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Old 11th September 2010, 09:07 AM   #641
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Originally Posted by Halfcentaur View Post
The whole thread seems like self aggrandizement to me.
Sounds like a fair discription of Manxman's posting "style".

You should read the crap he's posted over on the BAUT forum.
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Old 11th September 2010, 09:10 AM   #642
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Originally Posted by Ron_Tomkins View Post
If I claim I can shoot laser beams out of my eyes, is that an ordinary claim?

If I say I can prove it by showing a photoshopped picture of my shooting lasers out of my eyes, is that extraordinary evidence?



Anyone finding themselves in a struggle answering these questions needs to have their brain checked.
I'm not sure picking extreme examples which everyone can agree on does much to clarify ECREE or answer some of the issues raised. How about a claim for a new anti-depressant which works without any harmful side effects, or a claim that California will have an M5 earthquake next week? Ordinary or extraordinary? Why? What standard of evidence would be required for such claims?
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Old 11th September 2010, 09:23 AM   #643
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Originally Posted by Egg View Post
I'm not sure picking extreme examples which everyone can agree on...
A clear, concise and irrefutable example is not an "extreme" example. It's just a clear, concise and irrefutable example that proves that everyone here has a clear concept of what an "extraordinary" claim is. Because you do know it's pretty extraordinary for someone to claim they shoot laser beams out of their eyes.

Originally Posted by Egg View Post
How about a claim for a new anti-depressant which works without any significant side effects, or a claim that California will have an M5 earthquake next week? Ordinary or extraordinary?
I don't know about the first one, since I'm not versed in medicine. You'll have to ask an expert in the field for him to tell you if that's something considered "impossible" and thus extraordinary. As about the second one, the extraordinary thing wouldn't be in the claim per se (as there's nothing extraordinary about earthquakes) but about the possibility of being able to predict future events.
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Old 11th September 2010, 09:41 AM   #644
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Originally Posted by Egg View Post
What standard of evidence would be required for such claims?
Mechanism of claim? Prior history of similar claims?

Anti-depressants without any harmful side-effects? A pretty ordinary claim because many functional drugs are already available without any harmful side effects. We would just need a well designed study to confirm this claim. Now if they claim no side-effects whatsoever, than that would be pretty extraordinary.

Earthquake prediction? Extraordinary. A psychic claiming it would be even more extraordinary than any seismologist. Even seismologist claiming to be able to predict earthquakes would be extraordinary because their history of doing it has been woefully inadequate. Not only would we need a single prediction, we would need multiple accurate ones. We wouldn't just accept one study, we would need it to be confirmed multiple times before being accepted.

Once you start weighing what we know already know about a claim such as its prior successes or failures and their mechanisms; we can start weighing the needed evidence to change the probability of said claim being true or false. Like I said, its very Bayesian.
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Old 11th September 2010, 09:56 AM   #645
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Originally Posted by Ron_Tomkins View Post
Because you do know it's pretty extraordinary for someone to claim they shoot laser beams out of their eyes.
It wouldn't be extraordinary for some nut job who regularly makes bizarre claims to make that claim. I'm pretty sure we'd all agree the claim was extraordinary though.


Originally Posted by Ron_Tomkins View Post
I don't know about the first one, since I'm not versed in medicine. You'll have to ask an expert in the field for him to tell you if that's something considered "impossible" and thus extraordinary. As about the second one, the extraordinary thing wouldn't be in the claim per se (as there's nothing extraordinary about earthquakes) but about the possibility of being able to predict future events.
I think your answer here demonstrates my point pretty well. The discussion has opened up and we're getting down to what might make a claim extraordinary or not and why we might call it so. You would appear to be defining extraordinary claims as ones which are currently considered impossible. We could also include implausible, unlikely, unusual or weird as possible definitions, each carrying a slightly different concept. You've also brought up the idea that what the claim entails might be what makes it extraordinary, rather than the claim itself.

