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Author Topic:   Absence of Evidence..............
Straggler
Member
Posts: 10285
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


(1)
Message 46 of 138 (467911)
05-25-2008 2:05 PM
Reply to: Message 44 by Archer Opteryx
05-25-2008 1:50 PM


Re: A right brain hemisphere is a terrible thing to waste
Frankly I had expected to be arguing against the Iano and Catholic Scientist forms of non-empirical "evidence" here.

This has turned out to be potentially much more interesting :)

I'm having trouble understanding you here. I think you mean to say physical in discussing the role of the brain.

'Empirical' is not a synonym for this. 'Empirical' refers to a way of thinking, not to the organ that does it.

Many brains are not very 'empirical' at all, as we both know.

I am still intrigued as to your description, or example of non-empirical ways of thinking?

You are quite right that I am probably confusing and conflating empirical with physical evidence in this context.

In the OP I did not feel the need to differentiate between the two given the arguments I expected to be facing.

As things stand with regard to your position I am still unclear as to the precise difference between physical evidence and empirical evidence.

In your opinion would a suitably futuristic MRA scanner show a physical/empirical basis behind every thought, emotion etc. etc. or is there "something else" that defines this non-empirical stance of yours?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 44 by Archer Opteryx, posted 05-25-2008 1:50 PM Archer Opteryx has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 67 by Archer Opteryx, posted 05-27-2008 2:54 PM Straggler has responded

  
Grizz
Member (Idle past 3759 days)
Posts: 318
Joined: 06-08-2007


Message 47 of 138 (467924)
05-25-2008 4:41 PM
Reply to: Message 42 by Straggler
05-25-2008 1:31 PM


Re: Practical Question
Science is not simply being pragmatic as you suggest. Philosophically science and empiricism is stating that logically it is the only means to reliable conclusions (note not "truth" - in fact the very absence for claims of truth is the basis of science).
The gist of this thread is effectively 'Does empiricism have the only valid claim to meaningful conclusions?'
I would say an unresounding "yes".

Sorry to butt in. I was just really trying to offer somewhat of a more radical view.

Science is the method of inquiry by which we learn about the world. Science is something people do. Empiricism is the metaphysical position that states knowledge can only be arrived at through direct or indirect sense experience of the world. Scientific empiricism(sometimes referred to as Scientism) states that the empirical methods of science are the only valid means of arriving at facts, inferences, or conclusions about the nature of the world. The irony is that neither the rejection of empiricism nor its acceptance can be established by empirical inquiry and is grounded in reason rather than measurement. It is axiomatic and is entirely a metaphysical presupposition. Since by definition, the unseen and un-measurable cannot be seen or measured, they will never be open to scientific inquiry, should these things in fact exist.

The Pragmatic approach is simply that proposing the existence of things that cannot and never will be open to direct testing is an absolutely worthless endeavor, regardless of whether the propositions being considered are true or false. Pragmatism is not concerned with the status of these types of metaphysical truth claims.

So, if by meaningful you mean there is absolutely no practical value whatsoever in arguing the existence of things which cannot be directly or directly established through the sense, then I agree. I think that is what you meant but I could be wrong.

Thanks for the discussion. Interesting topic.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 42 by Straggler, posted 05-25-2008 1:31 PM Straggler has responded

Replies to this message:
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Straggler
Member
Posts: 10285
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


(1)
Message 48 of 138 (467927)
05-25-2008 5:31 PM
Reply to: Message 47 by Grizz
05-25-2008 4:41 PM


Re: Practical Question
So, if by meaningful you mean there is absolutely no practical value whatsoever in arguing the existence of things which cannot be directly or directly established through the sense, then I agree. I think that is what you meant but I could be wrong.

Yes that is what I meant.

Science is the method of inquiry by which we learn about the world. Science is something people do. Empiricism is the metaphysical position that states knowledge can only be arrived at through direct or indirect sense experience of the world. Scientific empiricism(sometimes referred to as Scientism) states that the empirical methods of science are the only valid means of arriving at facts, inferences, or conclusions about the nature of the world. The irony is that neither the rejection of empiricism nor its acceptance can be established by empirical inquiry and is grounded in reason rather than measurement. It is axiomatic and is entirely a metaphysical presupposition.

