but door B at least gives you lots of fun things to play with on your way out.

  13. #13 NonProphet
    March 31, 2006

    Good catch LBBP. Bear volcanoes might just dissuade more people from choosing door B than hard work would. “There is a small risk with door B that you may be seriously injured by a bear falling from the sky. The good news is that if the furry debris doesn’t kill with its impact, it certainly will with its claws”.

    I’m for door B. Even with a bear volcano. I’d rather take my risks and have knowledge than wander “securely” in ignorance.

  14. #14 Jake Blues
    March 31, 2006

    Guradian A sounds like a jackass. Door B for me.

  15. #15 jimBOB
    March 31, 2006

    Sounds like either Guardian B or some other person has been through door B and come back. (This is implied in the story, though not stated; if neither Guardian B nor anyone he’s spoken to had never been through, how would he know all the stuff that’s supposed to be going on in there?) Assuming this is so, then Door B looks like the one to pick, as if it’s a bad place you may have the opportunity of returning from it. Door A, on the other hand, seems to be like a Roach Motel (you can check in but you can never check out).

    OTOH if neither Guardian has been through his respective door, then you are reduced to guessing at the veracity of their stories. In which case you may as well flip a coin, as there’s no way to gauge this from the story.

  16. #16 demoman
    March 31, 2006

    Oversimplification.

    Guardian A screams, “HE LIES! There’s a tiger on the other side that will kill and eat you. I think it’s on fire, too. And worst of all, if you go through Door B, you’ll never get to experience the beautiful life behind Door A. Guardian B is evil, and he wants you to suffer!”

    Of course, you’d like to think that is how your poor metaphorical Guardian A would react. Allows you to have your fellow echo chamber sycophants keep patting you on the back.

  17. #17 Martin Wagner
    March 31, 2006

    Okay, demoman, you clever fellow, what would Guardian A say?

  18. #18 Kayigo
    March 31, 2006

    OK, demoman, lets hear your version of the two doors analogy.
    Bear volcano. Hee, hee!

  19. #19 LBBP
    March 31, 2006

    I guess demoman has never heard of Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson or Jack Chick or Kirk Cameron or Jimmy Swaggart or Fred Phelps or Bill O’Reilly or etc… etc…

  20. #20 coturnix
    March 31, 2006

    A bunch of clever people working together solving puzzles! Of course I’ll go there. Sounds like fun…almost like a lab meeting!

    As far as beer volcanoes, dunno yet, I just got my Pastafarian Manifesto today…

  21. #21 Meri
    March 31, 2006

    Door B has a flaming tiger? I want to see that.

  22. #22 pough
    March 31, 2006

    Look: an Echo Chamber Sycophant Troll! Beautiful plumage…

    Not only would Echo Chamber Sycophants be a great band name, but I think I might start Echo Chamber Sycophant Accusation Day, where I go to every blog and make a snide remark about how everyone who posts there must of course be a sycophant and they’re all talking in an echo chamber.

    Truly one of the most pointless things to say in a blog’s comments, ever. Echo Chamber Sycophant is the new Zombie Hitler.

  23. #23 Kayigo
    March 31, 2006

    You’re missing the best band name, which is Bear Volcano… and the Flaming Tigers.

  24. #24 Uber
    March 31, 2006

    Actually given the exchange of ideas here it is anything BUT an echo chamber.

  25. #25 Straw Men Are a Bigot's Best Friend
    March 31, 2006

    I choose Door C, which is similar to Door A, but isn’t a straw man argument.

  26. #26 poke
    March 31, 2006

    Demoman is right, this analogy isn’t accurate! Door A should be merely painted on and Guardian A should be a child molestor.

  27. #27 cp
    March 31, 2006

    I’ll take the sofa and a coffee cup. A book maybe and wait. I won’t waste time arguing while there’s still stuff to do in the room. I’ll think about it later.

  28. #28 I sure make clever points in my username
    March 31, 2006

    You: “And what’s behind this door?”
    Guardian C: “Well, it’s similar to Door A, but it isn’t a straw man argument.”
    You: “…what? What does that even mean?”
    Guardian C: *Runs away flapping arms above head*

  29. #29 Natasha Yar-Routh
    March 31, 2006

    Bear Volcano and the Flaming Tigers, what a stage show that would be. When’s their CD drop?

  30. #30 RavenT
    March 31, 2006

    Great. Now I want a bear volcano.

    Me, too. Maybe we could get a grant to develop one.

  31. #31 Dwimr
    March 31, 2006

    I see Joel Osteen as Guardian A, Carl Sagan as Guardian B, and Edward Teach as Guardian C.

  32. #34 lt.kizhe
    March 31, 2006

    Of course, you’d like to think that is how your poor metaphorical Guardian A would react. Allows you to have your fellow echo chamber sycophants keep patting you on the back.

    More proof that True Believers are incapable of recognizing themselves, as seen by others.

  33. #35 LBBP
    March 31, 2006

    The Toasted Head Fire Breathing Bear is cool, but I have to admit I was envisioning bears being spewed from the top of a mountain as apposed to fire and lava emitting from the bear.

  34. #36 Jeffery Keown
    March 31, 2006

    Door B… B for Bear.

    As in “I can’t bear to go through door A.”

    Thought I did see the hottest little Door A Opener today. Totally Hawt Christian girl… like… 22 years old, hair down to there, short skirt… She said she was the Door A type but dressed for Door B.

    What was I talking about?

  35. #37 Andy Groves
    March 31, 2006

    Joy and delight, an eternal life of perfect happiness

    Well, duh….. Door A.

  36. #38 RavenT
    March 31, 2006

    I agree, LBBP–your design is better. 🙂

  37. #39 BruceH
    March 31, 2006

    Besides, a flaming tiger doesn’t sound very threatening. I mean, it’s on fire! I doubt it would be much interested in me unless I had a fire extinguisher.

  38. #40 bmurray
    March 31, 2006

    It’s important to realize that you can go through door B and then go through door A later if you like. You don’t have to die to go through door B.

  39. #41 James Taylor
    March 31, 2006

    B. I like to solve problems.

  40. #42 Meri
    March 31, 2006

    Besides, a flaming tiger doesn’t sound very threatening. I mean, it’s on fire!

    I figured the flaming tiger was some kind of mytical creature, so it could burn and not get hurt. It probably guards the bear volcano.

  41. #43 skblllzzzz
    March 31, 2006

    Which door did the chicken go through?

