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View Diary: Meta: "Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Proof", with Poll (93 comments)

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  •  This is entirely not true. (15+ / 0-)

    In the first case, and if the claim is consistent with the knowledge that shrews have lived there or in geographically contiguous areas, then descriptions of the specimen from multiple sources would be enough to satisfy at least a basic hypothesis that such a shrew exists.  We call this the "credible observation" standard, and this happens with birds all the time.  People may debate it, but it's not an unusual case and it won't cause you to get kicked out of the academy.

    In the second case, and since you're going to upend an entire branch of mammalia, you have to have a specimen before anyone takes you seriously.  

    Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

    by pico on Sat May 11, 2013 at 11:18:56 AM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  so, wait (0+ / 0-)

      you're saying that the same sketchy evidence for Bigfoot that you reject, you would be willing to accept if it were for a less improbable discovery?

      What are you doing to fight the dangerous and counterproductive error of treating dirtbag terrorist criminals as though they were comic book supervillains? I can't believe we still have to argue this shit, let alone on Daily Kos.

      by happymisanthropy on Sat May 11, 2013 at 12:12:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  it depends on what you mean by "accept" (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        pico, sturunner

        If you tell me that you saw a cardinal outside this afternoon, should I demand a specimen?

        That standard of evidence would render a lot of ecological research impossible, I think.

        Election protection: there's an app for that! -- and a toll-free hotline: 866-OUR-VOTE
        Better Know Your Voting System with the Verifier!

        by HudsonValleyMark on Sat May 11, 2013 at 12:51:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, I would. (5+ / 0-)

        Here's another example:

        I'm sick in bed with the flu and can't open the window.  The meteorologist on TV tells me the sun rose at 5:53 this morning.  I accept this as a fact with no independent verification.

        I'm sick in bed with the flu and can't open the window.  The meteorologist on TV tells me the sun rose, turned around, and did somersaults on the horizon before settling in its usual path.  I check the bottle on my medication to make sure I'm not hallucinating.  

        Extraordinary claims.

        Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

        by pico on Sat May 11, 2013 at 01:25:07 PM PDT

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        •  ordinary proof (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          happymisanthropy, Pluto

          you ask a few witnesses.

          More seriously, requiring greater proof of unlikely claims is not the same as requiring extraordinary proof.  In actual usage, I find the extraordinary proof requirement is merely a way to reject evidence.

          •  Ah, I see where this is going. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ebohlman, grover
            More seriously, requiring greater proof of unlikely claims is not the same as requiring extraordinary proof.
            So we don't actually disagree: you just dislike the rhetorical gesture that people use to justify not using greater proof.

            This is a rhetorical argument, not an evidentiary argument.  By nature, some claims require greater evidence... Glad to see you agree!

            Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

            by pico on Sat May 11, 2013 at 02:56:43 PM PDT

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            •  The hell it isn't! (0+ / 0-)
              This is a rhetorical argument, not an evidentiary argument.
              Greater means that if the experiment can be repeated by independent teams under various conditions, the hypothesis will eventually be accepted.

              Extraordinary means it will never be accepted until the current generation of experts dies*, because all of that independent verification was fucking ordinary and therefore invalid

              (*as is frequently the case in science)

              What are you doing to fight the dangerous and counterproductive error of treating dirtbag terrorist criminals as though they were comic book supervillains? I can't believe we still have to argue this shit, let alone on Daily Kos.

              by happymisanthropy on Sat May 11, 2013 at 03:28:32 PM PDT

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              •  Only in your head. (4+ / 0-)

                If you're just defining "greater" and "extraordinary" to mean whatever you want, then it's a fairly useless discussion, ain't it?  

                Science puts a higher threshold on paradigm-changing claims because paradigms exist for a reason (i.e. a long history of evidence.)   That's why the shrew/sasquatch example is important: a new species of shrew doesn't upset the paradigm, but a sasquatch does.  Ergo: higher threshold for evidence.  

                That's it, full stop.  The rest is just rhetoric.

                Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

                by pico on Sat May 11, 2013 at 03:59:25 PM PDT

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                •  Extraordinary evidence (0+ / 0-)

                  means qualitatively extraordinary.  There is no point at which a greater quantity of ordinary evidence can become qualitatively extraordinary.  