Maybe it's just me though. Some posters seem to imply that any discussion of semantics is somehow dishonest. Personally, I find semantics an interesting and sometimes enlightening area of discussion. It's often by analysing semantics that you can pinpoint where people are disagreeing.
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Old 11th September 2010, 09:59 AM   #646
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Originally Posted by paximperium View Post
Mechanism of claim? Prior history of similar claims?

Anti-depressants without any harmful side-effects? A pretty ordinary claim because many functional drugs are already available without any harmful side effects. We would just need a well designed study to confirm this claim. Now if they claim no side-effects whatsoever, than that would be pretty extraordinary.

Earthquake prediction? Extraordinary. A psychic claiming it would be even more extraordinary than any seismologist. Even seismologist claiming to be able to predict earthquakes would be extraordinary because their history of doing it has been woefully inadequate. Not only would we need a single prediction, we would need multiple accurate ones. We wouldn't just accept one study, we would need it to be confirmed multiple times before being accepted.

Once you start weighing what we know already know about a claim such as its prior successes or failures and their mechanisms; we can start weighing the needed evidence to change the probability of said claim being true or false. Like I said, its very Bayesian.
Great answer, Pax!
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Old 11th September 2010, 10:16 AM   #647
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The big semantic battle is that ordinary and extraordinary is essentially a false dichotomy. Most claims fall somewhere inbetween and are difficult to ascertain if they are extraordinary or ordinary. People also have very different standards when it comes to labeling something extraordinary or ordinary. Is a 85% chance of a claim being false extraordinary? What about 90%? 99%?

However, I have no problem calling the vast majority of claims by our resident woos being extraordinary claims. Them making these claims is very much ordinary and the reasons for them making such claims are pretty well studied and pretty ordinary as well.

Their claims are extraordinary; their behavior? Pretty ordinary and boring.
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Old 11th September 2010, 10:43 AM   #648
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Originally Posted by Egg View Post
It was clear plenty of people here didn't like Rramjet questioning Sagan. . . .
The only problem with this idea is that Rramjet did a whole lot more than merely question Sagan. You need only look at the title of the thread to verify that. Rramjet is making a claim, not just raising a question. There is a huge, huge difference. Can you tell the difference?

Secondly, you are equivocating then you say that plenty of people didn't like what Rramjet did. You make it sound like people here didn't like Rramjet for *merely* questioning Sagan, which is even more hilarious because Rramjet did far more than just question Sagan. It's perfectly appropriate for them not to like what he did if what he did was irrational or something similar. Irrationality is appropriately condemned.
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Old 11th September 2010, 10:47 AM   #649
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Originally Posted by paximperium View Post
The big semantic battle is that ordinary and extraordinary is essentially a false dichotomy. Most claims fall somewhere inbetween and are difficult to ascertain if they are extraordinary or ordinary. People also have very different standards when it comes to labeling something extraordinary or ordinary. Is a 85% chance of a claim being false extraordinary? What about 90%? 99%?
I agree - and not just in terms of thinking in percentages either, but different ways of assessing plausibility of a claim. For example, your suggestion of psychic vs seismologist making the claim (ie. what they're basing the claim on) having an affect on how extraordinary you would consider the claim to be. As such, Rramjet makes a good point about subjectivity.

Originally Posted by paximperium View Post
However, I have no problem calling the vast majority of claims by our resident woos being extraordinary claims. Them making these claims is very much ordinary and the reasons for them making such claims are pretty well studied and pretty ordinary as well.
And you wouldn't be alone. That said, someone with different past experiences and a different take on philosophy might well make quite different assessments to just how extraordinary certain claims might be. For example, someone who worked in government and saw corruption, with a bleak philosophy of humanity's attraction to power might start with a much higher percentage chance of some political cover-up conspiracy.
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Old 11th September 2010, 11:21 AM   #650
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Originally Posted by Paul2 View Post
The only problem with this idea is that Rramjet did a whole lot more than merely question Sagan. You need only look at the title of the thread to verify that. Rramjet is making a claim, not just raising a question. There is a huge, huge difference. Can you tell the difference?
Well that's a slightly different concept of how I meant "questioning". Yes, he stated his opinion that ECREE was nonsense, but did so by doubting (questioning) an objective definition for "extraordinary evidence".