  42. #44 Ian
    March 31, 2006

    Demoman is right: for Guardian A didn’t use nearly enough logical fallacies to remind me of anyone.

  43. #45 Carlie
    March 31, 2006

    I most definitely do NOT want a bear volcano.

    “It’s important to realize that you can go through door B and then go through door A later if you like. You don’t have to die to go through door B.”

    I think that’s a little flaw in the scenario. It might be more appropriate, although more cumbersome, to say that behind door A everyone sits around and talks about how great it will be when the eventually get through door A’, which is at the back of the room, and you can only get through if you’ve done the right things in room A. For room B, you gets what you sees, and there ain’t no more. There isn’t a B’ door.

  44. #46 IAMB
    March 31, 2006

    Bear Volcano and the Flaming Tigers

    I think you’re a couple-and-a-half decades too late for a band name like that to fly. Gives me horrible flashbacks of guys in leopard print spandex with heavy makeup and toxic levels of hairspray.

    Not that I don’t mind listening to 80s butt-rock… I just can’t handle looking at it.

  45. #47 Bob
    March 31, 2006

    First thing I do is ask B to go through the door and come back, as he said. If there’s a tiger, he won’t come back. If he comes back, then I’m reasonably sure that A is lying. 😉

  46. #48 Pascal
    March 31, 2006

    We all must choose door A; if guardian A is correct and we go through door B, we lose paradise… Is this logic not infallible?

  47. #49 whatsinaname
    March 31, 2006

    Kill both guardians, wait for the next guy to show up, tell him to go thru door A first.

    find out what happens.

  48. #50 Corwin
    March 31, 2006

    Assuming Guardian B has observed accurately, we know three things about Door A:

    1) People can open it.
    2) He can’t see any light in the space beyond Door A when someone opens it.
    3) Many people have gone through it anyway.

    Can we see anything beyond Door A if we shine a light into the doorway? Has anyone ever exited through either door? If I turn my back and promise not to peek at how he opens it, will Guardian B open Door B, just to prove to me that it can be opened? Alternately, can I wait for a while, and observe people opening and going through both doors?

    I don’t see why I should take either of these people at their word, although given the story as is, I’d be less inclined to think that Guardian B was an asshole. I still wouldn’t just take him at his word, though.

    If I could satisfy myself that Guardian B’s knowledge of the world beyond Door B was accurate, I’d find a light source and explore Door A. I would not, however, be inclined to “believe” in anything as I did so, unless I could experimentally verify that believing in different things changed what I found beyond the door.

  49. #51 Carlie
    March 31, 2006

    I just want you to know, now I have a song from my early childhood Sunday School years stuck in my head, and it hadn’t resurfaced in years.

    “One door and only one
    and yet it’s sides are two;
    Inside and outside
    on which side are you?
    One door and only one
    and yet it’s sides are two;
    I’m on the inside
    on which side are you?”

    F***ing bastards.

  50. #52 John
    March 31, 2006

    I would suspect that Door A and Door B led to the same room and that the whole thing was a prank.

    I think you’re a couple-and-a-half decades too late for a band name like that to fly. Gives me horrible flashbacks of guys in leopard print spandex with heavy makeup and toxic levels of hairspray.

    There is bound to be a revival of “80s retro” one of these days. Bear Volcano and the Flaming Tigers could be cutting edge.

  51. #53 thomis
    March 31, 2006

    I would check the ceiling to see if I could get out that way. If not, I’d try to figure out how I got there, and retrace my steps. Then I’d try to peek through keyholes. Then, of course, we start asking the guardians who is lying and whether they ever tell lies… Ask Guardian A how he knows what’s behind door B….

    Then finally dig a tunnel to a less manichean room….

  52. #54 aiabx
    March 31, 2006

    Door B. I bet one of the doors inside is the back way into Room A. Then you open the door, turn on the bear volcano, and watch 2 Kings 2:23-25 get recreated.

  53. #55 Lurker
    March 31, 2006

    Seems this story tries to paint the picture that you can have knowledge or you can have belief, and never the twain shall meet. I disagree.

    Belief is an extension of knowledge. You take what you know to be true, or are pretty darn sure is true, and extrapolate/interpolate from there. Call it an inference if you want.

  54. #56 Jaundice James
    March 31, 2006

    Wow. Glad I found you. This is definately one of my new favorite blogs. Thanks! -JJ

  55. #57 Perlocutionary
    March 31, 2006

    “Belief is an extension of knowledge.” I don’t believe you. Belief is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for knowledge.

  56. #58 JP
    March 31, 2006

    I don’t know about Bear Volcanos, but how about a Bear Garden.

    Also, do you have to choose right away? Is this one of those if you wait too long your lamp will go out and if you try to move then you will be eaten by a groo things?

  57. #59 Russell
    March 31, 2006

    Edward Teach? He’s guarding the door with stolen treasure behind it, but when you ask him what’s behind his door, he runs you through with a cutlass before the question is finished.

  58. #60 Fred Gray
    March 31, 2006

    Door B
    I wonder how long before everyone will choose door B.

  59. #61 Heliologue
    March 31, 2006

    You forgot to mention that Hank is waiting behind Door A with your million dollars.

    But still no sauerkraut.

  60. #62 Tiax
    March 31, 2006

    I ask gaurdian A if they have a stripper factory and beer volcano. If so, that’s just a bet I’m going to have to take. Otherwise, I get out my lockpicks.

  61. #63 JLem
    March 31, 2006

    Great. Now I want a bear volcano.

    Me, too. Maybe we could get a grant to develop one.

    silly people, bear volcanoes can’t be developed, but if you pray very hard maybe one will be designed for you. Oh, wait, I forgot, praying doesn’t work.

  62. #64 larry talbot
    March 31, 2006

    Bear volcano is scary whether it’s a bear spewing lava or a mountain spewing bears. Beer volcano is scary depending on the amount and kind of beer. As for the question, there are no guardians, there is only one door, and you’ve already passed through it. It’s a zen thing.

  63. #65 Carlie
    March 31, 2006

    “I don’t know about Bear Volcanos, but how about a Bear Garden.”

    Isn’t a bear garden where you’d go for Oktoberfest?

  64. #66 Robert S.
    March 31, 2006

    We all must choose door A; if guardian A is correct and we go through door B, we lose paradise… Is this logic not infallible?

    Yes, it is. Pascal was the master of the fallacy of limited options.

