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Author Topic:   Absence of Evidence..............
Straggler
Member
Posts: 10284
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


(1)
Message 1 of 138 (467554)
05-22-2008 11:14 AM


In the absence of empirical evidence what conclusions can we justifiably draw?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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.

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

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’.

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”?

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?

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

Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.

Edited by Adminnemooseus, : Added blank lines between "examples" and between apparent paragraphs (there was a line break) later in the message.


Replies to this message:
 Message 3 by ikabod, posted 05-23-2008 3:32 AM Straggler has responded
 Message 5 by New Cat's Eye, posted 05-23-2008 9:30 AM Straggler has responded
 Message 14 by ICANT, posted 05-24-2008 12:29 AM Straggler has responded
 Message 21 by RAZD, posted 05-24-2008 7:51 PM Straggler has responded
 Message 35 by Archer Opteryx, posted 05-25-2008 12:16 PM Straggler has responded
 Message 49 by mick, posted 05-25-2008 5:33 PM Straggler has responded
 Message 77 by randman, posted 05-30-2008 4:24 PM Straggler has responded

  
Adminnemooseus
Director
Posts: 3879
Joined: 09-26-2002


Message 2 of 138 (467601)
05-22-2008 7:14 PM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.
    
ikabod
Member (Idle past 2567 days)
Posts: 365
From: UK
Joined: 03-13-2006


Message 3 of 138 (467654)
05-23-2008 3:32 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Straggler
05-22-2008 11:14 AM


In the absence of empirical evidence the only conclusions can we justifiably draw are that there is a absence of empirical evidence .

we can then look into the reasons why there is a absence of empirical evidence .....


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Straggler, posted 05-22-2008 11:14 AM Straggler has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 4 by Perdition, posted 05-23-2008 9:28 AM ikabod has not yet responded
 Message 13 by Straggler, posted 05-23-2008 7:34 PM ikabod has not yet responded

  
Perdition
Member (Idle past 1312 days)
Posts: 1593
From: Wisconsin
Joined: 05-15-2003


Message 4 of 138 (467670)
05-23-2008 9:28 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by ikabod
05-23-2008 3:32 AM


While it's true that the only firm conclusion we can draw is that we have no evidence. We should be able to at least tentatively conclude that the thing doesn't exist until we either find some empirical evidence, or until we have a well tested theory that predicts its existence.

For example, as yet, we have no empirical evidence for the city of Atlantis, and until we do, I'm comfortable placing it in the "does not exist" category. Likewise, we have, as yet, no empirical evidence for the Higgs boson, but because it is predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics, which has been widely successful, I'm willing to lean more toward the "does exist" side of the fence.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 3 by ikabod, posted 05-23-2008 3:32 AM ikabod has not yet responded

    
New Cat's Eye
Inactive Member


Message 5 of 138 (467671)
05-23-2008 9:30 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Straggler
05-22-2008 11:14 AM


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.

If I handed you a shoebox and claimed that there was a $100 bill inside it, how would you prove that there wasn't?

You would prove it with the absence of evidence that there is a bill in the box. If you looked in the box and saw no evidence of a bill, then you would conclude that there wasn't one in there. But would that prove that there was no bill in the box? No, because you could have simply overlooked it. Or maybe it was dark, or maybe the bill was hidden under a piece of cardboard in the bottom of the box that you were unaware of.

The point is that you can use the absence of evidence to suggest absence, but that you can't be sure of absence simply by the lack of evidence.

In the absence of empirical evidence what conclusions can we justifiably draw?

Justifiably? Nothing.

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

Any evidence? Sure.

But what about non-empirical "evidence"?

Is not empirical evidence the only basis on which reliable conclusions can be made?

It is the only reliable one.

The only form of evidence that can ultimately establish the truth or otherwise of any given claim?

How can we know?

The only form of evidence that actually warrants the term “evidence”?

Not in my opinion. But "evidence" usually means empirical and using "evidence" to describe non-empirical 'evidence' usually clouds issues.

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?

UFO's, ghosts, ESP, love, Global Warming (zing!).

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

Because there might be more out there that positivism could be totally blind to.

WRT your examples, I'd say they are all wrong.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Straggler, posted 05-22-2008 11:14 AM Straggler has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 6 by Perdition, posted 05-23-2008 9:50 AM New Cat's Eye has responded
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Perdition
Member (Idle past 1312 days)
Posts: 1593
From: Wisconsin
Joined: 05-15-2003


Message 6 of 138 (467676)
05-23-2008 9:50 AM
Reply to: Message 5 by New Cat's Eye
05-23-2008 9:30 AM


If I handed you a shoebox and claimed that there was a $100 bill inside it, how would you prove that there wasn't?

