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When logic doesn't matter


Domarius
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You're right, it is bad example. Whether one type of creature or another might have existed is quite arbitrary, it's a matter of finding their fossils. Even so, winged dinosaurs did exist.

It's this notion of calling it a 'dragon' i.e. that is breathed fire, that would come under the wing (haw haw) of occam's razor. There could be no evidence to show it breathed fire, so postulating it's a dragon would be wrong, and taken entirely from the realms of fantasy stories.

Civillisation will not attain perfection until the last stone, from the last church, falls on the last priest.

- Emil Zola

 

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While I'm not quite sure what you mean by 'variables', I was talking about how the phrase is generally used in conversation rather than the strict definition. People generally use 'Occam's razor' to avoid having to modify the beliefs they already have.

 

Yes, but that's not how it is supposed to work. :)

 

Suppose the same paeleontologist says there is evidence that the skeleteon had four legs and wings? The possible explanations include 1.) He is mistaken, 2) He is lying 3) He is telling the truth. Since #3 would require most people to change their beliefs about biology, then it requires less effort to accept #1 or #2. That, in my opinion is an incorrect way to use Occam's razor.

 

But Occam's razor doesn't make a statement about how easy or hard it is to accept a truthvalue, it's about weeding out competing hypothesis. So when a scientists makes a claim about function f needing the parameters A + B and another makes a claim about the same function saying it requires A + B + C then it follows, if both make the same claim, that A+B is "easier" and thus prefereable over the second version. If people rather like to beliefe the second version, because it better follows tradition, doesn't matter because C is obviously superflous.

Gerhard

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It's this notion of calling it a 'dragon' i.e. that is breathed fire, that would come under the wing (haw haw) of occam's razor. There could be no evidence to show it breathed fire,

 

The exact feature that makes dragons unrealistic wasn't really the point of the example. A dinosaur-sized creature with four legs and two wings is just as unlikely as one that breathes fire. But if you prefer, replace "there is evidence that the skeleteon had four legs and wings" with "there is evidence the creature breathed fire".

 

when a scientists makes a claim about function f needing the parameters A + B and another makes a claim about the same function saying it requires A + B + C then it follows, if both make the same claim, that A+B is "easier" and thus prefereable over the second version.

 

I can see how that works mathematically, but when you're dealing with a choice between competing hypothesis I don't see how anyone could keep their current assumptions about the world out of it. Perhaps my understanding of Occam's razor is incomplete. Can you give me an example of how it would work with some kind of real life hypothesis? Perhaps Oddity's example of ghosts?

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I don't think what sparhawk is saying is right, it's logic, but it's not my idea of Occam's razor. Occam's razor is quite simple. To explain any phenomenon, you first look for reasonable explanations which fall within the boundaries of what is already known. Only when all of those have been exausted do you start to speculate about other possibilities, and even then you don't just wildly speculate without reason or logic being involved.

When it comes to ghost tales, what happens whenever they're properly tested using scientific means, is that nothing is ever found that can't be explained rationally, and that the claimants were jumping to extraordinary conclusions for no good reason - not using Occam's razor.

In the case of your 'dragon' fossil, if actual evidence is found then Occam's razor doesn't come into it, since there is actual reason to believe that it's a large four legged creature with wings, until proven otherwise.

Occam's razor doesn't mean ignoring unusual or quirky evidence just to maintain the status quo, it means not jumping to conclusions without good reason to do so.

And then of course, there's the other principal of extraordinary claims requiring extraordinary evidence. If you're going to make a claim such as ghosts existing, then you'd better have some damn good evidence to back it up.

That is linked somewhat to occam's razor, in that even if you have a small amount of evidence which apparently points to something extraordinary and unprecedented, then you still have to use common sense before believing it.

This is what scientists do all the time, they don't buy into something 100% until they have a lot of evidence in favour of it, and it's been tested 50 different ways. Prior to that, they warily hold it as a good possibility in lieu of more evidence in the future.

 

However, if you have no evidence for something at all, such as an afterlife, then I don't see the point in even talking about it.

Civillisation will not attain perfection until the last stone, from the last church, falls on the last priest.

