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Author Topic:   Working Hypothesis -- what is the value?
NoNukes
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Posts: 9527
From: Central NC USA
Joined: 08-13-2010
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Message 76 of 92 (735764)
08-23-2014 10:41 PM
Reply to: Message 73 by Straggler
08-23-2014 1:31 PM


Re: logic and scientist vs engineer and equivocation
And why does it matter here?

I'm not aware of a single claim made by Dr. Brown that was not adequately debunked 20 years ago. Which of his claims are still endorsed by any of the major creationist organizations? Why would anyone cite Walter Brown in support of the idea that creation science should be taken seriously?


Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also in prison. Thoreau: Civil Disobedience (1846)

I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn't learn something from him. Galileo Galilei

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. Frederick Douglass


This message is a reply to:
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Pressie
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From: Pretoria, SA
Joined: 06-18-2010
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(2)
Message 77 of 92 (735773)
08-24-2014 10:14 AM
Reply to: Message 76 by NoNukes
08-23-2014 10:41 PM


Re: logic and scientist vs engineer and equivocation
I've been following this debate closely, and I must admit that most people had very good points.

To me it it all is solved when a person professionaly introduces him- or herself as: Hi. I'm John; I'm a Mecanical Engineer. Or, Hi, I'm Jim, a Geneticist. Or, hi, I'm Jack, a Seismologist. Or, Hi, I'm Mary, a Particle Physicist.

What' I've found a lot is that creationists tend to introduce themselves as "scientists" to very ignorant people who think that a Chemical Engineer would know the same about Palaeontology as an Inorganic Chemist would. All scientists are supposed to know everything about everyting. It's usually aimed at misleading innocent and ignorant people.

Some people find the word "scientist" something akin to the word "God".

Edited by Pressie, : No reason given.

Edited by Pressie, : No reason given.

Edited by Pressie, : No reason given.

Edited by Pressie, : No reason given.


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NoNukes
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Posts: 9527
From: Central NC USA
Joined: 08-13-2010
Member Rating: 3.2


(1)
Message 78 of 92 (735796)
08-25-2014 11:14 AM
Reply to: Message 77 by Pressie
08-24-2014 10:14 AM


Re: logic and scientist vs engineer and equivocation
What' I've found a lot is that creationists tend to introduce themselves as "scientists" to very ignorant people who think that a Chemical Engineer would know the same about Palaeontology as an Inorganic Chemist would.

Uh, wouldn't they be just about right?


Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also in prison. Thoreau: Civil Disobedience (1846)

I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn't learn something from him. Galileo Galilei

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. Frederick Douglass


This message is a reply to:
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RAZD
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From: the other end of the sidewalk
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Message 79 of 92 (736351)
09-07-2014 5:39 PM
Reply to: Message 47 by Straggler
08-19-2014 11:14 AM


discovering further evidence and "human imagination" pseudoscience
With regard to the abominable snowman and bears as per the OP One could hypothesise that the abominable snowman is a myth borne of human invention combined with the embellishment of some genuine, but highly misinterpreted, bear sightings.

This hypothesis has the benefit of:

A) Being falsifiable (by the discovery of a creature that is consistent with the legend rather than just a bear)
B) Leading to verifiable predictions (e.g. proclaimed sightings of the creature conform to observable migration patterns of bears in the region, physical evidence of the creature is analysed and found to be bear fur/droppings/whatever))
C) Being based on the wealth of evidence that human beings have a tendency to create such myths and make such embellishments

This is actually two hypothesis combined ... the original OP hypothesis and the "human imagination" hypothesis that keeps resurfacing ...

B) Leading to verifiable predictions (e.g. proclaimed sightings of the creature conform to observable migration patterns of bears in the region, physical evidence of the creature is analysed and found to be bear fur/droppings/whatever))

Which is the benefit of the original hypothesis as previously noted and discussed, and is not due to nor benefiting from the tacking on of the "human imagination hypothesis" and the question becomes then what does the "human imagination hypothesis" add to the discussion\investigation ...