You would prove it with the absence of evidence that there is a bill in the box. If you looked in the box and saw no evidence of a bill, then you would conclude that there wasn't one in there. But would that prove that there was no bill in the box? No, because you could have simply overlooked it. Or maybe it was dark, or maybe the bill was hidden under a piece of cardboard in the bottom of the box that you were unaware of.

The point is that you can use the absence of evidence to suggest absence, but that you can't be sure of absence simply by the lack of evidence.

You could look at this situation another way, though. In your mind, you're not trying to decipher the veracity of the sentence "There is a $100 bill inside this shoebox." What you're really deciphering is your trust in the honesty of the person telling you about the money with respect to a claim like this.

If the person who is telling you there is money in the shoebox is a prankster, someone who likes "getting" people, then I would not believe there was $100 dollars in there. If it was a complete stranger, I would not know whether to believe them or not, so I would open the box and try to find empirical evidence. If, after a thorough search of the box, I couldn't find said bill, I would believe I was lied to.

As you said, would it prove there was no bill? No. You can't prove a negative. Would it convince you that there was no bill, I would think it should. But either way, we don't take claims at face value, we factor in the situation, the person telling us, and those are empirical clues we can use to go on. Humans are inductive reasoning creatures, and while Inductive reasoning is not logical, it often works out for us.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 5 by New Cat's Eye, posted 05-23-2008 9:30 AM New Cat's Eye has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 7 by New Cat's Eye, posted 05-23-2008 10:45 AM Perdition has responded

    
New Cat's Eye
Inactive Member


Message 7 of 138 (467685)
05-23-2008 10:45 AM
Reply to: Message 6 by Perdition
05-23-2008 9:50 AM


You could look at this situation another way, though. In your mind, you're not trying to decipher the veracity of the sentence "There is a $100 bill inside this shoebox." What you're really deciphering is your trust in the honesty of the person telling you about the money with respect to a claim like this.

The point was for the situation to be analogous to deciphering the veracity of a claim rather than just evaluating the honesty of the person making the claim.

As you said, would it prove there was no bill? No. You can't prove a negative. Would it convince you that there was no bill, I would think it should. But either way, we don't take claims at face value, we factor in the situation, the person telling us, and those are empirical clues we can use to go on.

But the point of this thread is evaluating claims which have no empirical clues, iow, an absence of evidence.

Anyways though....

we don't take claims at face value, we factor in the situation, the person telling us, and those are empirical clues we can use to go on

I don't think the situation and person telling us are empirical clues.

If your mom told you, in a courtroom, that souls do exist, would you consider that empirical evidence?

What about the claims of the majority of people on this planet that souls exist... that ain't empiricaleither.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 6 by Perdition, posted 05-23-2008 9:50 AM Perdition has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 8 by Perdition, posted 05-23-2008 11:57 AM New Cat's Eye has not yet responded

  
Perdition
Member (Idle past 1312 days)
Posts: 1593
From: Wisconsin
Joined: 05-15-2003


Message 8 of 138 (467696)
05-23-2008 11:57 AM
Reply to: Message 7 by New Cat's Eye
05-23-2008 10:45 AM


But the point of this thread is evaluating claims which have no empirical clues, iow, an absence of evidence.

I know, I was just pointing out that when someone makes a claim, its not made in a vaccuum, you have previous experience, which is empirical evidence. The closest you could come to a claim with no empirical evidence is if a stranger walks up to you and claims there is a $100 bill in the shoebox. But in that situation, I would not take the person's word for it, I would open the box and look. If I couldn't find the bill, I would assume I had been lied to. So, in the absense of empirical evidence, I look for some, and then if I still find none, I assume it isn't there.

If your mom told you, in a courtroom, that souls do exist, would you consider that empirical evidence?

In this case, I would assume she was perjuring herself. I know my mom (and many on here do too, in fact) and she is at best agnostic on the idea of a soul. If pressed, she does admit that she doesn't believe we have one. That just illustrates my point, a person's claims are backed up by knowledge we already have about that person.


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Straggler
Member
Posts: 10284
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


(1)
Message 9 of 138 (467723)
05-23-2008 3:14 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by New Cat's Eye
05-23-2008 9:30 AM


Inherently Untestable?
If I handed you a shoebox and claimed that there was a $100 bill inside it, how would you prove that there wasn't?

Look inside?