                  Science puts a higher threshold...
                  Carl Sagan was a scientist.  Carl Sagan is not science.
                  Ergo: higher threshold for evidence.  
                  Does this mean that each individual piece of evidence needs to meet an extraordinarily high threshold?  Or that the total amount of evidence needs to be quantitatively extraordinary?  
                  The rest is just rhetoric.
                  No, it's not just rhetoric.
                  Reasonably scrutinizing putative discoveries is one thing.
                  Giving intellectually lazy people another excuse to reinforce their own preconceptions is something else.
                  That's it, full stop.
                  I'm done, unless you want to discuss this comment.  (I also wanted to answer that bullshit you posted about the piltdown man... other than that I'm done)

                  What are you doing to fight the dangerous and counterproductive error of treating dirtbag terrorist criminals as though they were comic book supervillains? I can't believe we still have to argue this shit, let alone on Daily Kos.

                  by happymisanthropy on Sat May 11, 2013 at 04:30:11 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  You might as well be done, then: (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    onanthebarbarian, grover

                    I haven't posted anything about the Piltdown man, one way or the other.   Having trouble reading, again?

                    You're the one setting idiosyncratic parameters for extraordinary ("Extraordinary means it will never be accepted until the current generation of experts dies"), not me.  I suggested "paradigm-challenging", and that is a simple qualitative test.  And how we conduct science pretty much matches that test: back to the shrew and sasquatch example.  The greater the challenge to the paradigm, the greater evidence required before people will accept it.  I'm not sure why that's a difficult concept.

                    I get that you're grinding an axe against people who use "extraordinary" to reject anything they disagree with... Which is why I keep telling you you're making a rhetorical argument.  Rhetorical = rhetoric = not people making evidentiary arguments, it's people using language dodges to avoid looking at the evidentiary argument.  It's an act of language I'm talking about, not "rhetorical" in the sense of "rhetorical question".

                    Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

                    by pico on Sat May 11, 2013 at 04:42:55 PM PDT

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                    •  well yes (0+ / 0-)
                      I get that you're grinding an axe against people who use "extraordinary" to reject anything they disagree with..
                      I've never seen or heard it used otherwise than rhetorically, nor do I expect to in this lifetime.

                      What are you doing to fight the dangerous and counterproductive error of treating dirtbag terrorist criminals as though they were comic book supervillains? I can't believe we still have to argue this shit, let alone on Daily Kos.

                      by happymisanthropy on Sat May 11, 2013 at 05:20:55 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

            •  I do not disagree in principle (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              pico

              with the idea that some claims may require greater evidence.  I view this as open to discussion. I find the current discussion quite interesting, and both sides have made some good points.

              I merely reject the "extraordinary proof" device as being an excuse to ignore evidence. It is indeed a matter of rhetoric, important because it is used as an improper evidentiary standard for the purpose of rejecting claims that merit closer investigation.

              •  We're mostly on the same page. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                wilderness voice

                I'd ask, though: is the a point where a reader no longer has any obligation to weigh purported evidence?

                e.g. to use the most infamous example of what's banned on this site: is a reader who may not know the melting point of steel required to read up on chemistry to reject that as part of a "9/11 was an inside job" argument?   To what extent does the extraordinariness of a claim allow an average reader to skip the specific evidence?  Or is that never the case?

                I don't have an answer here: I'm poking around the margins of the argument.

                Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

                by pico on Sat May 11, 2013 at 06:23:09 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  good question and interesting example (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  pico

                  >is there a point where a reader no longer has any obligation to weigh purported evidence?

                  Re the "inside job" CT claim that fuel laden jetliners could not have brought down the towers:  Based on my knowledge, as an engineer, of the difficulty of accurately modeling a complex one time event, it is all to easy to miss some unanticipated failure mode. So I reject this kind of evidence as inadequate. I don't think an engineering degree is required to validly make this argument.

                  I would contrast that with my diary, here, demonstrating that scientific materialism is inadequate as a theory of mind.  All the evidence needed to evaluate this contention is presented first hand in the brief diary itself.   I would submit that anyone wishing to validly reject the conclusion would be required to have read and understood the diary.

        •  I think it's ridiculous (0+ / 0-)

          to suggest that zoologists would accept blurry pictures, grainy videos, and casual observer reports as conclusive evidence that these shrews are a different species from those shrews.  But I am not a zoologist.

          What are you doing to fight the dangerous and counterproductive error of treating dirtbag terrorist criminals as though they were comic book supervillains? I can't believe we still have to argue this shit, let alone on Daily Kos.

          by happymisanthropy on Sat May 11, 2013 at 02:20:04 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Re-read my original comment. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            onanthebarbarian

            I don't know how many times I have to underline the word "hypothesis".    