A) Being falsifiable (by the discovery of a creature that is consistent with the legend rather than just a bear)
C) Being based on the wealth of evidence that human beings have a tendency to create such myths and make such embellishments

Typical claims of this purported "hypothesis" ... and not much of practical use in any investigation -- let's see why:

The "human imagination hypothesis" typically goes something like this:

Anything that is believed to exist without empirical objective evidence is actually due to human imagination, rather than any objective reality or observation.

Curiously, there are several failings of this hypothesis that adherents seem loath to accept, admit or confront:

(1) it seems to explain almost everything not covered by science ...

Solid verificaion is difficult^1, and assumed or apparent confirmations are not validation, as Popper noted^2:

quote:
The most characteristic element in this situation seemed to me the incessant stream of confirmations, of observations which "verified" the theories in question; and this point was constantly emphasize by their adherents. ...

If an hypothesis can explain everything, then it actually explains nothing of use for investigations^2:

quote:
... the theories in question were compatible with the most divergent human behavior, so that it was practically impossible to describe any human behavior that might not be claimed to be a verification of these theories.

So it leads to confirmation bias in adherents. What is touted as a strength is actually a (fatal) weakness.

(2) it doesn't predict anything risky to the hypothesis ...

It can't be falsified in any honest\real sense, as any observation of objective evidence for a believed phenomena makes it no longer subject to the hypothesis, it just bounces along to the next belief. There is no risk for the hypothesis, and the degree of risk is an important element, as Popper also noted, comparing the difference of risk for Einstein's theory^2:

quote:
Now the impressive thing about this case is the risk involved in a prediction of this kind. If observation shows that the predicted effect is definitely absent, then the theory is simply refuted. The theory is incompatible with certain possible results of observation ...

This is the basis for his principle of falsification, the predictions should be high risk tests of the hypothesis.

Nothing ventured nothing gained. There is no risk to the "human imagination hypothesis" from any contrary evidence.

(3) and finally, it doesn't predict anything useful, doesn't open up new avenues of investigation ... which is the prime purpose of having an hypothesis ... even a "working hypothesis" ... the practical prediction for investigation touted above actually comes from the original working hypothesis, not the "human imagination hypothesis.

It is the "god-did-it" hypothesis for skeptics, equally impractical for leading to any investigation of any phenomena. Rather - like "god-did-it" - it becomes an excuse to NOT investigate things further ... the phenomena is explained, so why look further ...

As such it doesn't even qualify as a working hypothesis, imho, and should be considered on a par with astrology, pseudoscience:

quote:
There were a great many other theories of this pre-scientific or pseudo-scientific character, ...
Thus the problem which I tried to solve by proposing the criterion of falsifiability was neither a problem of meaningfulness or significance, nor a problem of truth or acceptability. It was the problem of drawing a line (as well as this can be done) between the statements, or systems of statements, of the empirical sciences, and all other statements whether they are of a religious or of a metaphysical character, or simply pseudo-scientific. ...

Certainly it doesn't produce any better predictions than astrology does.

Isnt that a better hypothesis?

Still think so? Or do you remain an adherent to the "human imagination" pseudoscience?

Don't you agree that an honest skeptic would be skeptical of any benefit of this "hypothesis" for practical investigation of the natural world?

Enjoy

Notes:

^1 - it requires admission by the author, otherwise it can only be assumed.

^2 - here are excerpts from Popper falsification article to show context of above quotes, which have been bolded below:

quote:
It was the summer of 1919 that I began to feel more and more dissatisfied with these three theoriesthe Marxist theory of history, psycho-analysis, and individual psychology; and I began to feel dubious about their claims to scientific status. My problem perhaps first took the simple form, "What is wrong with Marxism, psycho-analysis, and individual psychology? Why are they so different from physical theories, from Newton's theory, and especially from the theory of relativity?"

