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Re: [skeptical] Digest Number 221

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  • rjtaylor@compuserve.com
    The incident you describe is the logical fallacy known as argument from ignorance - i.e. we don t know what causes A: so it must be caused by B (insert your
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 14, 2004
      The incident you describe is the logical fallacy known as "argument from ignorance" - i.e. we don't know what causes A: so it must be caused by B (insert your extra-normal explanation here); where the extra-normal becomes the "simplest" explanation (Occam's Razor).  Some people like your friend will accept anecdotal evidence as proof that "B" is the right explanation; regardless of any request for objective, repeatable scientific evidence. My response to this has always been that I need objective proof for these explanations, not someone's (possibly biased or inaccurate) anecdotal observations; in other words, I'm a skeptic.   Otherwise this is simply belief  with out evidence; also known as faith; and I already have a religion (I'm a Buddhist Catholic, but that's another story). . 

      Sometimes pseudo-scientists (like creationists) will mistakenly use Occam's Razor to pose Creationsism or Intelligent Design as counter arguments to evolution. Because belief in God (or a higher power) becomes a simpler explanation than the myriad processes used to explain evolution - genetics, geology, microbiology, cosmology, information theory etc.  This is also a logical fallacy because their "evidence" derives from their belief in a higher power. Hence it becomes a logical  tautology - the belief in a higher power becomes the evidence for the belief that the higher power guides evolution.   What makes evolution more difficult is that while micro-evolution is somewhat externally demonstrable (example: the butterflies that change their color to match soot covered chimneys in England, changes in dog breeds); macro evolution is only explained by the (ever-increasing)  transitional fossil evidence and the fact that it jives with evidence from other disparate scientific disciplines.  This wasn't true when Darwin first posed evolution as a mechanism for animal development and so it was more vulnerable to these arguments back then; but not now.

      I always liked the movie "Contact", except for the last five infuriating minutes of the movie.  Where Jodie Foster is trying to tell politically motivated religious conservative congressman  - yes, there really is life out there but no she doesn't have any evidence to prove it.  The congressman than invokes Occam's Razor to "prove" her billionaire benefactor made the whole thing up.  She then  turns dewy-eyed to her movie love interest  (Matthew McConaughey?) and says: "you believe me don't you"?  Any idiot with a grade school education knows that isn't what a real scientist would say.  A real scientist would say: "you don't believe me? Then send someone else; of your choosing if you want".  That would scientifically prove life existed elsewhere without having to take someone's word for it; external, objective, repeatable evidence (even if only someone else's observations).  Recorded personal observations is usually as accepted as partial scientific proof if they're made methodically and at the time of the event.  Eventually external proof is demanded; but usually after the fact.  I've never read the Carl Sagan story "Contact"; but I can't believe that was the ending he wrote.  The script writer who wrote that ending should be taken out back of a high school biology lab, buried up to his neck in the ground and pelted with dissected frog carcasses and their fossilized antecedents - real hard.  .       

      skeptical@yahoogroups.com wrote:
       
      There are 2 messages in this issue.
      
      Topics in this digest:
      
            1. RE: Digest Number 220
                 From: "Serdar Yegulalp" <thegline@...>
            2. RE: Digest Number 220
                 From: "Serdar Yegulalp" <thegline@...>
      
      
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      Message: 1
         Date: Tue, 13 Jan 2004 20:16:34 -0500
         From: "Serdar Yegulalp" <thegline@...>
      Subject: RE: Digest Number 220
      
        
      Most people confuse correlation with causation from personal 
      observations to form their belief structures.  Sometimes this is a 
      reasonable approximation of reality, sometimes not.
          
      That reminds me of something.  I had an argument with an acquaintance once
      about the nature of magic -- he was a self-professed "warlock" and was
      convinced that he was capable of having any number of effects on reality
      with his magic -- and I asked him, "What if everything you've witnessed can
      be explained in a simpler way?"  He said, "What's a simpler explanation than
      magic?"  I'd hit an impasse: for him, magic WAS the simplest, most logical
      explanation -- in his mind.  He didn't think it was easier to explain any of
      the things he'd witnessed as simple coincidence or psychologically-affirmed
      observations.  Magical explanations took precedence.
      
      "The vast majority of people don't believe in magic as you accept it to be
      the easiest explanation for these things," he said.  At which point he went
      off on a riff about "consensus reality," which sounded like he was of the
      belief that his use of magic could "tailor" reality to fit.  I tried to
      argue with him about the quality of his evidence, but it was like trying to
      argue a corpse out of putrefying.
      
      It was immensely frustrating, because he was able to shove the goalposts of
      the argument around as he needed to.  He was like a great many other people
      I've met who have the same belief system: their preservation of their belief
      system is sacrosanct, and any attempts to defame it must be dealt with.
      
      
      
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      Message: 2
         Date: Tue, 13 Jan 2004 23:08:26 -0500
         From: "Serdar Yegulalp" <thegline@...>
      Subject: RE: Digest Number 220
      
        
      Most people confuse correlation with causation from personal 
      observations to form their belief structures.  Sometimes this is a 
      reasonable approximation of reality, sometimes not.
          
      That reminds me of something.  I had an argument with an acquaintance once
      about the nature of magic -- he was a self-professed "warlock" and was
      convinced that he was capable of having any number of effects on reality
      with his magic -- and I asked him, "What if everything you've witnessed can
      be explained in a simpler way?"  He said, "What's a simpler explanation than
      magic?"  I'd hit an impasse: for him, magic WAS the simplest, most logical
      explanation -- in his mind.  He didn't think it was easier to explain any of
      the things he'd witnessed as simple coincidence or psychologically-affirmed
      observations.  Magical explanations took precedence.
      
      "The vast majority of people don't believe in magic as you accept it to be
      the easiest explanation for these things," he said.  At which point he went
      off on a riff about "consensus reality," which sounded like he was of the
      belief that his use of magic could "tailor" reality to fit.  I tried to
      argue with him about the quality of his evidence, but it was like trying to
      argue a corpse out of putrefying.
      
      It was immensely frustrating, because he was able to shove the goalposts of
      the argument around as he needed to.  He was like a great many other people
      I've met who have the same belief system: their preservation of their belief
      system is sacrosanct, and any attempts to defame it must be dealt with.
      
      
      
      ________________________________________________________________________
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