    His Wager is intellectual nonsense.

  65. #67 Pete
    March 31, 2006

    The scariest of all, though, is a volcano that is spewing bears who are spewing lava out of their mouths.

    I’m afraid I give the door scenario a meh. But I like how most of this gang are trying to hack it to make it better.

  66. #68 RavenT
    March 31, 2006

    Oktobearfest, actually.

  67. #69 JLem
    March 31, 2006

    BTW that Kiss Hank’s Ass thing is brilliant

  68. #70 T. Bruce McNeely
    March 31, 2006

    This reminds me of an urban legend about the medical specialist certification exams in Canada (US equivalent would be the Board Exams). In this particular specialty (it always seems to be one of the surgical specialties) the candidates spend their several days slogging through various written, oral and practical exams. On the last day, the candidates gather in a room with two doors. Each one is handed a piece of paper telling them which door to go through. The successful candidates enter a room where all the examiners have gathered, they are handed a drink, and a nice little party ensues. The others go through a door that enters the alley behind the building, where they can slink out of town unseen…
    Oh, yeah, I would take door B.

  69. #71 Lurker
    March 31, 2006

    “BTW that Kiss Hank’s Ass thing is brilliant”

    There’s one major flaw in the tale of Hank. The choices should be: do what Hank says and you’ll get to stay in town and collect the million bucks, or reject Hank’s offer and move to another town with nothing.

  70. #72 Opalgouger
    March 31, 2006

    But, If it’s all the same to everyone, I will stay here and live it up. Why go anywhere else when we have it all here. Peace we find within ourselves, good times with our friends, challenges in our life and people who will work with us to solve them. Here sounds pretty good to me

  71. #73 Martha
    March 31, 2006

    “Eternal life and perfect happiness”…. these two states seem mutually exclusive to me.

    Does no one else take solace in that we aren’t forever? I can not think of a greater torture than never being able to return to the void from which I came (not that I’m in a hurry to do so, mind you… the novelty of existing hasn’t yet worn off).

  72. #74 Ken Cope
    March 31, 2006

    As a PC user, it’s door B for me. My marriage is nearly a mixed one, as my wife is an apostate Mac user.

    As Steve Jobs said to The Beatles, Sosumi.

  73. #75 george cauldron
    March 31, 2006

    Of course, you’d like to think that is how your poor metaphorical Guardian A would react. Allows you to have your fellow echo chamber sycophants keep patting you on the back.

    I don’t care what’s behind them, just tell me which door Demoman is going thru and I’ll take the other one.

  74. #76 Jason Malloy
    March 31, 2006

    Hmm, either way it sounds like I’m at the mercy of some wicked machinations. Why do I have to choose two scary doors? Who put me here? Do both these guardians work for the evil bastard who put me here? Given my situation, it seems likely that both doors just lead to some crazy rooms designed as thematic booby traps, while some brandy-sipping supervillain watches me through cameras, as he strokes his black cat and laughs maniacally. Meanwhile, every time I escape the last trap and near death, I just encounter another room with more deadly traps. The trick to survival isn’t to play by the rules of Death House, but to try and work outside the rules of Death House. Instead of doors, look behind curtains and under furniture. Try to find wires, holes, anything you’re not supposed to see. Look for hidden vulnerabilities in the set-up.

    I won’t lie to you, chances of survival look slim, but even evil geniuses tend to leave small holes in their plans, you just have to find them.

  75. #77 James Taylor
    March 31, 2006

    I keep trying to wrap my mind around what a pyroclawstic flow would look like. I’m sure it would be absolutely terrifying.

  76. #78 Carlie
    March 31, 2006

    “Oktobearfest, actually.”

    Damn, I can’t believe I missed that!

  77. #79 todd.
    March 31, 2006

    Are you guys serious? You’d really pick B if you didn’t know it was the good atheist answer? No thought, drop of a hat, “B”?

    Don’t you want to know if opening harder and harder doors gets tiring? Or boring? What happens if you pick A and it is a dark room? How long do you have to sit in the dark?

    I usually like PZ’s parables a good deal. The world of funny hats was awesome. But I’m not sure that this one is as convincing.

  78. #80 Christian
    March 31, 2006

    I am late to the party, but the answer is Door B, every time.

  79. #81 with a Y
    March 31, 2006

    So on the parable scale this one is slightly below ‘hats’, but much better than ‘plumbing’.

    todd, the answer is yes, we want to know … by experiencing instead of being told or believing.

  80. #82 Tom
    March 31, 2006

    I think most of you don’t get it, maybe even the author ;P
    It’s should not be about a choice where to go after death (or something you were thinking of, like believing in irrational things or not).
    It looks like a choice we are doing as a scientist (we are all scientists, right?) now in our lifes.
    Guardian A propose a happy/easy life without a worry who actually work for us/delivers us a joy/food/drinks/etc.. (maybe at the cost of beeing someone else’s bitch, who knows?, the question is: do you believe it is possible to life like this without any consequences?)
    Guardian B propose the endless struggle, not sleeping at nights, sacrificing yourself to figure out some patterns / regularities in the world, working hard, developing new tools etc…
    Fortunately in reality you can try both and balance those things… so suck my dick scums 😛

  81. #83 Bride Of Acheron
    March 31, 2006

    Wait a minute. “You’re in a room with two exits, marked Door A and Door B.” How did I get INTO this room? Why don’t I just ask these “guardians” which door I entered through?

  82. #84 Mike
    March 31, 2006

    Quite apart from anything else, it’s not a very convincing parable because PZ left out that we all go through Door A eventually, whether Guardian A’s claims are true or false and whether you’ve previously gone through Door B or not.

  83. #85 tristero
    March 31, 2006

    I”d ask the guardians:

    Which door did Jerry Falwell go through?

    And I’d choose the other.

  84. #86 Bleach
    March 31, 2006

    This is what you hath wrought, PZ. Congratulations.

    In any case, I take issue with the simplification too. You may get satisfaction out of working on a hard problem, but I pity the fool who justifies his existence by it. Give me A, or give me meaningful knowledge.

  85. #87 Torbjorn Larsson
    March 31, 2006

    So, when is the “Doors” game release date, and is it really true there is an infinite number of doors and levels behind door B? If so, obviously that’s the road to godhood in this game.

  86. #88 WillIam Blake
    March 31, 2006

    If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.