            You should also check out the history of ornithology, because that's exactly what we had to do before photography became fast, accurate, and widespread.  We still debate the significance of the purely observational record, but we don't dismiss it the way we dismiss observational records of the sasquatch.  Right?

            Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

            by pico on Sat May 11, 2013 at 03:00:18 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Shit, you made me look it up. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      whaddaya, skohayes
      The "Bulo Burti Boubou", formerly recognized as a distinct species, Laniarius liberatus, was only known from one individual trapped in 1988 in central Somalia, 140 km inland in Hiiraan gobolka (region) near Buuloburde (Buulobarde, Bulo Burti) on the Shebelle River, and was described using blood and feather samples to provide a DNA sequence.[5] Apparently for the first time for a modern bird description, no specimen (either the bird or a part of it) was kept as a type; the bird was released back into the wild in 1990 because the scientists who caught it felt that the species was very rare. The blood and feather samples were destroyed in the process of sequencing. The epithet liberatus ("the liberated one") was given because of this. It was not found during searches in 1989 and 1990. It resembles the Red-naped Bushshrike L. ruficeps but has no red nape, is black, not grey, on the mantle, and is washed buffy-yellow on throat and breast.
      Wikipedia says you're wrong.

      What are you doing to fight the dangerous and counterproductive error of treating dirtbag terrorist criminals as though they were comic book supervillains? I can't believe we still have to argue this shit, let alone on Daily Kos.

      by happymisanthropy on Sat May 11, 2013 at 12:42:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Heh, well if WIKIPEDIA says I'm wrong... (4+ / 0-)

        If that's your standard for evidence, then this is probably a waste of my time, but...

        Reread what I wrote carefully this time.  "Credible observation" is the standard for a hypothesis - not for addition of a species to a type, which is a consensus and independent verification issue (and a big mess of a debate over what constitutes a species).  This is how taxonomies are built: it's especially true of harder-to-collect specimens like birds, insects, etc.  Here, for example, is how the Montana Audubon handles new species observation:

        According to the MBRC bylaws, a new species can be added to the state list only if it has been verified by a specimen or convincing photograph, or if the Committee accepts written documentation by two or more independent observers.
        Even multiple, independent documentation can be rejected in the long run - the American Ornithologists' Union (which does exist!) sets a higher bar even for existing specimens because they abide by a narrower rule of defining species - but it's a widely accepted standard for starting this discussion, and it wouldn't turn any heads.

        There is no "credible observation" standard for a sasquatch, for obvious reasons.  Science does operate on the "extraordinary claims" principle.

        Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

        by pico on Sat May 11, 2013 at 01:22:59 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  state list? (0+ / 0-)

          those aren't new species, those are species known to exist in other locations which happen to turn up in Montana.

          What are you doing to fight the dangerous and counterproductive error of treating dirtbag terrorist criminals as though they were comic book supervillains? I can't believe we still have to argue this shit, let alone on Daily Kos.

          by happymisanthropy on Sat May 11, 2013 at 01:33:03 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm trying to explain how taxonomies (4+ / 0-)

            are constructed.  

            Look, I'll put it very simply:

            1. An observer describes what she claims is a new species of shrew.  This starts a conversation.

            2. An observer describes what she claims is a new species of sasquatch.  This ends a conversation.

            There are epistemologically sound reasons why we hold those two claims to different levels of scrutiny.

            Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

            by pico on Sat May 11, 2013 at 01:37:24 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  And there may be good practical reasons (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              wilderness voice

              why the sasquatch claim in particular should receive more careful scrutiny than the shrews; however "because it's extraordinary damn it" is not a good reason.  

              I worry far less about extraordinary claims receiving only ordinary scrutiny than I do about ordinary claims receiving no scrutiny at all.  See this comment.

              What are you doing to fight the dangerous and counterproductive error of treating dirtbag terrorist criminals as though they were comic book supervillains? I can't believe we still have to argue this shit, let alone on Daily Kos.

              by happymisanthropy on Sat May 11, 2013 at 02:03:33 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  What? (4+ / 0-)
                however "because it's extraordinary damn it" is not a good reason.  
                Of course it is!  Shrews exist.  Different species of shrews exist.  Nothing known to be a sasquatch of any kind exists.

                The extraordinary nature of the latter claim is exactly why we demand more careful scrutiny.  That is the practical reason a higher bar exists.

                Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

                by pico on Sat May 11, 2013 at 02:53:31 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

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