Now that really is food for thought. It is definitely a logically valid argument against the premise and assumptions of the OP whatver the practical implications may be.

I shall go away and think about that.

Thanks for the discussion. Interesting topic.

Thanks for the response. Interesting take on the topic!! :)


This message is a reply to:
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mick
Member (Idle past 3274 days)
Posts: 913
Joined: 02-17-2005


Message 49 of 138 (467928)
05-25-2008 5:33 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Straggler
05-22-2008 11:14 AM


Straggler writes:

Should not the default position, i.e. the position in the absence of any evidence always be disbelief rather than belief?

You criticize (some) religious people for the assumption that in the absence of any evidence regarding, for example, the existence of a soul, we should adopt a "flat prior" - all the competing hypotheses have equal probability of being correct.

There is actually a strong tradition in Bayesian inference of adopting a flat prior in some cases, and it is often used in evolutionary analysis! (each possible phylogenetic tree may be considered equally likely a priori, and we simply revise the prior probabilities assigned to each tree in the light of the molecules and the morphological characteristics of each taxon). So I must say that the religious people who propose a "flat prior" are not completely isolated from the scientific tradition in this regard.

The big difference lies in the fact that in science a flat prior is proposed only so that it can be modified under analysis of empirical evidence. If religious people propose a flat prior of the form "its 50/50 that the soul exists or doesn't exist" they should be aware that this has no bearing on the actual probability of the soul's existence - the prior probabilities are completely uninformative since we are unable to revise them in the light of empirical data. They are literally plucked from the air and represent nothing more than our ignorance. Since the number of possible religious beliefs is unbounded, the prior probability of any specific belief tends toward zero. Furthermore there is no consensus on how these priors ought to be chosen. Choosing a flat prior may be convenient but it is essentially a speculation, the choice cannot be justified with respect to alternative priors.

If the priors cannot be revised, then there is no point in having them. This is the sense in which religious views are "not even hypotheses". Religious people can not call upon Bayesian inference and the presumption of a flat prior if they at the same time claim that no empirical evidence can be brought to bear on the question.

While there is an intuitive appeal to the notion that we should treat competing unfalsified claims as having equal likelihood, I agree with you that an attitude of scepticism is usually the most rigorous and coherent one. This is after all why there exists the concept of the null hypothesis - the null hypothesis is often simply that some postulated pattern in the world is actually the result of a random process. For example if we want to test the hypothesis that Germans are taller than the French, we would calculate how likely the empirical data regarding German height is to result from a null distribution in which the heights of French and German people are drawn from a single random probability distribution. So the null hypothesis is simply "there is no intersting pattern here that needs to be explained" and somebody who disagrees must demonstrate it.

The null hypothesis in questions of religion is also "there is no interesting pattern here that needs to be explained". If religious people are arguing that no empirical evidence can be brought to bear upon some religious question, then they are essentially agreeing with the null hypothesis. There is no interesting empirical pattern to be explained with respect to the existence of the soul or Vishnu. If religious people really do make such arguments, then it is gratifying that they agree with the atheists! We can happily proceed to make ethical judgements based on the null hypothesis that there is no soul nor Vishnu.


This message is a reply to:
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mick
Member (Idle past 3274 days)
Posts: 913
Joined: 02-17-2005


Message 50 of 138 (467929)
05-25-2008 5:52 PM
Reply to: Message 47 by Grizz
05-25-2008 4:41 PM


Re: Practical Question
grizz writes:

Scientific empiricism(sometimes referred to as Scientism) states that the empirical methods of science are the only valid means of arriving at facts, inferences, or conclusions about the nature of the world. The irony is that neither the rejection of empiricism nor its acceptance can be established by empirical inquiry and is grounded in reason rather than measurement.

I agree with you in part, though I would argue that empiricism itself has resulted in empirical evidence that empiricism is the best way of obtaining truth. This empirical evidence is found in the fact that our technology works. The fact that our technology works is empirical evidence that empiricism has accomplished a good (perhaps not true, but good) understanding of the physical world.