Originally Posted by Paul2 View Post
Secondly, you are equivocating then you say that plenty of people didn't like what Rramjet did. You make it sound like people here didn't like Rramjet for *merely* questioning Sagan, which is even more hilarious because Rramjet did far more than just question Sagan. It's perfectly appropriate for them not to like what he did if what he did was irrational or something similar. Irrationality is appropriately condemned.
Far more? Well if by that you mean he disagreed, then ok. It's appropriate to point out irrationality if he was making irrational points, yes, but I wouldn't think it appropriate to try to discredit him with things he's said in past threads or with imagined motivations for his arguments, even if your arguments haven't persuaded him.
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Old 11th September 2010, 11:41 AM   #651
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Originally Posted by Egg View Post
I agree - and not just in terms of thinking in percentages either, but different ways of assessing plausibility of a claim. For example, your suggestion of psychic vs seismologist making the claim (ie. what they're basing the claim on) having an affect on how extraordinary you would consider the claim to be. As such, Rramjet makes a good point about subjectivity.
Nope.
Seismology is attempting to make predictions based on prior knowledge and known mechanisms. They have a known prior rate of success.

Psychics are well known frauds and self deluded nutcases using no knowledge and no known mechanism. They are failures. I'd treat their claim about as seriously as a schizophrenics.
Quote:
And you wouldn't be alone. That said, someone with different past experiences and a different take on philosophy might well make quite different assessments to just how extraordinary certain claims might be. For example, someone who worked in government and saw corruption, with a bleak philosophy of humanity's attraction to power might start with a much higher percentage chance of some political cover-up conspiracy.
Yes. That would color how someone would assess a claim and would change what constitutes "extraordinary". An educated physicist would call a claim that the mass of a neutron was 0.1% off what is known to be extraordinary but the vast majority of lay people would think that it sounded pretty mundane. Sagan's claim when taken in context covers this.

But there are definate claims that would be extraordinary no matter how you parse it.
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Old 11th September 2010, 12:44 PM   #652
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Originally Posted by Egg View Post
It wouldn't be extraordinary for some nut job who regularly makes bizarre claims to make that claim. I'm pretty sure we'd all agree the claim was extraordinary though.
Jesus, look at the way you confuse yourself: It's the claim itself that's extraordinary, not the fact that there's another nutjob making a silly claim.

A claim about being able to shoot laser beams out of your eyes: Extraordinary
The fact that someone else is making an extraordinary claim: Not extraordinary. Lots of people make extraordinary claims.

Originally Posted by Egg View Post
I think your answer here demonstrates my point pretty well. The discussion has opened up and we're getting down to what might make a claim extraordinary or not and why we might call it so. You would appear to be defining extraordinary claims as ones which are currently considered impossible. We could also include implausible, unlikely, unusual or weird as possible definitions, each carrying a slightly different concept. You've also brought up the idea that what the claim entails might be what makes it extraordinary, rather than the claim itself.
Nah, we haven't opened anything. It's just that some claims require knowledge about the field so we can determine if they're considered impossible or not. I don't know anything about medicine so I don't have the criteria to determine if that claim about drug without side effects is extraordinary or not. But Paximperium does and he already explained why it is in fact extraordinary.

Originally Posted by Egg View Post
Maybe it's just me though. Some posters seem to imply that any discussion of semantics is somehow dishonest. Personally, I find semantics an interesting and sometimes enlightening area of discussion. It's often by analysing semantics that you can pinpoint where people are disagreeing.
Semantic games are indeed dishonest in scientific discussions because they are dealing with mere language rhetorics and not with actual scientific truth. How we name things have nothing got to do with whether or not those things are in fact true or false.
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Old 11th September 2010, 01:40 PM   #653
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Originally Posted by Egg View Post
Well that's a slightly different concept of how I meant "questioning". Yes, he stated his opinion that ECREE was nonsense, but did so by doubting (questioning) an objective definition for "extraordinary evidence".
If by "doubting" or "questioning" you actually mean "rejecting," then I would agree with you.