You would prove it with the absence of evidence that there is a bill in the box. If you looked in the box and saw no evidence of a bill, then you would conclude that there wasn't one in there. But would that prove that there was no bill in the box? No, because you could have simply overlooked it. Or maybe it was dark, or maybe the bill was hidden under a piece of cardboard in the bottom of the box that you were unaware of

If it was there and I was able to exhaustively search for it I would find it.
Are you claiming that we can find empirical evidence for the soul (for example) if we just look hard enough? Or is the soul inherently non-empirical?
Surely you can see the difference here?

The point is that you can use the absence of evidence to suggest absence, but that you can't be sure of absence simply by the lack of evidence.

If there is no empirical reason whatsoever to beleieve that something even might exist then there is a very high degree of certainty that it does not. Proof or certainty about anything doesn't come into it.

But what about non-empirical "evidence"?

Ah that old chestnut. No such thing. Or if there is give me an example of a form of non-empirical and what conclusion you can draw from this "evidence".
I have been through this with Iano so you might want to see this before replying www.evcforum.net/cgi-bin/dm.cgi?action=msg&f=6&t=778&m=145#145 -->www.evcforum.net/cgi-bin/dm.cgi?action=msg&f=6&t=778&m=145#145">http://www.evcforum.net/cgi-bin/dm.cgi?action=msg&f=6&t=778&m=145#145

UFO's, ghosts, ESP

Do you? Really? Based on non-empirical evidence?

love, Global Warming (zing!)

Both well covered by empirical (evidence is debated in the latter but I know of no-one who claims global warming is a lie based on a non-empirical "feeling")

Because there might be more out there that positivism could be totally blind to.

In which case the claims of every nutjob on the planet should be treated as equally as valid as any religious claims for the soul and such like.

Edited by Straggler, : Add Link

Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
 Message 10 by New Cat's Eye, posted 05-23-2008 3:32 PM Straggler has responded

  
New Cat's Eye
Inactive Member


Message 10 of 138 (467726)
05-23-2008 3:32 PM
Reply to: Message 9 by Straggler
05-23-2008 3:14 PM


Re: Inherently Untestable?
Are you claiming that we can find empirical evidence for the soul (for example) if we just look hard enough?

No no no. Not what I was going for. I was just exemplifying that the absense of evidence really can be used to conclude that something doesn't exist, but that it doesn't "prove" it.

Or is the soul inherently non-empirical?
Surely you can see the difference here?

Yes I see the diff. I don't know if the soul is inherantly non-empirical or not but I'd guess that it is.

If there is no empirical reason whatsoever to beleieve that something even might exist then there is a very high degree of certainty that it does not.

Me and millions of other people thinking that it exists is enough for me to not be certain that it does not.

Or if there is give me an example of a form of non-empirical and what conclusion you can draw from this "evidence".

It feels like I have a soul so I conclude that I do have one.

UFO's, ghosts, ESP

Do you? Really? Based on non-empirical evidence?

Sure, I don't have any empirical evidence for those things.

Because there might be more out there that positivism could be totally blind to.

In which case the claims of every nutjob on the planet should be treated as equally as valid as any religious claims for the soul and such like.

Pretty much, except that we can add plausibility in there.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 9 by Straggler, posted 05-23-2008 3:14 PM Straggler has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 11 by Straggler, posted 05-23-2008 3:51 PM New Cat's Eye has not yet responded
 Message 12 by Rahvin, posted 05-23-2008 3:53 PM New Cat's Eye has not yet responded

  
Straggler
Member
Posts: 10284
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


(1)
Message 11 of 138 (467730)
05-23-2008 3:51 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by New Cat's Eye
05-23-2008 3:32 PM


Re: Inherently Untestable?
Me and millions of other people thinking that it exists is enough for me to not be certain that it does not.

On that basis the teachings of Scientology should be acknowldged as potentially valid and treated as such by society.

Shoul truth be a majority decision?

It feels like I have a soul so I conclude that I do have one.

Which is the evidence and which is the conclusion? The two merge into a single delusion. The delusion that you have a soul.

Sure, I don't have any empirical evidence for those things.

Well......you have been made aware of other peoples accounts of these things. But that is splitting hairs.
Why believe in these things and yet not other equally unevidenced claims?
Why not believe in the infamous (and admittedly overused) invisible pink unicorn?

Pretty much, except that we can add plausibility in there.

Oh plausibility.
Well now we are getting to the nub of the argument.
On what basis do we judge plausibility in the complete absence of empirical evidence?
Can you give an example of a non-empirical yet plausible (as you judge it to be) claim and an implausible claim and tell me the basis on which you made the decision that one was plausible and one was not?
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Rahvin
Member (Idle past 1261 days)
Posts: 3964
Joined: 07-01-2005


Message 12 of 138 (467731)
05-23-2008 3:53 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by New Cat's Eye
05-23-2008 3:32 PM


Re: Inherently Untestable?
quote:
Are you claiming that we can find empirical evidence for the soul (for example) if we just look hard enough?