- Emil Zola

 

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I can see how that works mathematically, but when you're dealing with a choice between competing hypothesis I don't see how anyone could keep their current assumptions about the world out of it. Perhaps my understanding of Occam's razor is incomplete. Can you give me an example of how it would work with some kind of real life hypothesis? Perhaps Oddity's example of ghosts?

 

Don't know about the ghosts, but you can apply it to evolution for instance. Before evolution theory was developed, people believed that god created everything, and all creates are quite differenet from each other. These are two quite complex assumptions, because god is infinite complex by definition, and claiming that all creatures are completely independent and different from each other is also quite a comple assumption, because it requires a lot of exaplantions. For each existing creature an individual explanation.

 

Now when evolutionary theory was discovered, this complex explanation (some omnipotent god created all of them) suddenly was replaced by a rather simple law. Taking DNA into the equation, it followed that not only were creatures developing through the same mechanism, they also started from the same basis sharing the same mechanism. Thus the evolutionary theory is much less complex, because it follows a rather simple law (survival of the fittest) instead of invoking an all powerfull god mnechanism to "explain" something, but which in truth explains nothing. Consequently god has been pushed back, at least in western religions, to become the creator of the universe instead.

 

The reason why ET is considered to be simpler, is because the basic exaplanation follows rather simple rules. This does not mean that the result can not be complex though. Following Occams razor it is quite logical to accept ET instead of taking a god as an explanation, even though god might be "simpler" on the surface. It isn't though, because with the attributes, that god has, he is infinite complex as I said above.

Gerhard

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I don't think what sparhawk is saying is right, it's logic, but it's not my idea of Occam's razor. Occam's razor is quite simple. To explain any phenomenon, you first look for reasonable explanations which fall within the boundaries of what is already known. Only when all of those have been exausted do you start to speculate about other possibilities, and even then you don't just wildly speculate without reason or logic being involved.

 

That doesn't make my explanation wrong. :) Philosophers also use logic. :)

Gerhard

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The exact feature that makes dragons unrealistic wasn't really the point of the example. A dinosaur-sized creature with four legs and two wings is just as unlikely as one that breathes fire. But if you prefer, replace "there is evidence that the skeleteon had four legs and wings" with "there is evidence the creature breathed fire".

I think four-legs + wings + fire depictions started only in some region like wales or north germany, and then dominated the "dragon" beliefs in other countries. I think other countries had and some still retain a different model of a dragon, like the slavic "zmey" or chinese serpent. It could be possible each country independently acquired this mythology from discovering actual fossils, but the Welsh dragon superseded the image.

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@Spar - this is my blanket response to your post - It's a personal belief I have. Try to understand that. The only thing I'm defending at length here is not that it's true (it's a belief, get it?) it's that I can have it without it affecting anything else about me.

 

And if you don't think I will change my beliefs in the face of reasonable evidence, just check the first few pages of this very thread, where I accept that what seems like strange coincidence is actually just probability, after I read posts made by you and others.

 

@oDDity - yes I beleive it goes for all things. I believe nothing dies, just changes into different forms of energy. The assumption you made that I think it applies to humans is just that - an assumption on your part. Based on traditional religion, again.

I could decide to believe nothing happens after death - but saying the belief is selfish somehow, isn't good enough for me to make the change. I need a better reason than that.

 

If by "ignoring" arguments, you mean that when you try to tell me what my OWN mind can and can't do, and I say "No, my mind doesn't work like that." then yes, I'm ignoring you. Guilty as charged.

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@Maximus - Finally, something different :) Your post was very interesting to read, and I agree with it all.

 

In response to your questions - I understand the importance of the kinds of beliefs you're talking about, the ones that could lead to truth. Well this afterlife belief may not fall into that category. We could call it fantasy, maybe? I'm not trying to prove it's true. I just like having it. What I'm asking is how this one belief is detrimental to myself and/or those around me.

 

oDDity calls it cowardice, and I guess it's true, so far as someone who chooses to jump off a cliff over someone who doesn't. I see it like this - I have no control over what happens after I die, so I get to choose what I think about it. Why the hell not, is what I'm asking.