The most characteristic element in this situation seemed to me the incessant stream of confirmations, of observations which "verified" the theories in question; and this point was constantly emphasize by their adherents. A Marxist could not open a newspaper without finding on every page confirming evidence for his interpretation of history; not only in the news, but also in its presentation which revealed the class bias of the paper and especially of course what the paper did not say. The Freudian analysts emphasized that their theories were constantly verified by their "clinical observations." As for Adler, I was much impressed by a personal experience. Once, in 1919, I reported to him a case which to me did not seem particularly Adlerian, but which he found no difficulty in analyzing in terms of his theory of inferiority feelings, Although he had not even seen the child. Slightly shocked, I asked him how he could be so sure. "Because of my thousandfold experience," he replied; whereupon I could not help saying: "And with this new case, I suppose, your experience has become thousand-and-one-fold."

With Einstein's theory the situation was strikingly different. Take one typical instance Einstein's prediction, just then confirmed by the finding of Eddington's expedition. Einstein's gravitational theory had led to the result that light must be attracted by heavy bodies (such as the sun), precisely as material bodies were attracted. As a consequence it could be calculated that light from a distant fixed star whose apparent position was close to the sun would reach the earth from such a direction that the star would seem to be slightly shifted away from the sun; or, in other words, that stars close to the sun would look as if they had moved a little away from the sun, and from one another. This is a thing which cannot normally be observed since such stars are rendered invisible in daytime by the sun's overwhelming brightness; but during an eclipse it is possible to take photographs of them. If the same constellation is photographed at night one can measure the distance on the two photographs, and check the predicted effect.

Now the impressive thing about this case is the risk involved in a prediction of this kind. If observation shows that the predicted effect is definitely absent, then the theory is simply refuted. The theory is incompatible with certain possible results of observationin fact with results which everybody before Einstein would have expected.[1] This is quite different from the situation I have previously described, when it turned out that the theories in question were compatible with the most divergent human behavior, so that it was practically impossible to describe any human behavior that might not be claimed to be a verification of these theories.

I may perhaps exemplify this with the help of the various theories so far mentioned. Einstein's theory of gravitation clearly satisfied the criterion of falsifiability. Even if our measuring instruments at the time did not allow us to pronounce on the results of the tests with complete assurance, there was clearly a possibility of refuting the theory.

Astrology did not pass the test. Astrologers were greatly impressed, and misled, by what they believed to be confirming evidence so much so that they were quite unimpressed by any unfavorable evidence. Moreover, by making their interpretations and prophesies sufficiently vague they were able to explain away anything that might have been a refutation of the theory had the theory and the prophesies been more precise. In order to escape falsification they destroyed the testability of their theory. It is a typical soothsayer's trick to predict things so vaguely that the predictions can hardly fail: that they become irrefutable.

The Marxist theory of history, in spite of the serious efforts of some of its founders and followers, ultimately adopted this soothsaying practice. In some of its earlier formulations (for example in Marx's analysis of the character of the "coming social revolution") their predictions were testable, and in fact falsified.[2] Yet instead of accepting the refutations the followers of Marx re-interpreted both the theory and the evidence in order to make them agree. In this way they rescued the theory from refutation; but they did so at the price of adopting a device which made it irrefutable. They thus gave a "conventionalist twist" to the theory; and by this stratagem they destroyed its much advertised claim to scientific status.

The two psycho-analytic theories were in a different class. They were simply non-testable, irrefutable. There was no conceivable human behavior which could contradict them. This does not mean that Freud and Adler were not seeing certain things correctly; I personally do not doubt that much of what they say is of considerable importance, and may well play its part one day in a psychological science which is testable. But it does mean that those "clinical observations" which analysts navely believe confirm their theory cannot do this any more than the daily confirmations which astrologers find in their practice.[3] And as for Freud's epic of the Ego, the Super-ego, and the Id, no substantially stronger claim to scientific status can be made for it than for Homer's collected stories from Olympus. These theories describe some facts, but in the manner of myths. They contain most interesting psychological suggestions, but not in a testable form.