  87. #89 Gibbon
    March 31, 2006

    “”I don’t see why I should take either of these people at their word, although given the story as is, I’d be less inclined to think that Guardian B was an asshole. I still wouldn’t just take him at his word, though.””

    So what if you asked Guardian B to show you something that was behind the door and he opened the door, went in, and returned with a margarita, an ipod, a pair of hot leapord skin pants. Then Guardian A starts shouting that Guardian B is evil and you should kill him.

  88. #90 Hellesfarne
    March 31, 2006

    Bleach: Give me A, or give me meaningful knowledge.

    Find your own!

    Meanwhile, I’m going to figure out where Door B goes.

  89. #91 Heliologue
    March 31, 2006

    Bleach: “hath” is equivalent to present tense “s” ending, so “has.” So you said “This is what you has wrought, PZ.” Erk.

    Lurker said:

    There’s one major flaw in the tale of Hank. The choices should be: do what Hank says and you’ll get to stay in town and collect the million bucks, or reject Hank’s offer and move to another town with nothing.

    You’re just arguing semantically. Given the major tenets shared by most religion, belief >> worship (to wit: asskissing). And, since the opposite of salvation is damnation, “move to another town with nothing” is logically equivalent to “Hank will kick your ass.” Or, if you’re picky about free well, “You have to let Hank kick your ass.”

  90. #92 todd.
    March 31, 2006

    by experiencing instead of being told or believing.

    That’s just so … predictable. I think you rob the process of obtaining knowledge of some of its meaning when you are so glib about it. This parable doesn’t say anything about knowledge. It’s only about picking locks in a group. There’s no indication that you learn about anything beyond locks; it’s almost like some kind of dystopian relativist conception of science.

    In fact, you’re still choosing B because you were told and believed that there isn’t a paradise beyond door A. You could say, “Well, we don’t have any reason to believe there is.” But shit, you don’t have any reason to believe there’s any knowledge behind door B, either.

    In the real world, these problems have meaningful solutions. We do have reasons to believe that the conduct of science produces a meaningful knowledge, an understanding of the world. We understand that it isn’t simply “puzzle solving.” And we reject mysticism because we understand what we’re giving up if we don’t. But this parable doesn’t convey any of that. You’re just choosing “knowledge” because that’s what good fans of PZ Myers are supposed to do.

  91. #93 Corwin
    March 31, 2006

    “So what if you asked Guardian B to show you something that was behind the door and he opened the door, went in, and returned with a margarita, an ipod, a pair of hot leapord skin pants. Then Guardian A starts shouting that Guardian B is evil and you should kill him.”

    So in that case Guardian A is an asshole, and Guardian B is trustworthy. I still want to know what’s behind Door A. Why should I deprive myself of knowledge because someone else is a moron?

  92. #94 ekzept
    March 31, 2006

    do the James T Kirk thing: hack the doors to open both, not going through them, and entire those who have to return and report.

  93. #95 ekzept
    March 31, 2006

    “entire” –> “entice”. can’t type this late. ciao.

  94. #96 Caledonian
    March 31, 2006

    Presuming that the doors are meant to represent religious faith and the scientific method, then I think the story is a poor metaphor.

    You don’t find out what’s behind Door B without going through it, but the rewards of science don’t require that you die before reaping them.

  95. #97 Bro. Bartleby
    March 31, 2006

    What is amazing is that highly educated folks, as most of you, are still locked into these childhood Sunday school tales. Alas, I sort of expect it of the less educated, those who scraped by just to finish high school, then for evermore are in some mind numbing labor, so okay, I understand them seeking the easy out. But those in high positions who are locked into childhood Sunday school theology, I would think it just silly were it not that these folks have power to misuse. Yes, confront the fools. But in your quest to preserve the sciences to all the ‘what/when/how’ questions, please allow room for some who are serious in their quest to understand the ‘why’ question. For I do think most modern theologians have grown past the ‘classical proofs of God’ by Anselm or Aquinas, even we agree that to our modern minds they seem contrived.
    Shalom,
    Bro. Bartleby

  96. #98 Mrs. Presky
    April 1, 2006

    “I’ll take the bag!”

  97. #99 skyview satellite
    April 1, 2006

    I don’t know if the university public relations department will pick up your “choose between two doors” motif for their collateral, but they should; Oh, it speaks so well to the demands of the life of the mind and the hard-won rewards of critical thinking. Bravo! May I be so bold as to submit that the perilously enchanting door B is but Pharyngula itself? And may I respectfully propose that you add “compose stylized parables” to your resume and your long list of cutural awards about which you must be so falsely modest? You know, there is so much to set you head and shoulders above the rest, and yet you share at least one characteristic with so many other would-be public personalities: you seem to think that if you’re waving the right flag then you can’t POSSIBLY be a fucking jerk. Let me tell you, the two are absolutely mutually exclusive.

    “Quite apart from anything else,” a quick scan of the above comments shows that at least one reader correctly identified this post as a strawman argument. Are you uneducated about rhetorical devices, or are you–to employ your own bombast–too intellectually dishonest to allow the facts alone to support the validity of the scientific method? Here’s a supplemental question: Many scientists I know work to advance the cause of reason without resorting to artsy-fartsy phony-baloney strawman arguments: Do some scientists and Powerline mouth-breathers deserve each other? Here’s a hint: Yes, they do!

    Also, if readers want a truly intriguing fable, they’ll search out Kafka’s fable of the door of law from The Trial. Kafka, were he not a grownup or an original thinker, might otherwise have cribbed that story from somebody else and made it an insulting and stupid little fairy tale. Save your bible-like scolding for your children, you fucking jerk.

  98. #100 Moody
    April 1, 2006

    “…a volcano that is spewing bears who are spewing lava out of their mouths.”

    Who let Jodorowski in here?

  99. #101 Samnell
    April 1, 2006

    “For I do think most modern theologians have grown past the ‘classical proofs of God’ by Anselm or Aquinas, even we agree that to our modern minds they seem contrived. ”

    Yeah, they’ve invented new childishness to replace the old. All theology is is just a more sophisticated level of apologetic.

  100. #102 Frank Sullivan
    April 1, 2006

    Jesus, I don’t know. Maybe neither of them are telling the truth.

  101. #103 Rey
    April 1, 2006

    you seem to think that if you’re waving the right flag then you can’t POSSIBLY be a fucking jerk. Let me tell you, the two are absolutely mutually exclusive.

    So…you agree then.