The idea that there was another definition of "questioning" is where the equivocation comes in. "Questioning" can either mean a softer, "literally asking a question" approach (even if the question challenges ECREE), or it can mean, in a harder sense, as you intended it, I think, "reject."

The problem is that your criticism of those against Rramjet is either on or off target depending on which sense of the word is taken. It's on target with the softer sense, but off target with the harder sense. With the softer sense, in which posters are against Rramjet for merely asking a question about the ECREE, your criticism would be valid. With the harder sense, in which posters are against Rramjet because he rejects ECREE, your criticism is not valid.

You set this up by using a word that can be taken two very different ways. That's why clear, precise language is so important. If you mean "reject," then say it clearly and plainly.

Just to be clear, which did you mean? "Reject," or "literally just asking a question?"
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Old 11th September 2010, 01:41 PM   #654
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Another thought: there are semantic games, and there are semantic games. If the substance of an issue comes down to how a word is defined, then that's trivial. But if a discussion goes 'round and 'round because people are using different definitions of words and not realizing it, then that's not trivial.
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Old 11th September 2010, 02:12 PM   #655
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Originally Posted by paximperium View Post
Nope.
Seismology is attempting to make predictions based on prior knowledge and known mechanisms. They have a known prior rate of success.

Psychics are well known frauds and self deluded nutcases using no knowledge and no known mechanism. They are failures. I'd treat their claim about as seriously as a schizophrenics.
Then that not "nope", it is influenced by who's making the claim and what that claimed knowledge is based on. Whilst the particular measure you're using there is less subjective than some, the idea of trusting one person over another making a claim as an influence in how extraordinary we view the claim is demonstrated. On closer inspection we may find out the psychic was using a seismometer and the seismologist was basing his claim on a dream.
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Old 11th September 2010, 02:34 PM   #656
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Originally Posted by Ron_Tomkins View Post
Jesus, look at the way you confuse yourself: It's the claim itself that's extraordinary, not the fact that there's another nutjob making a silly claim.

A claim about being able to shoot laser beams out of your eyes: Extraordinary
The fact that someone else is making an extraordinary claim: Not extraordinary. Lots of people make extraordinary claims.
I'm not confused in the least. You're the one who said "it's pretty extraordinary for someone to claim they shoot laser beams out of their eyes". I was just ruling out the idea your wording might have suggested that the act of making the claim was what was extraordinary. There's no reason this needn't be civil discussion, Ron, it's not like I'm attacking you or saying anything particularly controversial here.

Originally Posted by Ron_Tomkins View Post

Nah, we haven't opened anything. It's just that some claims require knowledge about the field so we can determine if they're considered impossible or not. I don't know anything about medicine so I don't have the criteria to determine if that claim about drug without side effects is extraordinary or not. But Paximperium does and he already explained why it is in fact extraordinary.
Again you define an extraordinary claim as impossible. That's what I was thinking was an interesting take on ECREE.

I was just thinking there was a bit more meat for discussion on claims which different people might think were extraordinary or not and why they came to that conclusion and perhaps what standard of evidence would be required. It seems to have solicited some constructive food for though from Pax, so it appears not an entirely unjustified approach.

Originally Posted by Ron_Tomkins View Post
Semantic games are indeed dishonest in scientific discussions because they are dealing with mere language rhetorics and not with actual scientific truth. How we name things have nothing got to do with whether or not those things are in fact true or false.
"Games" is your word. If that's a veiled accusation, perhaps you could make it a little clearer how you think I've done that.
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Old 11th September 2010, 02:48 PM   #657
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Originally Posted by Paul2 View Post
If by "doubting" or "questioning" you actually mean "rejecting," then I would agree with you.

The idea that there was another definition of "questioning" is where the equivocation comes in. "Questioning" can either mean a softer, "literally asking a question" approach (even if the question challenges ECREE), or it can mean, in a harder sense, as you intended it, I think, "reject."

The problem is that your criticism of those against Rramjet is either on or off target depending on which sense of the word is taken. It's on target with the softer sense, but off target with the harder sense. With the softer sense, in which posters are against Rramjet for merely asking a question about the ECREE, your criticism would be valid. With the harder sense, in which posters are against Rramjet because he rejects ECREE, your criticism is not valid.