 

Honestly, if I see a good reason for not doing it, I'll just change my belief. I am two minds about it (like I am with everying - I just like to keep an open mind). I can accept nothing happens, but I keep coming back to "but why not believe something happens? Does it hurt?"

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@Maximus - Finally, something different :) Your post was very interesting to read, and I agree with it all.

 

I understand the importance of the kinds of beliefs you're talking about, the ones that could lead to truth. Well this afterlife belief may not fall into that category. We could call it fantasy, maybe? I'm not trying to prove it's true. I just like having it. What I'm asking is how this one belief is detrimental to myself and/or those around me.

 

oDDity calls it cowardice, and I guess it's true, so far as someone who chooses to jump off a cliff over someone who doesn't. I see it like this - I have no control over what happens after I die, so I get to choose what I think about it.

 

Ok, that sounds fair enough, I allow myself to believe there are monsters under my bed sometimes to give myself a chill, you are aware of the difference and thats what counts. But there is some danger, when these ideas are accepted by others as having truth value. You can maintain the separation but beware those that can't. And you may find in time that while such illusions are enjoyable and have value, there is a self affirming value to setting such things aside and living with the uncertainty intact.

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oDDity - yes I beleive it goes for all things. I believe nothing dies, just changes into different forms of energy. The assumption you made that I think it applies to humans is just that - an assumption on your part. Based on traditional religion, again.

Hang on though, this is getting extremely vague.

What do you mean by 'different forms of energy'

Obviously when I die, the atoms I'm made of will continue to exist, molecules such as the carbon I'm made of has been existing for billions of years since whatever dying star is was manufactured in, but that's not the same as living on.

I'm assuming you mean living on with your consciousness intact, still being 'you', otherwise what's the point.

You're saying that your consciousness is going to somehow detach itself from your body and continue to exist as a separate, but still fully functional entity.

I say' bollocks' ti that. Your consciousness cannot exist without your physical brain, since all of your memories are stored in physical brain matter. All of you emotions are derived from hormones and various chemicals, all of your thoughts use the hardware of your braincells and electric currents to exist, so I'm not sure exactly what this strange disembodied 'essence of you' is supposed to be like, or how it will function in lieu of your brain.

Also, the problem is that other forms of life don't have a consciousness like we do, so how does that apply to them?

You're not going to come up wiht some sort of vague 'life energy' which is present in all living things and moves from a dying thing to some newborn thing, are you?

As far as I can see, the best you can hope for is to end up as some sort of disembodied life essence without emotions, memories, ideas, or even awareness, since even that requires at least short term storage of memories, and you won't have any emotions to work out how you feel about anything anyway.

An eternity of that sounds great...

 

I could decide to believe nothing happens after death - but saying the belief is selfish somehow, isn't good enough for me to make the change. I need a better reason than that.

It's not selfish so much as cowardly, a pigheaded refusal to stare your imminent non-existence in the face.

All I see is someone desperately clutching at straws, and not even real straws, invisible ones which you can only see as an hallucination.

Civillisation will not attain perfection until the last stone, from the last church, falls on the last priest.

- Emil Zola

 

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Occam's razor doesn't mean ignoring unusual or quirky evidence just to maintain the status quo, it means not jumping to conclusions without good reason to do so.

 

Well, I agree with you that's how it *should* be used, but it frequently IS used to ignore 'quirky' evidence--particularly by the uninformed, but also occasionally by scientists.

 

Look at the Ganzfeld experiments, for example. A rigorous experiment replicated numerous times by numerous experimenters, that consistantly shows a greater than average ability for people to 'detect' what someone rooms away is seeing.

 

Many people look at the results and say something to the effect of, "There's no such thing as psychic ability, therefore Occam's razor says the more likely explanation is that the experimenters are [wrong/lying/hoaxers/incompetent, etc]." Which I suppose is fine, but many of them often go on to say, "And anyone who believes otherwise is stupid, weak-minded, or cowardly."

 

This happens all the time in areas considered 'fringe' science.

 

The truly scientific approach, IMO, is to say, "The results are interesting and currently unexplained, and demand further research in order to understand them."