  102. But it’s great shit, Mrs. Presky! No, we don’t need to hear you rap.

  103. #105 Marine Geologist
    April 1, 2006

    Doors, Doors, do I hear “Doors”:

    You know the day destroys the night
    Night divides the day
    Tried to run
    Tried to hide
    Break on through to the other side
    Break on through to the other side
    Break on through to the other side

    We chased our pleasures here
    Dug our treasures there
    But can you still recall
    The time we cried
    Break on through to the other side
    Break on through to the other side
    Break on through to the other side

    Yeah, I’m a back door man
    I’m a back door man
    The men don’t know
    But the little girls understand

    Come on baby, light my fire
    Try to set the night on fire

    The time to hesitate is through

    Break on through to the other side

    I think that covers it all nicely!!!

  104. #106 skyview satellite
    April 1, 2006

    Rey: Wha-? I agree with myself? I agree with you? I agree with PZ? Oh, wait, I get it: I am hoisted on my own petard. I inadvertently insulted myself! Of course! However did you manage to penetrate the fortress of my argument? Sunshine may be squeezed from cucumbers yet.

  105. #107 idlemind
    April 1, 2006

    This reminds me of something I was thinking about recently:

    Suppose I had perpetual youth and perpetual health. No diminishment of mental or physical faculties. How many years of this could I stand? 200? 2000? 20000? It’s a bit tricky, since I suspect there is a lot more interesting stuff to learn about now than there would have been, say, back in the bronze age. Today knowledge grows so much faster than anyone could possibly keep up with. Would I ultimately become frustrated with my limitations? To use PZ’s fable, would I eventually tire of going through Door B?

    Forever, to coin a phrase, is a long, long time. Even if magically endowed with eternal life, I’m frustratingly limited when faced with all the knowledge the universe has to offer. It might be a very long time, but I think I’d eventually want it to end.

  106. #108 Heliologue
    April 1, 2006

    Bro Bartleby said:

    For I do think most modern theologians have grown past the ‘classical proofs of God’ by Anselm or Aquinas, even we agree that to our modern minds they seem contrived.

    You haven’t heard of the Discovery Institute, have you? Perhaps you’re aware of some remote cloister of hooded, post-Anselm monks, but when I look around, I see nothing but crazed evangelical and the gullible Christians who believe their nonsense talking points like “atheism is a religion!”

  107. #109 Dan S.
    April 1, 2006

    Somehow I don’t think that bear volcanoes result in glorious sunsets . . .

    Did I just hear someone essentially complaining that PZ wasn’t as good a writer as Kafka? Picky, picky.

    Whatever faults the analogy might have, it’s pretty accurate in regards to public presentation . . .

  108. #110 Rey
    April 1, 2006

    skyview: You’re kinda being a fucking jerk about this.

  109. #111 Kapitano
    April 1, 2006

    Surely we’re all already behind Door B. It’s the real world.

    Door A is an occasional mirage that evaporates when you approach it.

  110. #112 (apologies to) William Blake
    April 1, 2006

    Tyger, Tyger – burning bright?
    Behind the door that’s on the right.
    To frame his fearful symmetry:
    Bears erupt into the sky.

  111. #113 Jenna
    April 1, 2006

    If B stands for Books and A stands for Agony, then definitely DOOR B.

  112. #114 i dunno
    April 1, 2006

    “You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike”

  113. #115 windy
    April 1, 2006

    Did I just hear someone essentially complaining that PZ wasn’t as good a writer as Kafka? Picky, picky.

    Careful, that might give him ideas.

    ‘One morning, as PZ Myers was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in bed he had been changed into a 20-FOOT CARNIVOROUS SCOLOPENDRID. As he lifted his head a little, he saw that his body consisted of 23 coppery red chitinous segments with one pair of yellow legs per body segment. Too bad; he had been hoping for tentacles. But at least he had huge POISON CLAWS on the sides of his mouth. “Call me an atheist monster, do they? Let’s see what they say when they find me lurking under their beds. BWA-HA-HAA!”‘

  114. #116 Keith Douglas
    April 1, 2006

    idlemind: Your brain is finite; so there’s a finite amount of stuff you could learn even assuming your mental faculties never degrade. On the other hand if you postulate somehow that you have an unbounded memory (via some psychoneural dualist hypothesis) then in what sense is that unbounded creature you? (Similarly for the usual discussions of heaven – my toes are as much a part of me as my memory of a bird-named friend asking me about Kant and Einstein.)

    As for the answer to the question, I would have to evaluate carefully the truthtellingness of the guardians. After all, I don’t very often run into weirdoes professing to be guarding odd doors. 🙂

  115. #117 Luciano
    April 1, 2006

    I would like to know if you made this up, or if there is some earlier source for this, maybe in some mythology or such…
    thks,
    Luciano

  116. #118 owlbear1
    April 1, 2006

    If I walked into that situation I’d ask Guardian A, “which door would Guardian B tell me to go through…

    Then I’d start looking for hidden cameras.

  117. #119 PZ Myers
    April 1, 2006

    There are some interesting reactions here.

    On the one side, we’ve got the regular Pharynguloids over-analyzing and proposing to assemble remote controlled vehicles to probe the actual physical nature of the environments behind both doors. Come on, people, it’s a simple story, don’t get all carried away. In that sense, then, this was a failure.

    Then there’s all the people who read it, instantly recognize their situation, and call me a “fucking jerk.” Thank you. For you, at least, the parable worked.

  118. #120 JLem
    April 1, 2006

    you fucking jerk.

    did I pass?

  119. I think the only people who were enlightened from this exercise were the ones that instantly recognized that this was all really about The Doors, and that these parable doors were not meant to be opened at all, but broken “on through”, as the man says.

    After all, the reference to the flaming tiger was clearly an attempt to try to set the night on fire.

  120. #122 Bro. Bartleby
    April 1, 2006

    “Come on, people, it’s a simple story, don’t get all carried away. In that sense, then, this was a failure.”

    Oh no Bro. PZ, it wasn’t a failure, you just made it okay. So come on brothers and sisters, let’s give our new self-reflective brother a grand hug!!! Come on! … and what’s that? … listen!!! … he’s singing Kum-Ba-Ya!

  121. #123 Fox1
    April 1, 2006

    And the award goes to: Skyview! For his daring experimentation with turning sarcasm from an effective ironic device into a very wordy “I know you are, but what am I?”

