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[XTalk] Re: Proof

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  • mwgrondin
    ... I m afraid you re mixing up two things, Dave. If a contradiction can be found to a hypothesis H, then H is not possible, even if an advocate of H doesn t
    Message 1 of 104 , Sep 1, 2002
      --- David C. Hindley wrote:
      > "Possible" means that a hypothesis' premises are not contradicted.
      > This is an open ended statement, though... Since hypotheses
      > inferred from evidence usually means that the critic has
      > consciously selected a subset of the total available data when
      > formulating the hypotheses, it is possible that contra[dic]tions
      > can be found.

      I'm afraid you're mixing up two things, Dave. If a contradiction can
      be found to a hypothesis H, then H is not possible, even if an
      advocate of H doesn't select that contradictory evidence as part of
      their data. You're mixing up the universe of available evidence with
      the sub-universe of evidence selected by an advocate of H.
      Probability within the latter is of no interest.

      It's evident also that you don't really disagree with the logical
      definition of 'possible' as meaning a probability > 0; it's just
      that you're concentrating on epistemological issues that don't
      effect the definition.

      > Yet this is still a problem because the nature of historical
      > evidence means it is not randomly selected and the limits of the
      > universe populations are not known, meaning that a "contradiction"
      > may not be provable in cases where probability is concerned.

      You seem to be trading on an ambiguity in the word 'select'. So
      that we can be clear about this, let's define the universe
      of "immediately available" evidence as that which has so far been
      unearthed and publicized. This evidence has been "objectively
      selected", because no one person or cohesive group of people has
      been solely responsible for digging it up and presenting it. If the
      word 'selected' as at all applicable in this situation, I think is
      IS correct to say that this evidence has been "randomly selected",
      though not "scientifically selected", because the immediately
      available evidence is not a scientific sample of the totally
      available evidence (some of which still buried).

      > "Probable" means that a hypothesis can be confirmed by means of
      > statistical analysis. In logical terms, this would be called a
      > statistical syllogism.

      I'm not sure what you mean by "statistical syllogism", but in any
      case, "H is probable" cannot mean that H "can be confirmed" in any
      way whatsoever, since to "confirm" H is to _prove_ H, and if H can
      be proven, then it isn't merely "probable" - it's quite certain.

      > However, statistical syllogisms have some serious limitations.
      > Historical hypotheses are generally not amenable to statistical
      > analysis on the grounds that the universe population is not known
      > nor can it be reliably estimated.

      What are you calling "the universe population"? Do you mean that the
      number of possibilities is incalculable - as opposed to the toss of
      a coin, where the number of possible outcomes is calculable?

      > Historical evidence is not drawn from a known universe, and the
      > evidence is not randomly selected.

      Neither of these conjuncts strikes me as correct, as stated. As
      for "not randomly selected", see earlier discussion. We aren't
      talking about the evidence selected by an individual, but about the
      total evidence immediately and publicly available. Surely THAT has
      been "randomly selected". As for "not drawn from a known universe",
      I would suggest that the "universe" in question is that of human
      action, and as such it's as knowable (or unknowable) as any
      prediction of future human action. Take your possible response as a
      case in point. You can either fail to respond to this point, or
      basically agree with me, or basically disagree. This is a "known
      universe", though not as well-defined (because the possibilities
      fall along a spectrum, as opposed to being discrete) as the
      statistical examples you cite.
      Mike Grondin
      Mt. Clemens, MI
    • Thomas G. Barnes
      I know this is off topic, however, during the past few days I noticed the discussion going on about the use of copyrighhted material. Anyway, my question is
      Message 104 of 104 , Nov 13, 2002
        I know this is off topic, however, during the past few days I noticed the
        discussion going on about the use of copyrighhted material. Anyway, my
        question is this, how do I properly cite a web page I used information from
        in an academic paper. I am a student and an interested historical Jesus
        individual. I realize this is off topic so please send reply to me off the
        list.

        Thomas G. Barnes
        Philadelphia, PA
        Temple University
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