You set this up by using a word that can be taken two very different ways. That's why clear, precise language is so important. If you mean "reject," then say it clearly and plainly.

Just to be clear, which did you mean? "Reject," or "literally just asking a question?"
Actually I meant it in the skeptical sense of approaching a claim, which Rramjet took ECREE to be, not just asking a question. So, I guess that's somewhere between your hard and soft. Perhaps I've understated his position and you're right to call it a rejection. Even so, most posters here wouldn't get such a hard time for rejecting a claim and explaining why they did so and I thought he was being pretty civil and raised some good points for discussion. "What is extraordinary evidence?" sounds like a very reasonable question to me.
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Old 11th September 2010, 03:04 PM   #658
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You have understated Rramjet's position, as evidenced by the word "nonsense" in the title of his thread. He said from the start that the thought that ECREE is, exactly and precisely, nonsense. It's clear that Rramjet meant what would be the hard sense of "questioning."

If Rramjet had only, and literally, asked the question, you might have a point, but since it's clear that he was doing more than just asking a question (see the word "nonsense" in the title of the thread), then we can't say how posters might have responded to this lesser questioning.

At this point, I think it's proper for you to document the inappropriate responses to him (rather than me wading through hundreds of posts). You're making that claim, can you give some specifics?
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Old 11th September 2010, 03:31 PM   #659
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Originally Posted by Egg View Post
Then that not "nope", it is influenced by who's making the claim and what that claimed knowledge is based on. Whilst the particular measure you're using there is less subjective than some, the idea of trusting one person over another making a claim as an influence in how extraordinary we view the claim is demonstrated. On closer inspection we may find out the psychic was using a seismometer and the seismologist was basing his claim on a dream.
No. I already mentioned mechanism and knowledge is taken into account. The claim should be assessed on its own merits and the prior evidence available.

However, I don't waste my time take the claim of nutjobs and frauds seriously. I use heuristics here to not waste my time or effort on these failures.
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Old 11th September 2010, 03:54 PM   #660
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Originally Posted by Paul2 View Post
You have understated Rramjet's position, as evidenced by the word "nonsense" in the title of his thread. He said from the start that the thought that ECREE is, exactly and precisely, nonsense. It's clear that Rramjet meant what would be the hard sense of "questioning."

If Rramjet had only, and literally, asked the question, you might have a point, but since it's clear that he was doing more than just asking a question (see the word "nonsense" in the title of the thread), then we can't say how posters might have responded to this lesser questioning.

At this point, I think it's proper for you to document the inappropriate responses to him (rather than me wading through hundreds of posts). You're making that claim, can you give some specifics?
I can understand you taking me task over my wording, but I was partially mimicking the post I was replying to which struck me as rather snooty. Anyway, I don't really agree that it would be appropriate to start singling posters out. There are a few snarky comments throughout the thread, but there's some stuff on page 3 you might want to look at for examples of attempts to discredit Rramjet. After that, manxman joined the thread which changed the dynamics of the discussion somewhat.
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Old 11th September 2010, 04:00 PM   #661
manxman
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You mean when i entered the thread with this post Egg.

And then suffered nothing more than thinly disguised personal abuse for several pages after, for my trouble of bothering to post.




"Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence" is itself an extraordinary claim.



See this is most of your problem here.

Extraordinary Claims versus Extraordinary Proof.

In his famous 1748 essay Of Miracles, the great skeptic David Hume asserted that "A wise man...proportions his belief to the evidence,"and he said of testimony for extraordinary claims that "the evidence, resulting from the testimony, admits of a diminution, greater or less, in proportion as the fact is more unusual." A similar statement was made by Laplace, and many other later writers. I turned it into the now popular phrase "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof" (which Carl Sagan popularized into what is almost the war cry of some scoffers). As anomalistic psychologists Leonard Zusne and Warren H. Jones observed, this demand "may be not only used but misused to the point where no amount of evidence of a paranormal claim will avail against a skeptic who has already prejudged the issue." The central problem however lies in the fact that "extraordinary" must be relative to some things "ordinary." and as our theories change, what was once extraordinary may become ordinary (best seen in now accepted quantum effects that earlier were viewed as "impossible"). Many now extraordinary claims may become more acceptable not when they are replicated but when theoretical contexts change to make them more welcome.