    Seriously, though, PZ, your regulars refused to take an artificial set of options at face value, and started probing it, attempting to break, or avoid altogether, the system presented to them by the authority of the storyteller and churning out weird and imaginative ways to approach the situation. I don’t know if that’s what you wanted (although I can’t think of a reason it wouldn’t be), but it certainly seems like what you should expect.

  122. #124 Kayigo
    April 1, 2006

    Any story which inspires 140-odd comments is a success; it stirred us enough to make us react.
    I’m surprised that no one made the obvious comment about Door A. Its Guardian should say, “I know this door is the correct one because God sent his only Son to earth to tell us what lies behind it. You only need to look in the Bible to see that this is so.”

  123. #125 mathpants
    April 1, 2006

    study proposal: how many comments deep does it usually take till the blogger is called a “fucking jerk?”
    (obviously, this depends on many factors)

    infinitely better proposal: if I pray for someone to call the blogger a “fucking jerk,” will it increase the odds?

    What if I’m not wearing any pants when I pray?

  124. #126 Michael Koppelman
    April 1, 2006

    No real evidence to support one door over the other, just two dudes yapping.

  125. #127 Roadtripper
    April 1, 2006

    Door A, of course.

  126. #128 Sharon
    April 1, 2006

    Must I choose? Can’t I just stay put and wind up the Guardians for a while? Besides, like the man just said, why should I believe either of them?

  127. #129 Roadtripper
    April 1, 2006

    April Fool! What, you think I’m crazy? All the interesting stuff is behind door B. But something seems to be wrong…I chose door B years and years ago, yet daily I’m pestered by messengers from guardian A, telling me I made a mistake, and I can still choose door A. What a freaking nuisance!

  128. #130 NelC
    April 1, 2006

    After all, the reference to the flaming tiger was clearly an attempt to try to set the night on fire.

    “Tiger, tiger, burning bright
    in the forests of the night.”

    It all makes sense now….

  129. #131 Boronx
    April 1, 2006

    Isn’t this sort of puzzle why God invented dynamite?

    Barring that, maybe instead of going through the doors I’d kill myself to see what happens when we’re dead.

  130. #132 greg
    April 1, 2006

    If door A is eternal life and perfect happiness, then I’d choose B. Door A offers nothing to learn from, nothing to transcend, no difficulties, no obstacles, just free and easy sailing forever and ever. I like challenges too much and I fully enjoy the entire range of emotions a person should have.

    Besides, if I had eternal life, I’d be dying of boredom.

  131. #133 george cauldron
    April 1, 2006

    Also, if readers want a truly intriguing fable, they’ll search out Kafka’s fable of the door of law from The Trial. Kafka, were he not a grownup or an original thinker, might otherwise have cribbed that story from somebody else and made it an insulting and stupid little fairy tale. Save your bible-like scolding for your children, you fucking jerk.

    Jesus, what a long-winded pretentious fuck you are…

  132. #134 fred ludd
    April 1, 2006

    Kafka’s parable, Before the Law, is cute. It nicely illustrates K’s twisted sense of humor. And the Pharyngula parable says more about PZ’s sense of humor than about anything else.

    Winner of the parable sweepstakes, however, has to be the story of Hank.

  133. #135 Don Culberson
    April 2, 2006

    Wow! I think this is comment #134 (or thereabouts; who’s countng?) on a topic I thought was trivial!!! Most of us here here chose door B so long ago we can’t recollect the offer of door A… Who is that guy? And what are these lies of which he speaks? The tiger ate me decades ago…
    Uncle Don

  134. #136 Louis
    April 2, 2006

    There are 3 sorts of people in this world:

    1. The people who go through door A.

    2. The people who go through door B.

    3. The people who when faced with doors A and B say “Doors? Dooooors? I ordered a fucking faux Venetian hemp lined silver portico, I’m suing you buddy!”

  135. #137 David Wilson
    April 2, 2006

    Door A is light and flimsy, easy to open–just turn the knob and you’re through it. Reasonably enough, before charging through, you ask Guardian A what’s on the other side.

    “Joy and delight, an eternal life of perfect happiness, an end to doors and constant traveling…and all you have to do is turn that little knob, and believe.”

    Oh, I know your sort. I’ve seen the film Bedazzled and heard the story of Faust. What’s that written on the little label above your door? “Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch’intrate”?

  136. #138 David Harmon
    April 2, 2006

    Hey PZ, calm down. The guys who call you jerks are stuck in grade school, and the explorer types aren’t parable fans. 😉

    More seriously, you tossed out an unpolished parable, with seams and struts showing. Given the crowd, naturally, people are going to poke at it. (Or hadn’t you noticed all the engineer-types getting interested in biology?) The parable might well be salvagable, but you need a better covering frame and more symbolic “labels”…. Personally, I think it works better as a metaphor for life rather than death, but you could turn it either way with a little effort.

  137. #139 NelC
    April 2, 2006

    I’m surprised at the number of people who have reacted so negatively to PZ’s little story. Not those who have extended the parable in playful ways, but those who seem to feel that metaphor has no place in a serious discussion. Especially from the god-botherers; didn’t one of your lot set great store by parables?

  138. #140 chris
    April 2, 2006

    I don’t know about the room you’re in…in mine there’s no knob on door A. I’ve been sweating on door B’s contraptions QUITE a while…seems there’s a Rube Goldberg device (still just out of reach) inside the deepest recess on door B which extends to an otherwise unreachable sledge hammer poised over door A.

  139. #141 nil
    April 2, 2006

    I’d open door A, gaurdian B sounds clever but manipulative. Guardian A is emotive but honest.

    Also door A is flimsy so I can always break it down if its a dark room.

  140. #142 Llelldorin
    April 2, 2006

    What’s so bad about the antechamber? It’s got a guy to chat with, a guy to argue with, and a complicated door to play with. Heck with this “through” stuff.

  141. #143 the valrus
    April 2, 2006

    I frequent and love this site, but PZ, stick to writing about biology. This “parable” is painfully unsubtle and condescending.

  142. #144 Prowler67
    April 2, 2006

    I think alot of people missed the point of the story. One door leads to continual learning, the other leads to bliss(presuming guardian A is right) and the lack of discovery. In reality door A leads to a room where you are scolded all the time and promised bliss that never comes.

  143. #145 Wikipedian
    April 3, 2006

    I dont think what’s beyond the door is important, rather than what would you rather do with your life, would you spend it in eternal bliss or solve challenge after challenge. Most people will likely go through door A, for sure, but a handful will go through door B and to those brave bunch goes the honor of sacrifice for the greater good.