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Like I said, an extraordinary claim like that would require extraordinary evidence. Obviously such an unprecedented claim as that requires the sort of evidence that these experimenters aren't finding.

And let's be realistic about this, if any scientist did really think there was any truth to this, they'd all be on the bandwagon. It would bring them the fame and money of their dreams if they proved telepathy/farsight etc.

Civillisation will not attain perfection until the last stone, from the last church, falls on the last priest.

- Emil Zola

 

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And let's be realistic about this, if any scientist did really think there was any truth to this, they'd all be on the bandwagon. It would bring them the fame and money of their dreams if they proved telepathy/farsight etc.

 

That's always my favourite missconception of scientsists. Psychiic trie to disclaim scientists with the argument that they are closed minded to such effects, while the opposite would be true if there were something about it. After disproving the millionths claim it gets boring though. Science is progressing because there are thourough tests and building upon which was discovered and discarding what has been disprooved by experimenting. By researching and disprooving the same claims over again and again doesn't bring any progress.

Gerhard

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if any scientist did really think there was any truth to this, they'd all be on the bandwagon. It would bring them the fame and money of their dreams if they proved telepathy/farsight etc.

 

 

I think that's a common misconception.

 

First of all, the people conducting the experiments ARE scientists. Secondly, the "truth" is in the experiments and the results. Saying that scientists would get fame and money if they 'proved farsight' is pretty unrealistic. Scientific experiments aren't *supposed* to prove anything, they're just supposed to support hypothesis. And fame and money rarely comes from well-thought out experiments, but from the marketting of useful products connected to them, which really doesn't apply here.

 

The problem is, there are lots of experiments like this out there. Few people are willing to bother looking at the data, however. They prefer to wait for the media or popular opinion (generally the same thing) to tell them it's genuine, while believing that doing so is adopting a more 'scientific' attitude. It's really not.

 

Science is progressing because there are thourough tests and building upon which was discovered and discarding what has been disprooved by experimenting.

 

Yes, precisely. And you are illustrating my point very nicely. You're making the assumption, without looking at any of the evidence, that the experiments are flawed, or otherwise not genuine, simply because you believe that they support a hypothesis that is "not possible".

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There are thousands of people doing science, even if they are not "scientists" by professions. Claiming that all of them never bothered to look at their data is quite ridiculous. A small example. I watched a few series from Deniken. Don't know if you know this guy. He got famous because he claims that there were aliens visiting earth in ancient egypt. The series contains 6 DVDs and he presents a lot of information to prove his claims. The problem is that he doesn't bother to do proper scientific investiagtion. So he is the first to constantly say that he doesn't want to do science, he just wants to raise questions (his own words). So basically he means that he has some fancy ideas, but the hard work should do others for him. Actually when I watched this material I had a problem with it. Many of the things that he presented as "proof" for his claims didn't really look like this at all. Only with a VERY focussed imagination you can see them supporting his claim. There were SOME cases though which really looked quite fascinating and might require a good explanation, otherwise they could indeed been interpreted to support his claims. However there are a lot of other issues, which he didn't even address. So making only a very limited reaserch, to find only stuff that supports your claim is not enough. You can generate a LOT of this data, and then simply call on the scientists to disproove it. Doing this is hard work, while collecting such data is not really hard. You can lean back in your couch and direct the scientists to do the actual hard work for you, siilar to Kingers. That's not how it works. If YOU claim that you have collected data, it's NOT the job of the scientists to verify YOUR claims. YOU must show that there actually is some evidence.

Gerhard

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I think that's a common misconception.

 

First of all, the people conducting the experiments ARE scientists. Secondly, the "truth" is in the experiments and the results. Saying that scientists would get fame and money if they 'proved farsight' is pretty unrealistic. Scientific experiments aren't *supposed* to prove anything, they're just supposed to support hypothesis. And fame and money rarely comes from well-thought out experiments, but from the marketting of useful products connected to them, which really doesn't apply here.

