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The "possibility/plausibility" method of argument: An example

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  • Daniel H. Caldwell
    The possibility/plausibility method of argument: An example Truth rests not on possibility or plausibility but on probability. ... The
    Message 1 of 6 , Jul 13, 2005
      The "possibility/plausibility" method of argument: An example

      "Truth rests not on possibility or plausibility but on probability."
      --- Barzun and Graffe, THE MODERN RESEARCHER

      The "possibility/plausibility" method of argument is a very useful
      tool in unpacking and throwing doubt on ANY normal or paranormal

      I give below an excellent example of this method of argument from THE
      TRANSCENDENTAL TEMPTATION by Paul Kurtz, a founding member of
      CSICOP. Notice how Kurtz focuses on POSSIBILITIES/PLAUSIBILITIES. I
      put certain words in CAPS to show his technique.

      "Many psychic investigators were apparently impressed by the Fielding
      report on Eusapia Palladino [the famous Italian medium]. . . .Were
      some of the medium's manifestations genuine? . . . Or MAY WE SURMISE
      that Eusapia was more clever than Feilding and his associates? DID
      EUSAPIA HAVE accomplices --- PERHAPS Italians, scientists, and
      friends who had attended several seances, or even Carrington? DID
      SHE USE every trick in the book, changing them to suit her purposes?
      Since she was a voluptuous woman, WERE HER MALE SITTERS taken in by
      her erotic charms and DID THEY FAIL to take the proper precautions?
      Eusapia was OBVIOUSLY a master illusionist, well-versed in her craft;
      and those who sat with her, through skilled in their specialties, MAY
      PERHAPS have been outsmarted by her. The Feilding report denies the
      POSSIBILITY of accomplices or prearrangments in the hotel. But
      should we accept the denial?"


      "Where's the beef?" Kurtz offers only POSSIBILITIES &
      PLAUSIBILITES. But Kurtz does NOT offer any evidence to his readers
      to help them answer his questions. Some readers might falsely assume
      that "something" has been proven or disproven by Kurtz's use of this
      method of argument.

      It should be pointed out that in contrast to Kurtz's "perhaps", the
      Feilding Report offers various kinds of EVIDENCE in support of the
      authors' conclusions.

      That is not to say that the questions entertained by Kurtz are not
      worthy of consideration. But such questions should lead to further
      research on the subject and to the accumulation of evidence.

      In fact, the Feilding Report contains EVIDENCE that would actually
      answer many of Kurtz's questions.

      The above example illustrates Ray Hyman's statement that "it is
      ALWAYS possible to 'imagine' SOME scenario in which cheating no
      matter how implausible, COULD HAVE occurred."

      By using this "possibility/plausibility" method of argument, "one
      can 'HYPOTHETICALLY' explain away ANY result [even] in science [or
      history or the paranormal]."

      My notebooks are full of hundreds of such examples .

      Daniel H. Caldwell
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