  144. #146 Marlayna
    April 3, 2006

    I can’t go through Door A. To open Door B, all I have to do is solve some puzzles. But to open Door A, I have to *believe*. Well I can’t really force myself to believe anything, I have too much self-respect for that.

  145. #147 Alexander Whiteside
    April 3, 2006

    To add to the analogy: there are multiple doors marked A, each with a different guardian, and each claiming that all the other doors contain flaming tigers.
    Which to choose?!

  146. #148 phantasma
    April 3, 2006

    So you thought that there were unused band names?
    Volcano the Bear.

  147. #149 colin lowe
    April 3, 2006

    One is asking you to believe without question and the other is sugesting you have to be a clever clogs to enter, and when you do its all about competion. Where does that leave me and others who failed our 11 plus. I think I will pass on both.

  148. #150 SwitchTech
    April 3, 2006

    Taking the parable as written, no extensions or changes – the conditions on Door A are beyond my ability. I can’t just believe. I can’t always solve puzzles with out help, but Guardian B said he’d offer hints and suggestions. In my life I’ve observed much more that works along the lines of Door B than any that work like Door A.

    Now, taking literary license with the parable.

    You enter Door A and find there is one more door here with another Guardian. You’re in a large antechamber where people are sitting around waiting for their turn to enter this second door. This Guardian spends much of his time placating the restless, leading them in song and teaching them odd stories about the life behind this door – which no one has actually ever returned from to report about.

    After a while you get bored and find you can wander out and back to door B. The first Guardian calls you a heretic and threatens that you can never come back. Guardian B smiles and answers questions about the door, offers a few hints and tips and you eventually open the door. You now see so many doors and so few working to open them!

    Yet even here, Guardian A has friends – constantly chattering about it not being too late to come back to Door A (didn’t Guardian A say you couldn’t?)

    In real life we witness such cross over, constant and bi-directional. Many behind door B make one final trip to door A before the second door A opens for them. Whether they find the everlasting joy and delight, only the Faithful know.

    jbs

  149. #151 baric
    April 3, 2006

    definitely Door A.

    Go in Door A and tell everyone there how great it was behind Door B and that you have to get back soon. Emphasize the incredible bear volcanoes. Much better than the flaming tigers or the dogs that shoot bees out of the mouths.

  150. #152 icemith
    April 3, 2006

    As a visitor from Phil Plait’s blog “BadAstronomy”, where this topic is rehashed, I shall also post much the same question as I am going to pose here. this is my take on the subject.

    I have read all the comments, and I am surprised to see NOBODY has ventured the idea that Guardian A is the guardian of Door A. Likewise the Bs. I think a whole new scenario opens up, and presents some interesting variations. Or does it really?

    Re-read the conditions again, I think that you will find it is a viable position. Even if I have missed something (and I guess I would be soon corrected), I still expect the same arguments would go on.

    And should I commit myself? (Not sure I like the word ‘commit’!). I would have to select Door B. But that’s Life, dude. It is a plain analogy for the Christian Ethic, as against the Devil. And it is the same with most other Beliefs, they all have their justifications for Right and Wrong, Good and Bad, Pure and Mixed. Why believe in fairy tales and medieval hocus pocus, which has its roots in the witch-doctors of our ancestors. Some people do not recognise this and just blindly believe what they are told, usually at a cost to them in the form of donations. These are the Door A people, and truly, some of them are high-minded, wonderful people. But there are also high-minded, wonderful people at the other Door, B. We are all capable of being deluded, just wanting it to be “Perfect’.

    I’m afraid Life ain’t that easy.

    Ivan.

  151. #153 Jim
    April 3, 2006

    Of course, being that perfect happiness is a relative term, I’d choose door A in a heartbeat. Because there would certainly be behind Door A a chamber with a revolving door that leads to the chamber behind Door B. So I could go through the door and work on puzzles all I want, and still go through the door again and sip Chablis on a beach when I get sick of solving puzzles. Then when I get sick of sipping Chablis, I’ll go back to puzzles, or Do Something Else. There will always be Something Else To Do, because this is the land of perfect happiness. Perfect happiness (IMHO) means working when you want to, playing when you want to, resting when you want to. The Choice is the logical fallacy that ruins the parable.

    Some of you are no doubt younger than I, but for my part I look a pile of books in my library that I will simply not have time to read, and my limited time left on Earth frustrates me as much as it depresses me. A literate person with a strong imagination need not fear eternity. Boredom is impossible, as long as people are constantly creating. Perfect happiness, remember?

    I feel sorry for people who feel that Door A precludes Door B, or vice versa. For me, my heavenly home will have a library in one wing, a lab in the other, and a big observatory on top. And a nice beach outside where I can sit and watch the bear volcano in the distance while my flaming tiger purrs contentedly by my side.

    Reject the Choice. There is a third option.

  152. #154 Jim
    April 3, 2006

    And another thing that crossed my mind: Anyone who thinks that people who live a spiritual life are looking for (or getting!) “easy” answers is very like someone who sees a mathematician doing vector calculus and says, “Hey, that’s easy! All that guy did was scribble on a piece of paper for 10-20 minutes!” In other words, they ain’t done it. 🙂

    JIM

  153. #155 Dagger
    April 4, 2006

    This harkens back a few years to the whole Matrix Blue Pill Red Pill business. I know which one I’m taking and you’ll forgive my rudeness if I couldn’t care a less which one you take.

  154. #156 arensb
    April 4, 2006

    Oh yeah, does door B have stripper factories and bear volcanoes, or was that Door C?

    Bear volcanoes sounds like Stephen Colbert’s idea of hell.

  155. #157 Alexander Whiteside
    April 5, 2006

    “And another thing that crossed my mind: Anyone who thinks that people who live a spiritual life are looking for (or getting!) “easy” answers is very like someone who sees a mathematician doing vector calculus and says, “Hey, that’s easy! All that guy did was scribble on a piece of paper for 10-20 minutes!” In other words, they ain’t done it. :-)”

    Thing is, the guys who choose Door B still have to make moral and ethical decisions as hard as the people who choose door A: they just don’t think there’s a reward for getting the right answer, and they don’t busy themselves making decisions about the indecidable (which is surely the definition of the “spiritual”, i.e. the non-scientific).