 

I mean professional wealth as well as personal wealth, which comes from getting huge research budgets, and that is dependant upon getting initially positive results. In other words, they are biased towards getting positive results for their bread and butter. The fame and personal wealth comes from getting on the cover of Time, and with such an unusual discovery such as telepathy, there would be a big media circus around it would would earn them big bucks.

I've never seen the results of any of these studies on farsight or whatever, so I'm not going to comment on it. I'm not sure where you have seen (or more likely heard) about such positive results which are being ignored by everyone else because they don't want to think it might be true.

Civillisation will not attain perfection until the last stone, from the last church, falls on the last priest.

- Emil Zola

 

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I watched a few series from Deniken. Don't know if you know this guy. He got famous because he claims that there were aliens visiting earth in ancient egypt.

 

Erich von Daniken? Yes, I'm somewhat familiar with him. As you say, he's not a scientist, nor is he doing research. His theories are pretty ridiculous, and he has no experiments to back them up. There's no comparison between that and the Ganzfeld experiments, which were multiple studies done by scientists over a long period of time.

 

I'm not sure where you have seen (or more likely heard) about such positive results which are being ignored by everyone else because they don't want to think it might be true.

 

I didn't say they're being ignored by everyone. Only that many people dismiss them (and similar kinds of experiments) without ever looking at the evidence.

 

They aren't ignored by all scientists either, though many scientist are just as quick to dismiss them without a close look. Ray Hyman, a Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Oregon (a noted critic of parapsychology) is one who did take a closer look and wrote a review of many of the experiments. He concluded:

 

"We agree that there is an overall significant effect in this data base that cannot reasonably be explained by selective reporting or multiple analysis. We continue to differ over the degree to which the effect constitutes evidence for psi, but we agree that the final verdict awaits the outcome of future experiments"

 

Which is essentially what the proper scientific attitude should be.

 

Anyway, going into the experiments themselves wasn't really my main point.

 

My original claim was that people tend to be very liberal with the "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof" claim--but our definition of "extraordinary" is defined by a very narrow range of experience, and a lot of listening to "conventional wisdom" for lack of a better term. It's very easy to rule things out because they don't seem likely, rather than that there's no evidence.

 

Anyway, back to my reorg.... :)

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Yes, but there's evidence, and then there's evidence.

Also, you have to look at the fact that extensive research has been done on psychic abilities and produced negligible results, so you have to weigh all that against a few studies apparently showing marginally positive results.

Civillisation will not attain perfection until the last stone, from the last church, falls on the last priest.

- Emil Zola

 

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It's not selfish so much as cowardly, a pigheaded refusal to stare your imminent non-existence in the face.

All I see is someone desperately clutching at straws, and not even real straws, invisible ones which you can only see as an hallucination.

Well, I'm quite aware that the belief is probably tragically wrong, but I don't really care, because the idea has no practical bearing on my life either way. It just gives me a sensation of wonder, like Maximus's chill. That's a better way to describe my reason, than "avoiding the fear of dying" really, I think that wording was too strong to describe the way I really feel about it. Besides, the last chapter of The God Delusion inspires me to wonder about the kinds of things that are out of our scope of comprehension. Lots and lots. And I just don't see the need to be so final about certain things in life. Sure if you need to balance your checkbook, or design software to control a commercial airliner - you need to be absolutely sure about your conclusions. I am just of the opinion that not all things in life really need to be like that.

 

@Maximus - yes I know the difference. But yes I realise that is why you guys so agressively attack my standing point in this argument. After all, a lot of the worlds problems stem from people believing things unconditionaly and then acting on them.

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Some weeks ago, a friend of mine hit a ticket machine with her car while trying to maneuver in the driveway area, and was in trouble for it. Even after explaining to me what a difficult place it is to maneuver in, she exclaimed "Why does such a bad thing have to happen now, this must have happened for a reason, I must have done something bad to someone... it's supposed to teach me a lesson." And I said "Yes it is teaching you a lesson - to drive more carefully - how about that?" and I explained how I always handbrake start as a matter of precaution (since it seemed that the car moved when she was changing gears) and she conceeded and said she would start doing that.

 

This kind of mentality is quite common around me, which is not good. When there's a problem you should always exhaust all your logical faculties at trying to solve it, not resort to this.