A Catch-22 in the Burden of Proof?

In criminal law, the burden of proof is assigned to the prosecution; in the court of science, it is placed on the defender of the deviant science claim. Whereas, in our British-based legal system, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty, in science the maverick scientist is presumed "guilty" (of error) until proven "innocent." This is appropriate since science must basically be conservative in its own defense against myriad would-be invaders. But it is important to remember that the proponent of the paranormal has an uphill battle from the start. The chips are stacked against him, so his assault is not so threatening to the fabric of science as scoffers often characterize it. In a sense, conservative science has "the law" on its side.

In law, we find three varieties in the weight of burden of proof:
proof by preponderance of evidence,
clear and convincing proof, and, in criminal law,
proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

In conventional science, we usually use (1), but when dealing with extraordinary claims, critics often seem to demand (3) since they demand all alternative explanations must be eliminated before the maverick claim is acceptable. This demand sometimes becomes unreasonable and may even make the scoffer's position unfalsifiable. Since the anomaly proponent is already saddled with a presumption of "guilt," it would seem to me that (2), clear and convincing proof, might be the best standard, though proponents may reasonably wonder why standard (1) should always be denied them.

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Old 11th September 2010, 04:12 PM   #662
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Heh, yep Manxman. I thought that was a pretty good starting post with some interesting points. I was thinking of your following posts which changed the dynamics though.
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Old 11th September 2010, 04:13 PM   #663
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Egg, I'm not trying to take you to task too much, I think I'll stop my nearly-nitpicking. We're pretty close, but you tend to backslide a bit.

The other factor here is that Rramjet is a known quantity with a long (!) history. A little snark as frustration, in the context of Rramjet's history, is forgivable, I think.
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Old 11th September 2010, 04:16 PM   #664
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I reposted the main content again too see what handwaves it gets this time Egg.
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Old 11th September 2010, 04:16 PM   #665
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Originally Posted by manxman View Post
"Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence" is itself an extraordinary claim.
" 'Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence' is itself an extraordinary claim" is itself an extraordinary claim.

Hey, I get it, manxman, this is fun!
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Old 11th September 2010, 04:20 PM   #666
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Originally Posted by Paul2 View Post
" 'Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence' is itself an extraordinary claim" is itself an extraordinary claim.

Hey, I get it, manxman, this is fun!

Only Fun in a lonely guy kinda way imo.

I am outta here, i seem to have an adverse effect on the dynamic.

Last edited by manxman; 11th September 2010 at 04:23 PM.
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Old 11th September 2010, 04:25 PM   #667
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Originally Posted by manxman View Post
As anomalistic psychologists Leonard Zusne and Warren H. Jones observed, this demand "may be not only used but misused to the point where no amount of evidence of a paranormal claim will avail against a skeptic who has already prejudged the issue."
I will join you in taking a courageous stand against abuse.
Originally Posted by manxman View Post

The central problem however lies in the fact that "extraordinary" must be relative to some things "ordinary." and as our theories change, what was once extraordinary may become ordinary (best seen in now accepted quantum effects that earlier were viewed as "impossible").
No, extraordinary (as in an extraordinary claim) is here understood to mean "contrary to something already well-established." Quantum effects are among the most well-established, to the nth decimal, with the best/most evidence, of all scientific findings. To overthrow them merely requires more/better evidence, which is going to require an, ahem, extraordinary amount/quality/type evidence.
Originally Posted by manxman View Post
But it is important to remember that the proponent of the paranormal has an uphill battle from the start. The chips are stacked against him,
because the weight of evidence is against him because every time something paranormal has been examined, there's nothing there beyond chance, placebo, etc.
Originally Posted by manxman View Post
In conventional science, we usually use (1), but when dealing with extraordinary claims, critics often seem to demand (3) since they demand all alternative explanations must be eliminated before the maverick claim is acceptable.
You are arguing against a straw man of the ECREE. Critics merely demand enough evidence to overcome a previously well-established and contrary conclusion.

