Really Sciency

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Saturday, 15 January 2011

The greatest lesson life has taught you?




Always think critically.
What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

14 comments:

  1. "What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence"

    What is the evidence that supports this assertion?

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  2. You can appreciate the paradox, can't you?

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  3. Not really. It's a bit like saying you can only get to the top of a hill by going up and then someone asking how you know you have to go up.

    No pearls of wisdom of your own?

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  4. The paradox is that if this assertion ("What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence") is accepted, as presented, without supporting evidence then we can happily dismiss it without evidence.

    The assertion, without supporting evidence, is self-dissmissive.

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  5. Just semantics surely. This would have no bearing on the application of the principle so it cannot be reasonably used to dismiss it. A test of the statement becomes the evidence.

    For example, If I said I could fly like superman then clearly this can be dismissed unless I wrap a towel around my shoulders and start flying around the room.

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  6. "A test of the statement becomes the evidence."

    OK how does one test this statement?

    It assumes that anything that is asserted without evidence is unworthy of investigation and thus can be dismissed without producing evidence contrary to the assertion.

    From a scientific point of view that is just laziness. Just becasue you can think of examples where we would naturally disregard them without the production of supporting evidence (your Superman scenario for example) it does not follow that all that is asserted without evidence may be dismissed so summarily.

    So the assertion that "What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence" is itself an assertion without evidence and, according to it's own dictat, can therefore be dismissed without evidence.

    I am of the opinion that what is asserted without evidence should be judged on it's own merits before we dismiss it out of hand.

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  7. Firstly are you rejecting it as a worthy dictum?

    Plus you are wrong in saying that "anything that is asserted without evidence is unworthy of investigation", as it suggests no such thing.

    It suggests that evidence is required and as I am unlikely to be in the position to scientifically investigate every claim I must defer to those that do.

    So I agree that "what is asserted without evidence should be judged on it's own merits before we dismiss it out of hand".

    It does not change that what can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence, unless you think it means it must be dismissed immediately without considering if supporting evidence exists. Thinking critically would not mean thinking like that.

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  8. "Firstly are you rejecting it as a worthy dictum?"

    I'm saying that it is self-dissmissive since it is itself offered as assertion without evidence.

    According to this statement I can dismiss this statement without having to produce any evidence with which to refute it first.


    "Plus you are wrong in saying that "anything that is asserted without evidence is unworthy of investigation", as it suggests no such thing."

    That's true. It doesn't say that anything that is asserted without evidence MUST be dismissed without evidence.

    However, in practice, this phrase is most commonly used to dismiss assertion out of hand without consideration of the merits of the claim or any attempt to disprove them through evidence.

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  9. "I can dismiss this statement without having to produce any evidence with which to refute it first."

    Where does it even hint that your or I have to produce the evidence or dismiss it without thinking critically if supporting evidence exists? Didn't you understand what I said about not being in a qualified position to investigate?

    "However, in practice..."

    Is that in your practice or are you speaking for me and the other 6.9 billion people on the planet?

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  10. "Where does it even hint that your or I have to produce the evidence or dismiss it without thinking critically if supporting evidence exists?"

    So where is the evidence that supports the assertion that "What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence"?



    "Is that in your practice or are you speaking for me and the other 6.9 billion people on the planet?"

    It refers to my experience of the practical usage of this unevidenced assertion by others (usually atheists).

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  11. "So where is the evidence that supports the assertion that "What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence"?"

    Everything you use it as a practical application is evidence.

    "It refers to my experience ..."

    So with the contrary evidence I have that I don't use it out of hand I can dismiss your experience as not credible. ;-)

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  12. "Everything you use it as a practical application is evidence"

    Could you possibly repeat that in English? The words are in the English language but your syntax makes no sense.


    "So with the contrary evidence I have that I don't use it out of hand I can dismiss your experience as not credible. ;-)"

    Not really. Your logic appears to be faulty in this instance.

    Just because you claim not to use this statement in the manner that I describe it does not mean that my experience of it's predominant usage in practice is negated.

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  13. "Could you possibly repeat that in English? The words are in the English language but your syntax makes no sense."

    Thanks for that, you turn a simple typo into a truly belittling experience. It should have read;
    "Everything you use it as IS a practical application is evidence"

    It is a maxim. If you want to use it as if it is a scientific theory than it is simple to do. All that is needed is a test and criteria to measure it against. Such a test or model can then be upscalled to real world examples.

    I have already given you one such example; my claim that I can fly like superman. According to my criteria you will be better off believing that I can fly like superman only when you have credible evidence that I really can. Perhaps you disagree and already believe I can fly around?

    Another example; someone tells you they are an alien and needs £100 to phone home. According to my maxim – your scientific theory – you would be better off not only having evidence that they are an alien, but also that parting with £100 is really in both your interests. Perhaps you are more easily parted from you money than this? It is you who sets the criteria and you seem critical of mine.

    Both these example are of course frivolous. But this is just a model that can be scaled up. There is absolutely no reason to think that something that is beneficial at this level wont work just as well with claims for weight loss pills and the like. But perhaps you are someone who is happy to buy such remedies purely based on the sellers or manufacturers claims and not on the supporting evidence?

    Thinking critically is the greatest lesson I have learned in life - it works for me - I suggest you give it a go.

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