 

But when something good happens, and when I analyse it, it is just all random coincidence, I allow myself to say "I guess it was 'meant' to happen", especialy if it involves another person, it tends to make them feel even better about the situation. I see no harm in it, EXCEPT, the possibility of promoting this way of thinking. Personally, I never look at a bad situation and go "why me, blah blah blah" - I say, either its totally outside of my control, or I stuffed up, that's it. But I guess other people might not be so strong willed.

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Look at the Ganzfeld experiments, for example. A rigorous experiment replicated numerous times by numerous experimenters, that consistantly shows a greater than average ability for people to 'detect' what someone rooms away is seeing.

If it's truly rigorous and repeatable, why haven't any of these experimenters claimed this prize? It's pretty well-known, and I can't believe anyone would turn down a million dollars and the amazing amount of publicity you'd get.

My games | Public Service Announcement: TDM is not set in the Thief universe. The city in which it takes place is not the City from Thief. The player character is not called Garrett. Any person who contradicts these facts will be subjected to disapproving stares.
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I'm not sure where you have seen (or more likely heard) about such positive results which are being ignored by everyone else because they don't want to think it might be true.

 

Let's assume these claims were true. Why would investigators want to deny it? ALL OF THEM? That doesn't make sense. Of course, if you look in mainstream science, there would be a lot of conservative scientists who wouldn't like it, but the same was true often enough in history of science. Gallieleio's claims were also not liked, but they had to be accepted in the face of evidence. Einstein's relativity made away with the popular 'aether' theory because the evidence had to be accpeted, no matter how stange or hard to accept it is. Darwins Evolution Theory attacked the notion of a god and was therefore also not easily accepeted "We are just apes? What a ridicoulous thought!" In science there are always hypothesis which are hard to swallow but if they can be proven to work, then they have to be accepted sooner or later. Accepting psychic abillities would be much easier to accept, because a LOT of people would like it to be true, but despite the support of all these people there is no evidence in all history to proove it. It's quite similar with alien abductions. People love this kind of thing, but if you don't find any evidence for it, then you have to accept that it's just conspiracy stories.

Gerhard

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Erich von Daniken? Yes, I'm somewhat familiar with him. As you say, he's not a scientist, nor is he doing research. His theories are pretty ridiculous, and he has no experiments to back them up. There's no comparison between that and the Ganzfeld experiments, which were multiple studies done by scientists over a long period of time.

 

Being a "scientist" means nothing. Einstein also was not a scientist by the official definition. He was denied support from universities, because he was not considered to be smart enough for "proper" scientific work so he had to work as a patent clerk. Especially up to 1900 a lot of "scientists" were people who were rich enough to indulge in their hobbies and made big progress, even though the were not official academics. He did his reearch though, but only in a limited way. He looked at the evidence, and interpreted everything into the alien godfather direction, which is not a good way to do science. If you look at this evidence, there are at least SOME things that look strange, which would require a good exaplanation, even though I don't believe a second that there were really aliens, but some of his evidence is at least intersting enough to entertain this notion untill a better explanation is found. I'm not following archealogy that much, so maybe there is already such an explanation and he just ignores it.

 

I didn't say they're being ignored by everyone. Only that many people dismiss them (and similar kinds of experiments) without ever looking at the evidence.

 

So what? If there are many people ignoring it, there are just as many people embracing it. That's a pretty weak argument. Reminds a bit of Harry Potter where Hagrid falls into disgrace and when Dumbledore talks to him he complains that not everybody likes him. :)

 

My original claim was that people tend to be very liberal with the "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof" claim--but our definition of "extraordinary" is defined by a very narrow range of experience, and a lot of listening to "conventional wisdom" for lack of a better term. It's very easy to rule things out because they don't seem likely, rather than that there's no evidence.

 

That's why bascially ALL modern science has to learn math and statistics. To exactly avoid this kind of science. Gut feelings are not really a god indicator for a scientific proof. :) Even in philosophy courses you have basic statistics nowadays.

 

Anyway, back to my reorg.... :)

 

How is it getting along?

Gerhard

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