At the same time I realized that such myths may be developed, and become testable; that historically speaking all or very nearly all scientific theories originate from myths, and that a myth may contain important anticipations of scientific theories. Examples are Empedocles' theory of evolution by trial and error, or Parmenides' myth of the unchanging block universe in which nothing ever happens and which, if we add another dimension, becomes Einstein's block universe (in which, too, nothing ever happens, since everything is, four-dimensionally speaking, determined and laid down from the beginning). I thus felt that if a theory is found to be non-scientific, or "metaphysical" (as we might say), it is not thereby found to be unimportant, or insignificant, or "meaningless," or "nonsensical."[4] But it cannot claim to be backed by empirical evidence in the scientific sense although it may easily be, in some genetic sense, the "result of observation."

(There were a great many other theories of this pre-scientific or pseudo-scientific character, some of them, unfortunately, as influential as the Marxist interpretation of history; for example, the racialist interpretation of history another of those impressive and all-explanatory theories which act upon weak minds like revelations.)

Thus the problem which I tried to solve by proposing the criterion of falsifiability was neither a problem of meaningfulness or significance, nor a problem of truth or acceptability. It was the problem of drawing a line (as well as this can be done) between the statements, or systems of statements, of the empirical sciences, and all other statements whether they are of a religious or of a metaphysical character, or simply pseudo-scientific. Years later it must have been in 1928 or 1929 I called this first problem of mine the "problem of demarcation." The criterion of falsifiability is a solution to this problem of demarcation, for it says that statements or systems of statements, in order to be ranked as scientific, must be capable of conflicting with possible, or conceivable, observations.


Edited by RAZD, : subt


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This message is a reply to:
 Message 47 by Straggler, posted 08-19-2014 11:14 AM Straggler has responded

Replies to this message:
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Omnivorous
Member (Idle past 375 days)
Posts: 3808
From: Adirondackia
Joined: 07-21-2005


(1)
Message 80 of 92 (736352)
09-07-2014 5:58 PM
Reply to: Message 79 by RAZD
09-07-2014 5:39 PM


Re: the discovering further evidence and "human imagination" pseudoscience
Pardon my intrusion...

RAZD writes:

Typical claims of this purported "hypothesis" ... and not much of practical use in any investigation -- let's see why:

The "human imagination hypothesis" typically goes something like this:

Anything that is believed to exist without empirical objective evidence is actually due to human imagination, rather than any objective reality or observation.

That seems a bit unfair, RAZD. Perhaps this formulation more closely tracks what Straggler is saying:

Phenomena believed to exist despite the lack of empirical evidence may be due to the human imagination.

Using the formulation "anything...is actually due to" overextends his argument into the realm of the ridiculous, where he does not actually take it.

Another, more specific formulation might be:

Phenomena reported by eyewitnesses for which no empirical evidence has been discovered despite many investigations also must be considered in the light of the unreliability of eyewitnesses and the power of the human imagination.

Doctors learn that symptoms are like hoof-beats: when you hear them, it is more likely the common horse than the exotic zebra.

And pretty certainly not a unicorn.

At any rate, Straggler's argument deserves to be opposed in its strongest form, not in its most vulnerable.

Edited by Omnivorous, : New at this indent thang...


"If you can keep your head while those around you are losing theirs, you can collect a lot of heads."

This message is a reply to:
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RAZD
Member
Posts: 18448
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 3.9


Message 81 of 92 (736355)
09-07-2014 8:28 PM
Reply to: Message 80 by Omnivorous
09-07-2014 5:58 PM


discovering further evidence and "human imagination" pseudoscience
That seems a bit unfair, RAZD. Perhaps this formulation more closely tracks what Straggler is saying:

Phenomena believed to exist despite the lack of empirical evidence may be due to the human imagination.

Which is even less risky and less demonstrable, thus harder to falsify\refute\invalidate, and that makes it weaker, imho, not stronger. It seems to me that is more like the Adlerian psychological "theory of inferiority feelings" discussed and dismissed by Popper, which can be applied to any case or situation.

At any rate, Straggler's argument deserves to be opposed in its strongest form, not in its most vulnerable.

Taking the position that it is human imagination in its strongest form is still just an excuse to not investigate, nor does provide any practical avenue of investigation into any specific phenomena. It is the 'god-did-it' answer for, to revisit an old theme, pseudoskeptics ...

Enjoy.