Last edited by Paul2; 11th September 2010 at 04:28 PM. Reason: forgot a word
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Old 11th September 2010, 04:30 PM   #668
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Originally Posted by Paul2 View Post
Egg, I'm not trying to take you to task too much, I think I'll stop my nearly-nitpicking. We're pretty close, but you tend to backslide a bit.

The other factor here is that Rramjet is a known quantity with a long (!) history. A little snark as frustration, in the context of Rramjet's history, is forgivable, I think.
I'm not really familiar enough with his history to judge, but I'd have thought it could be seen as a good chance to practice judging an argument on what is said, not who is saying it.

...and I tend to backslide a bit? Not even sure what you mean by that.
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Old 11th September 2010, 04:32 PM   #669
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Originally Posted by manxman View Post
Only Fun in a lonely guy kinda way imo.

I am outta here, i seem to have an adverse effect on the dynamic.
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Old 11th September 2010, 04:59 PM   #670
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Originally Posted by Egg View Post
...and I tend to backslide a bit? Not even sure what you mean by that.
I meant that there were a couple of times (please don't ask me to find the specific post/quote) where you and I had agreed after seemingly being on opposites sides, but then you'd say something that would make me feel like I had to defend ECREE all over again. No biggie, though.
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Old 11th September 2010, 05:01 PM   #671
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I don't get it. It seems to me a mountain is being made from a molehill. Much is being discussed about the subjectivity of the terms. Of course they're subjective. That's what happens when you use language. It's why science primarily uses math to describe concepts. If Sagan intended it to be a hard and fast measurable rule, he would have developed and presented an equation. He was not speaking to other scientists. He was speaking to the general public with the aim of promoting an interest in science.
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Old 11th September 2010, 05:09 PM   #672
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Correct.
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Old 11th September 2010, 07:16 PM   #673
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Originally Posted by dlorde View Post
Wow... just, wow.

I thought Sagan was just saying that the crazier the claim, the more it would take to convince him it was true.

Made sense to me at the time, and still does, but apparently it's a semantically and philosophically debatable point...
Same here. I think it's because Max and RR don't like Sagan or people of rational thinking. Other wise this thread wouldn't be made up of Semantics or and trolling (max)
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Old 11th September 2010, 07:31 PM   #674
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Originally Posted by Paul2 View Post
I meant that there were a couple of times (please don't ask me to find the specific post/quote) where you and I had agreed after seemingly being on opposites sides, but then you'd say something that would make me feel like I had to defend ECREE all over again. No biggie, though.
Hmm... I was under the impression that was down to a muddle over which of two definitions of "extraordinary evidence" I was referring to. But talking of backsliding, you're still defining an extraordinary claim as "contrary to something already well-established" which is fine, but excludes claims which, while don't necessarily contradict what we already know, have no other supporting evidence.
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Old 11th September 2010, 07:47 PM   #675
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Originally Posted by Frying Dutchmen View Post
Same here. I think it's because Max and RR don't like Sagan or people of rational thinking. Other wise this thread wouldn't be made up of Semantics or and trolling (max)
I don't get this. What is the problem people have with semantics? We're discussing the meaning a phrase, so, by definition, that's semantics.

And I assume you mean manxman by "Max". My assumption was that he's a man who is Manx (ie. Island dweller with three legs and no tail), although of course he might be a Man X-Man, which wouldn't be quite as cool as Wolverine.
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Old 11th September 2010, 09:47 PM   #676
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Quote:
I don't get this. What is the problem people have with semantics? We're discussing the meaning a phrase, so, by definition, that's semantics.
I think the issue is that some people seem to be seeing this as JUST semantics, so whenever an example of what they say are looking for is presented, it is deemed "ordinary", and thus not proof. Saying it is just semantics is simply a way of making it unfalsifiable.
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Old 12th September 2010, 08:36 AM   #677
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Originally Posted by Egg View Post
I don't get this. What is the problem people have with semantics? We're discussing the meaning a phrase, so, by definition, that's semantics.
Because this is all about semantics and nothing more.