There is little empirical evidence that religion has led to a good understanding of the world in which we live, since its technologies (for example prayer) do not seem to work very well in solving the problems facing us.


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Straggler
Member
Posts: 10285
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


(1)
Message 51 of 138 (467930)
05-25-2008 6:15 PM
Reply to: Message 49 by mick
05-25-2008 5:33 PM


Point Taken
Point well made.

My OP was aimed at claims that define themselves as inherently untestable or un-empirical in some way.

A claim of untestability is the difference between the examples I gave and the examples you detail.

However the point you make with regard to absence of evidence and assumed validity of conclusions in a different practical context is wholly valid and I have no disagreement with it at all.


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Straggler
Member
Posts: 10285
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


(1)
Message 52 of 138 (467938)
05-25-2008 7:09 PM
Reply to: Message 20 by ICANT
05-24-2008 7:26 PM


Re: Irrelevant
IF there is a God and IF man has a spirit that will live forever would you please explain to me how I will not have empirical evidence.

Will you please explain to me how you will have empirical evidence?
I assume this will be scientifically verifiable, independentaly corroborated evidence?

No?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 20 by ICANT, posted 05-24-2008 7:26 PM ICANT has responded

Replies to this message:
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ICANT
Member
Posts: 6258
From: SSC
Joined: 03-12-2007
Member Rating: 1.3


Message 53 of 138 (467941)
05-25-2008 8:27 PM
Reply to: Message 52 by Straggler
05-25-2008 7:09 PM


Re: Irrelevant
Straggler writes:

Will you please explain to me how you will have empirical evidence?

The first thing is I will be alive, I will see God and then Grandma and Grandpa, Daddy and the whole gang.

I will even get to see you and you can do your own verification at some point in the future. Would that be verifiable enough for you.

Remember all this is contigent upon that IF.

God Bless,


"John 5:39 (KJS) Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me."

This message is a reply to:
 Message 52 by Straggler, posted 05-25-2008 7:09 PM Straggler has responded

Replies to this message:
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RAZD
Member
Posts: 20156
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 4.1


Message 54 of 138 (467945)
05-25-2008 9:35 PM
Reply to: Message 34 by Straggler
05-25-2008 12:07 PM


Re: No empirical evidence
The fact we thought they had all died out is a stupid example and a stupid argument in the context of evidence for things which are inherently non-empirical. An argument that frankly Raz is beneath you.

Then I'm afraid you don't really understand my argument.

Yes such as a graviton. Indeed insufficient technology is a problem when it comes to empirical eveidence for things.

Or looking in the proper place.

Enjoy.


we are limited in our ability to understand
by our ability to understand
RebelAAmericanOZen[Deist
... to learn ... to think ... to live ... to laugh ...
to share.


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This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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Archer Opteryx
Member (Idle past 1885 days)
Posts: 1811
From: East Asia
Joined: 08-16-2006


Message 55 of 138 (467950)
05-25-2008 10:20 PM
Reply to: Message 45 by Straggler
05-25-2008 1:54 PM


Re: Unicorns
It's symbolic reality is neither here nor there. My claim is that the invisible pink unicorn is true.

Do you dispute the truth (or likelihood of truth if we want to be pedantic) of my claim and if so on what grounds?

No dispute. Just seeking precision.

Truth may be expressed as symbol or as fact.

Insisting that your invisible pink unicorn is 'true' does nothing to clarify how truth is expressed in it. Is this symbolic or factual truth? Is your unicorn subject or object?

We have already established that, physically speaking, its existence is impossible. That rules out the existence of the unicorn as a physical object. But the comfort is gives you is (ahem) undeniably real. This points toward a subjective reality for the unicorn.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 45 by Straggler, posted 05-25-2008 1:54 PM Straggler has responded

Replies to this message:
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Perdition
Member (Idle past 1526 days)
Posts: 1593
From: Wisconsin
Joined: 05-15-2003


Message 56 of 138 (467955)
05-25-2008 10:58 PM
Reply to: Message 55 by Archer Opteryx
05-25-2008 10:20 PM


Re: Unicorns
We have already established that, physically speaking, its existence is impossible.