Edited by RAZD, : subt


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NoNukes
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Posts: 9527
From: Central NC USA
Joined: 08-13-2010
Member Rating: 3.2


(1)
Message 82 of 92 (736356)
09-07-2014 8:58 PM
Reply to: Message 81 by RAZD
09-07-2014 8:28 PM


Re: discovering further evidence and "human imagination" pseudoscience
Taking the position that it is human imagination in its strongest form is still just an excuse to not investigate

A conclusion that Yeti are imaginary is a reason not to investigate, but a hypothesis that they are imaginary is not.

As Taq and Dr. Adequate's discussion has indicated, a scientific investigation to demonstrate that Yeti exists ought to be identical to an investigation to establish that Yeti do not exist.

Edited by NoNukes, : No reason given.


Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also in prison. Thoreau: Civil Disobedience (1846)

I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn't learn something from him. Galileo Galilei

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. Frederick Douglass


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PaulK
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Posts: 12680
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 2.7


Message 83 of 92 (736359)
09-08-2014 2:28 AM
Reply to: Message 81 by RAZD
09-07-2014 8:28 PM


Re: discovering further evidence and "human imagination" pseudoscience
It is easier to falsify the hypothesis that Yeti are imaginary than the hypothesis that they exist. Accordingly, surely the hypothesis that they are imaginary is "riskier".
This message is a reply to:
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RAZD
Member
Posts: 18448
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 3.9


Message 84 of 92 (736375)
09-08-2014 8:21 AM
Reply to: Message 83 by PaulK
09-08-2014 2:28 AM


Re: discovering further evidence and "human imagination" pseudoscience
It is easier to falsify the hypothesis that Yeti are imaginary than the hypothesis that they exist. Accordingly, surely the hypothesis that they are imaginary is "riskier".

What is falsified and what is not falsified if a 'yeti' bear is actually found?

The working hypothesis (Message 1) is that the 'yeti' is a bear -- not falsified

The 'human imagination' hypothesis (Message 79) is that anything that is believed to exist without empirical objective evidence is actually due to human imagination, rather than any objective reality or observation. -- also not falsified ... for two reasons:

  1. Either the bear is denied as being a 'yeti' and is just a new animal discovery, and thus it doesn't invalidate the hypothesis, or
  2. the bear is accepted as being a 'yeti' and thus the hypothesis is not tested because the bear is not an imaginary animal.

The only thing shown to be false is the assumption that the hypothesis applied to the yeti, but the hypothesis itself remains unchanged and unaffected by such a discovery.

Note that the 'human imagination' hypothesis does not make a prediction that puts the hypothesis at risk of being invalidated or forced to change.

Further note that the 'human imagination' hypothesis does not provide any useful or practical prediction of something not previously known or considered -- a good (strong?) scientific hypothesis has two aspects:

  1. It is falsifiable, and
  2. It provides something new, it predicts something of value

And a good 'working hypothesis' may not be falsifiable but it provides something new, it predicts something of value, something that can be investigated further.

Enjoy


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Straggler
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Posts: 10195
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 85 of 92 (736385)
09-08-2014 1:20 PM
Reply to: Message 79 by RAZD
09-07-2014 5:39 PM


Re: discovering further evidence and "human imagination" pseudoscience
The hypothesis that the abominable snowman is a mythical creature is falsified by the discovery of a real abominable snowman.

Nothing about this hypothesis stops anyone actively investigating the existence of such a creature or actively seeking to falsify the hypothesis in question.

Evidence which suggest that proclaimed sightings of the abominable snowman are in fact bear sightings with a large degree of elaboration added on top, would be supportive of the mythical creature hypothesis in question. Only someone desperate not to be wrong and intent on a course of terminological woo woo would start saying that the abominable snowman really does exist because bears exist......

quote:
The scientific community generally regards the Yeti as a legend, given the lack of conclusive evidence, but it remains one of the most famous creatures of cryptozoology.

quote:
Cryptozoology is not a recognized branch of zoology or a discipline of science. It is an example of pseudoscience because it relies heavily upon anecdotal evidence, stories and alleged sightings.