It is about a few people attempting to twist Sagan's original meaning into nonsense so that they can equivocate what the burden of evidence is on a claim and claim that all evidence is the same.
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Old 12th September 2010, 10:56 AM   #678
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Originally Posted by paximperium View Post
Because this is all about semantics and nothing more.

It is about a few people attempting to twist Sagan's original meaning into nonsense so that they can equivocate what the burden of evidence is on a claim and claim that all evidence is the same.
If someone is twisting language to mean something else, semanticsWP is how we get to the solution, it's not the problem.

I don't think I could think of something more ironic than twisting the meaning of "semantics" to turn it into a pejorative accusation of twisting meanings.
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Old 12th September 2010, 11:54 AM   #679
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Lightbulb Extraordinary Evidence & Extraordinary Claims

Too many pages have gone by for me to try to delve deeply into the conversation thus far, so I will simply dive right in with my opinion, and see how that flies.

I think most of the discussion I have seen, worrying over the word extraordinary misses the point entirely. The phrase, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence", is a rhetorical device not meant to be taken literally, and concentrating on deconstructing the words is the linguistic equivalent of concentrating so hard in the trees than one fails to notice that there is a forest.

The point is that not all claims are equal, and not all evidences are equal either. I think that one average sidereal day is 23.9344696 hours long. I have significant confidence that this is correct, because the science & technology for measuring the rotation rate of the Earth are well established. So somebody comes along and says no, it's really 23.9344698 hours, based on improved measurement techniques. I am likely to read a summery report and not quibble with the results; the new number is not so far removed from the old one as to trouble my confidence (of course one can make this all more quantitative by attaching observational uncertainties, but I trust the point comes across without them). However, suppose somebody comes along and says no, it's really 22.7984785 hours, based on improved measurement techniques. OK, now I am not going to be satisfied with a summary report. I want full documentation, a complete description of what was done and how it was done, and I will want to see independent researchers duplicate the result. I will also want to see an explanation of the mistake that has been made all this time, as to how an error greater than a whole hour went unnoticed. This new number is too far removed from the old to survive my confidence unscathed. In order to persuade me to change my mind and adopt the new value for a sidereal day, one will have to present me with evidence that inspires in me sufficient confidence to override my level of confidence in the prior number.

That level of confidence is the real point of the word extraordinary. Anything in science that is held to be true has a level of confidence associated with it. Some things we think are true, but there is room for considerable discussion; our confidence level in these things is not very high. Other things we hold to be true without question; our confidence level in these things is high. Many scientists think that string theory is nearly a true representation of fundamental physics, but clearly the community confidence level is not high; there is plenty of room to question this assumption and a great deal of argument. On the other hand, general relativity is a theory held in high regard and with strong confidence throughout the scientific community. To say you think string theory is wrong is not an extraordinary claim. Saying you think general relativity is wrong is an extraordinary claim. I am unlikely to ask for much in the way of confidence inspiring evidence for the former, but I certainly will demand confidence inspiring evidence for the latter. So "extraordinary" evidence is revealed as evidence which inspires a high level of confidence, either from its form, or level of detail (or most likely both).

Confidence is not an entirely objective phenomenon, so extraordinary cannot be made an entirely objective concept either. But it works well over a community of people. General relativity & quantum mechanics, foundational concepts of modern physics, both started out as questionable propositions, but became the standard, by virtue of being able to inspire confidence through both form & detail in objective evidence. That is how extraordinary claims become ordinary claims.
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Old 12th September 2010, 12:21 PM   #680
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Originally Posted by Tim Thompson View Post
The phrase, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence", is a rhetorical device not meant to be taken literally, . . .
Well said and exactly what Sagan meant as he often explained.

Quote:
. . .and concentrating on deconstructing the words is the linguistic equivalent of concentrating so hard in the trees than one fails to notice that there is a forest
Exactly. It is sad when philosophy is reduced to arguing over the meaning of words instead of discussing ideas.
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