  156. #158 MaDeR
    April 5, 2006

    Strange thing: hey, people here, whom want to check both doors, ask other people, peek through keyholes etc – do you didn’t realize yet that you’re tinkering with door B?

    Your actions inevitably defines where you belong. You all says that you’re checking both possibilites, but in reality you’re all already deep in room B. Believer don’t check anything, he goes straight to A. This is real trap of this story.

    I would choose door B, but I’m too lazy. I wouldn’t choose door A, because ideas of people going to door A are alien for me: this is completely different mentality. I can’t believe in things like that.

  157. #159 Stephen M (Ethesis)
    April 6, 2006

    Door A, flimsy, easy to open, nothing stopping anyone who went in from coming back out…. Door B, almost impossible to leave.

    Guess I’d want to see the guardian of Door B go in and out a couple of times before I made up my mind and watch some people come through and go into Door A.

    Nothing says you have to be the first to go. Why not watch a few.

  158. #160 God Isn't
    April 6, 2006

    This kind of reminds me of the story of the man who went to hell, and was told he would spend eternity in one of two rooms, but that he could choose the room.

    Satan opens the door of the first room, and it’s filled with people standing on their heads, up to their waists in urine.

    “What’s behind the other door?” asks the man.

    Satan opens the door, and it’s filled with people standing up to their waists in diarrhea, drinking coffee.

    The smell is awful, but the man tells Satan that he’ll pick the second room. He goes in, is given a cup of coffee, and thinks that he’s made the right choice. Until . . .

    Five minutes later, Satan enters the room and says, “Okay everyone, coffee break’s over. Back on your heads.”

    By the way, from the original story:

    “And doors–many more doors, each one harder than the next, and no end to them in sight.”

    That should have been “each one harder than the LAST,” otherwise they get easier.

  159. #161 Chris LeBeouf
    April 6, 2006

    Ok, so the “room” is life as we know it. Door A represents the path of religion to explain things. Door B represents science. The story goes that religion is the easy way out and most people are lazy enough to take that route. It doesn’t help that the people guarding this “door” dangle ultimate nirvana like so much cheese on a string in front of a mouse.

    Today, Door A is flimsy and easy to open because society allows for freedom of faith (in most places).

    The story does not account for the fact that the doors were not always in the state that they are currently in. Sure, in the past people could figure out the puzzles to open up Door B, but every other door after had locks designed for keys that did not exist yet. Some doors were impossible to reach or even see at that point. Door A on the other hand was much sturdier in the past. Tradition held that with a only with effort, could could turn that knob and pull open the door. You were rewarded and encouraged by your relatives and peers as you struggled to open the door. And every once in a while someone would come along and say how they’ve spoken to the chap that actually made the door and the room so of course there’s something real on the other side.

    Of course, depending on who was Guarding the door, you could have your hand sliced off if grabbed the knob in an unacceptable way.

    But lets go back even further in time. Now it seems that theres only one door. And no Guards. Back when the terms religion and science did not exist. There was only the unknown. Separate doors developed over time. Doors that were no where near the now recognizable A and B.

    Which brings us back to the present. Put a little thought into it and its obvious that the door metaphor, while mildly clever, isn’t satisfactory for the modern person. We all (or most) admit that a purely spiritual explanation is not enough. And no one lives a life driven entirely by scientific fact. We want to believe in better things. Many scientists are at least agnostic. Sure we could tinker forever with Door B. But in the back of our minds, curiosity for Door A still lingers. The person who is truly living makes his or her own doors.

    What I’m trying to get at here is that a compromise of the spiritual and the logical is need for and individual to be happy. Society will always debate and be divided about the subject but a reasonble person doesn’t naturally settle for one faction or another.

  160. #162 terry steiden
    April 7, 2006

    golly googles, isn’t that clever?

    It’s almost like A is like, heaven you know? and the guardian is a christian, you know? and heaven is like so lame, so who wants to go THERE? Stoopid christian!

    I’d rather go where people work together and like, care about each other discover new things, not to the darkness.

    Wow! This makes it all clear to me now. Are you are a guru or something?

    You are VERY smart!

  161. #163 homun
    October 25, 2006

    The obvious winner comment (though several made me laugh aloud): Luciano on mythology. As in, you have religion to thank for your parables.

    Which comes around to my problem with all the pro-Dawkins atheism stuff. OK: I believe that there is no God, no entity both extraphysical and interventionist, now or at any past moment. And I believe that the persistent belief in such a creature says something about human nature, and perhaps even something about the biology or physics that leads to that nature.

    Still, it is simply not true that the language and instincts that come from “hard” science are the exclusively best way for our puny minds to understand the incredibly complex field of human nature, or any of a number of other incredibly complex fields. Yes, a sentence like “The voltage built up by electrons carried by raindrops created an ionized path over which it discharged” is more useful than “Zeus is angry”, though both are incredible simplifications; but to extend that to “Humans tend to present a given response if it has previously produced a pleasurable result after the same stimulus” being more useful than 2 Samuel 14:17: “Then thine handmaid said, The word of my lord the king shall now be comfortable: for as an angel of God, so is my lord the king to discern good from bad: therefore the LORD thy God will be with thee.” is not justifiable. A lot of religion is obvious bunk, and even the large majority of religious folk tacitly admit this (though they get mad when you rudely rub their face in it). But to assume that just because there isn’t a God, any other sentence with “God” in it is useless, is stupid. After all, concepts like “I” or “the Nazca plate” are more or less slippery around the edges too, and yet useful topics for discussion.

  162. #164 homun
    October 25, 2006

    Oh, and taking the controversial position Dawkins does is kinda offensive. Which is fine, maybe there’s something behind that door and somebody had to open it and whoever did was gonna get screamed at, but that shouldn’t insulate him from the legitimate criticism. Which is in a nutshell: why do people tend to like religion so much is an appropriate angle for psychological, sociological, neurological research, and such research should assume atheism for the sake of argument, but it clearly should NOT assume that religion is useless and stupid.

  163. #165 Organic Chemistry
    January 18, 2007

    Would the cynic go through B, assuming that A is lying? Interesting exercise in self-examination.

  164. #166 Linkage
    September 14, 2007

    What if there were no hypothetical situations?

  165. #167 Norm Breyfogle
    October 18, 2007

    Both doors as presented in PZ Myers’ parable sound like they probably open to realities that suck; I’d choose or make an alternate passageway.

New comments have been temporarily disabled. Please check back soon.