I would disagree here. You "proved" that it was impossible because it couldn't simultaneously be pink and invisible. I would argue that point. It would depend on HOW it was invisible.

If something is capable of bending light around it, so that we can't see it's existence, it would be invisible. That does not change the fact that if it stopped bending light around it, it would reflect pink light. I would, still call the unicorn pink if it were currently bending light around it. It's physical makeup which results in it reflecting pink and absorbing everything else does not change dependent on whether it is, at that time, reflecting light. If its completely dark, something does not stop being called a certain color.


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Marcosll
Junior Member (Idle past 4066 days)
Posts: 25
From: Estepona, Spain
Joined: 02-14-2008


Message 57 of 138 (468000)
05-26-2008 8:23 AM


Evidence
"Example 1
In the absence of any physical evidence for or against the existence of the soul we should grant these two opposing points of view equal merit with regard to ethical questions in medical research. Both viewpoints are based on personal prejudice and philosophical assumptions rather than actual physical evidence. Both are equally valid.
Right?"

Sounds relativistic. But sure I'll agree with you for now.

"Example 2
In the absence of any physical evidence in favour of miracles we should treat historical analyses of Jesus that assume the miraculous as equally valid to those that do not assume the miraculous to have occurred. Both viewpoints are based on personal prejudice and philosophical assumptions rather than actual physical evidence. Both are equally valid.
Right?"

Not sure what you're on about here. I suppose you can either believe in unwitnessed miracles or not believe in them.

"Example 3
In the absence of any physical evidence for the existence of God we should obviously treat the probability of the existence of God as 50/50. Any other conclusion in either direction is the result of personal prejudice, philosophical bias or faith based belief.
Right?"

Wrong. Someone may have had a personal experience where they have witnessed something which to them seems as real as this very text you're reading. You can call it "personal prejudice" but sometimes seeing is believing (or experiencing).

"Example 4
In the absence of any physical evidence for the Hindu God Vishnu we should obviously treat the existence of Vishnu as 50/50. Any other conclusion in either direction is the result of personal prejudice, philosophical bias or faith based belief.
Right?"

Again, to those who have experienced it, it would be unfair to call it personal prejudice or philosophical bais.

"Example 5
In the absence of any physical evidence against the claim that ‘sub quantised transdimensional energy fluxes can boost ones aura and enhance ones metaphysical being’ we should regularly take a ‘quanta flux booster pill’ (copyright Straggler 2008 – available soon in all good pharmacies, watch this space) in order to ensure a healthy and well balanced aura. In the absence of any physical evidence for or against this claim denial of it’s validity is the result of ant-spritual prejudice and 'empirical-only' philosophical bias.
Right?"

Depends... absence of physical evidence? So if my friend takes an extasy pill and sees elves and I don't take one does that mean I have no physical evidence that those pills helped him see elves?

"Discussion
A recurring theme here at EvC is the concept that ‘Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’. Those of a theistic bent tend to selectively use this argument in application to their own unfounded beliefs whilst dismissing any equivalent claims to things that they find as equally ridiculous as I find their claims of the supernatural."

A recurring theme at EvC is also that the 'absence of evidence implies absence'. Both of which I would disagree with.

"Should not the default position, i.e. the position in the absence of any evidence always be disbelief rather than belief?"

Yes, unless there are witnesses to the contrary. I.e. if someone says they are 100% convinced they saw a UFO then some research might need to go into figuring out what it was that he saw, rather than just dismissing the account as delusional. The more people tell the same account, the greater the need to find a solution. This is science is it not? - finding an explanation for an observed phenomenom.

"In practice is not the default position for everyone disbelief rather than belief almost all of the time? Exceptions are then made, by some, with regard to the extraordinary claims of religion and other aspects of the supernatural which are deemed ‘untestable’."

So if, during a court case, some eye witnesses say they saw Mr. Smith stab Mrs. Smith repeatedly with a knife, the jury's position here should be disbelief rather than belief all of the time? I think not!