The hypothesis that the abominable snowman is a mythical creature is the working hypothesis of he scientific community on this matter.


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PaulK
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Posts: 12680
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 2.7


Message 86 of 92 (736387)
09-08-2014 1:37 PM
Reply to: Message 84 by RAZD
09-08-2014 8:21 AM


Re: discovering further evidence and "human imagination" pseudoscience
In other words the working hypothesis is that there are no yeti. Just bears mistaken for yeti.
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RAZD
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Posts: 18448
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 3.9


Message 87 of 92 (736405)
09-09-2014 11:27 AM
Reply to: Message 86 by PaulK
09-08-2014 1:37 PM


Re: discovering further evidence and "human imagination" pseudoscience
In other words the working hypothesis is that there are no yeti. Just bears mistaken for yeti.

Correct, although it may be more correct to say some may be bears ... and this provides predictions for analysis of past information and to look for new information. This can lead to either a discovery or to sufficient information to form a more rigid scientific hypothesis.

Sighting stories can be compared to known bear behavior.

Dates of sightings could be analyzed to see if there is a migration or hibernation pattern.

Lower elevations can be investigated for bears to see if there is a link.

etc

Enjoy


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NoNukes
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Posts: 9527
From: Central NC USA
Joined: 08-13-2010
Member Rating: 3.2


(1)
Message 88 of 92 (736407)
09-09-2014 1:09 PM
Reply to: Message 85 by Straggler
09-08-2014 1:20 PM


Re: discovering further evidence and "human imagination" pseudoscience
The hypothesis that the abominable snowman is a mythical creature is falsified by the discovery of a real abominable snowman.

But such a hypothesis is not very specific.

I think the positive aspect of RAZD's position is that it points to a particular line of inquiry that RAZD thinks will be productive. That aspect is pretty important if you are going to spend your own money and time to visit Yeti-land in the dead of winter. The problem as I see it with his proposal is that there is neither a null hypothesis, or any suitable endpoint to his working hypothesis that would end his inquiry if there really isn't a Yeti.

But then that lack is not really unusual for cryptozoology. In fact, it is the essence of the topic.


Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also in prison. Thoreau: Civil Disobedience (1846)

I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn't learn something from him. Galileo Galilei

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. Frederick Douglass


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Straggler
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Posts: 10195
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 89 of 92 (736409)
09-09-2014 3:12 PM
Reply to: Message 88 by NoNukes
09-09-2014 1:09 PM


Re: discovering further evidence and "human imagination" pseudoscience
NN writes:

But such a hypothesis is not very specific.

Well it was more specific in Message 47

I haven't deviated from that except to refer to it in shortened form.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 88 by NoNukes, posted 09-09-2014 1:09 PM NoNukes has not yet responded

  
Straggler
Member
Posts: 10195
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 90 of 92 (736426)
09-10-2014 9:21 AM
Reply to: Message 84 by RAZD
09-08-2014 8:21 AM


Re: discovering further evidence and "human imagination" pseudoscience
RAZD writes:

The 'human imagination' hypothesis (Message 79) is that anything that is believed to exist without empirical objective evidence is actually due to human imagination, rather than any objective reality or observation

Well, not really.

In a lot of cases it's not so much pure invention as embellishment, misinterpretation and wishful thinking over-laden on top of relatively mundane observations and perceptions.

E.g. A bear sighting gets reported as an encounter with the abominable snowman. That sort of thing.

RAZ writes:

Further note that the 'human imagination' hypothesis does not provide any useful or practical prediction of something not previously known or considered

Again - Not true. The question as to why humans are both so prone to, and capable of, such invention is a question that has led to much psychological research and borne some significant evolutionary answers. The human proclivity to seek patterns, the proclivity to think teleologically, hyperactive agency detection and other such phenomena are all ongoing areas of scientific investigation.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 84 by RAZD, posted 09-08-2014 8:21 AM RAZD has acknowledged this reply

Replies to this message:
 Message 91 by 1.61803, posted 09-10-2014 12:37 PM Straggler has responded

  
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