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

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  • danielhcaldwell
    Truth rests not on possibility or plausibility but on probability. ... The possibility/plausibility method of argument is a very useful tool in unpacking
    Message 1 of 6 , Dec 22, 2001
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      "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
      event/experience/experiment.

      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?"

      MAY WE SURMISE....PERHAPS...MAY PERHAPS.

      "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 from the skeptical
      literature on the paranormal.

      Daniel H. Caldwell
      BLAVATSKY ARCHIVES
      http://hpb.cc
    • Steve Stubbs
      ... 7 argument from THE ... CSICOP exists for the purpose of pleading a case decided before the fact, just as theosophical fundamentalism does. What I am
      Message 2 of 6 , Dec 23, 2001
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        --- danielhcaldwell <danielhcaldwell@...> wrote:
        > I give below an excellent example of this method of
        7> argument from THE
        > TRANSCENDENTAL TEMPTATION by Paul Kurtz, a founding
        > member of
        > CSICOP.

        CSICOP exists for the purpose of pleading a case
        decided before the fact, just as theosophical
        fundamentalism does. What I am saying is that the
        question remains open until solid evidence is
        produced. There is an important difference there.

        > 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.

        The questions should be dealt with by replicating the
        experiment with improved test conditions.

        As we have seen with Sai Baba, some people are so good
        at sleight of hand and some witneses ae so dishonest
        that even seeing is not believing. The only way to
        prove that dishes can be materialized out of thin air
        is to do it yourself. That was you can absolutely
        rule out sleight of hand and every sort of other
        nonsense. Once you prove it possible, then you prove
        the plausibility of claims made in the past.

        > 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."

        That's not quite fair. I open the regrigerator and
        pull out an orange. You can say it materialized out
        of thin air a moment before. I say I put it there
        when I got home from the store last Friday. Neither
        theory can be proved to a True Believer in the other.
        But which one makes more sense?

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

        Not true. I place a pot of water over a fire. The
        water boils. The experiment can be replicated. How
        would you explain that away?

        Bear in mind the question here is not of urging people
        to believe or disbelieve what fundamentalists believe.
        The question is one of how to think clearly and
        evaluate evidence.

        Steve


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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 3 of 6 , Jul 13, 2005
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          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
          event/experience/experiment.

          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?"

          MAY WE SURMISE....PERHAPS...MAY PERHAPS.

          "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
          BLAVATSKY ARCHIVES
          http://hpb.cc
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