"Is not empirical evidence the only basis on which reliable conclusions can be made? The only form of evidence that can ultimately establish the truth or otherwise of any given claim? The only form of evidence that actually warrants the term “evidence”?"

Empirical evidence is just a peice of the puzzle. Sometimes it's an important piece, other time's it's not even required. In science, empirical evidence is one of the foundations for any rule.

"Questions
If you are religious at all, is there any area apart from your religious beliefs where you would be willing to believe in something without empirical evidence of some kind?"

Yes, we all do this every day constantly. It's called taking someone's word for it. In fact, most of us have been taught in school many things without us having any evidence for them. We just believed them. Same applies to the TV. Weapons of mass destruction in Iraq anyone?

"Why should we believe in, or make concessions to, anything for which there is no physical evidence?"

Good question. Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that the great majority of the time we don't have any evidence ourselves and we must act based upon what we think to be true based on what others have told us.


Estepona Apartments - Apartments for sale and rent in Estepona, Spain

Replies to this message:
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Straggler
Member
Posts: 10285
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


(1)
Message 58 of 138 (468043)
05-26-2008 5:18 PM
Reply to: Message 54 by RAZD
05-25-2008 9:35 PM


Re: No empirical evidence
The fact we thought they had all died out is a stupid example and a stupid argument in the context of evidence for things which are inherently non-empirical. An argument that frankly Raz is beneath you.

Then I'm afraid you don't really understand my argument.

OK. My interpretation of your argument did seem uncharacteristically stupid so I am quite prepared to admit that any stupidity is a result of my misunderstanding rather than your argument.

So what did you mean?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 54 by RAZD, posted 05-25-2008 9:35 PM RAZD has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 69 by RAZD, posted 05-27-2008 6:27 PM Straggler has responded

  
Straggler
Member
Posts: 10285
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


(1)
Message 59 of 138 (468045)
05-26-2008 5:30 PM
Reply to: Message 53 by ICANT
05-25-2008 8:27 PM


Re: Irrelevant
The first thing is I will be alive, I will see God and then Grandma and Grandpa, Daddy and the whole gang.

I will even get to see you and you can do your own verification at some point in the future. Would that be verifiable enough for you.

See? See as in detect the reflection of electromagnetic waves with your eyes?
Would you hear us all too? Hear as in detect longditudinal vibrations within a medium?
Would you be able to touch us too?
Etc. etc.
Which of your physical senses will ou retain in heaven and how? Are the things you speak of really "empirical"?

I had no idea the spirit/soul world was so physical.

Given all of the physical attributes it seems sould/spirits have it makes me wonder why we don't just exist as spirits/souls before death too? What exactly is the difference between a soul and a body?


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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Straggler
Member
Posts: 10285
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


(1)
Message 60 of 138 (468048)
05-26-2008 5:53 PM
Reply to: Message 55 by Archer Opteryx
05-25-2008 10:20 PM


Re: Unicorns
No dispute. Just seeking precision.

Truth may be expressed as symbol or as fact.

Insisting that your invisible pink unicorn is 'true' does nothing to clarify how truth is expressed in it. Is this symbolic or factual truth? Is your unicorn subject or object?

We have already established that, physically speaking, its existence is impossible. That rules out the existence of the unicorn as a physical object. But the comfort is gives you is (ahem) undeniably real. This points toward a subjective reality for the unicorn.

No no. Not at all. The invisible pink unicorn is actually real!! Physically and spiritually real. The IPU can interract both with the physical world and the with the hidden world of pinkdom.
If you would just open your mind as I have done you would know this too.
You are getting sidetracked by the physiclal manifestation of the IPU within the limited bounds of our physical perception. In these limited terms the IPU obviously cannot be both physically pink and physically invisible simultaneously. How th IPU achieves invisibility is unknown to me. It could be magic. It could be that it is derived from a technology far greater than we can comprehend. Either way it does not detract from the fact that the IPU is objectively real despite the fact that there is no empirical evidence for it's existence.
If we could see him he would be pink but his pinkness is inherent to his very being and much more than just the wavelengths he chooses to reflect.


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