No no no. Not what I was going for. I was just exemplifying that the absense of evidence really can be used to conclude that something doesn't exist, but that it doesn't "prove" it.

But that's becasue the burden of proof is on the person claiming (entity) does exist. When the person making the claim fails to meet the burden of proof, it can be concluded that there is no reason to believe the claim.

Me and millions of other people thinking that it exists is enough for me to not be certain that it does not.

Appeal to Popularity. The popularity of an idea is still not a good reason to suggest that it does exist.

quote:
Or if there is give me an example of a form of non-empirical and what conclusion you can draw from this "evidence".

It feels like I have a soul so I conclude that I do have one.

"It feels like my every action is being directed by an invisible pink unicorn, so I conclude that the invisible pink unicorn exists."

Subjective "evidence" is not really evidence of anything whatsoever. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that subjective "evidence" with nothing empirical to support it is actually evidence of delusion.

quote:
In which case the claims of every nutjob on the planet should be treated as equally as valid as any religious claims for the soul and such like.

Pretty much, except that we can add plausibility in there.

Personal incredulity is not a valid method of testing claims.

Seriously, CS, how plausible is the idea that an inivisble man lives in the sky, and that he came to Earth as his own son and sacrificed himself to himself to pay the price of a debt he set in the first place?

Is that more or less plausible than invisible fairies controlling the weather? Than Zeus controlling lightning? Than the invisible pink unicorn I "feel" is standing right next to you?

Your entire argument really boils down to two things:

1) Really popular ideas might be true even if they have no empirical support.
2) You can't prove that unfalsifiable ideas are false, so they might be true if they sound "plausible" to me.

These are flawed arguments. The first is a combination Appeal to Authority and reversal of the burden of proof. The second is a mix of personal incredulity and anotehr reversal of teh burden of proof.

The only logical conclusion given a lack of any empirical evidence to support a claim is that the claim is very likely false. "Non-empirical evidence," such as subjective "feelings" or appeals to popularity are not evidence of anything whatsoever. In fact, in the absence of any and all empirical evidence to support a claim, "non-empirical evidence" is evidence of nothing mroe than delusion.


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Straggler
Member
Posts: 10284
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


(1)
Message 13 of 138 (467737)
05-23-2008 7:34 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by ikabod
05-23-2008 3:32 AM


Fair Point
In the absence of empirical evidence the only conclusions can we justifiably draw are that there is a absence of empirical evidence .
we can then look into the reasons why there is a absence of empirical evidence .....

Fair point. My OP was written with those things for which it is claimed that there can be no empirical evidence, or for which empirical evidence is deemed somehow unnecessary in order to ascertain the truth of a claim. However this is not as clear in the OP as it should be.


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 Message 3 by ikabod, posted 05-23-2008 3:32 AM ikabod has not yet responded

  
ICANT
Member
Posts: 6187
From: SSC
Joined: 03-12-2007
Member Rating: 1.9


Message 14 of 138 (467754)
05-24-2008 12:29 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Straggler
05-22-2008 11:14 AM


Straggler writes:

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

That would be entirely up to you.

Why would people buy something called life insurance when they have to die for their beneficary to collect?

Straggler there are many things that science does not have an answer for. But scientist keep looking for the answers in the hopes that one day they will find the answer.

When it comes to God and if a person has a spirit that will live forever I do not have empirical evidence .
But one day I will have empirical evidence. It is similar to the life insurance except my beneficary won't have the evidence one way or the other but I will. The same goes for everybody as the last time I checked the death rate was 100%.

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 1 by Straggler, posted 05-22-2008 11:14 AM Straggler has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 15 by Rahvin, posted 05-24-2008 12:35 AM ICANT has responded
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Rahvin
Member (Idle past 1261 days)
Posts: 3964
Joined: 07-01-2005


Message 15 of 138 (467755)
05-24-2008 12:35 AM
Reply to: Message 14 by ICANT
05-24-2008 12:29 AM


That would be entirely up to you.

Why would people buy something called life insurance when they have to die for their beneficary to collect?

Straggler there are many things that science does not have an answer for. But scientist keep looking for the answers in the hopes that one day they will find the answer.

When it comes to God and if a person has a spirit that will live forever I do not have empirical evidence .
But one day I will have empirical evidence. It is similar to the life insurance except my beneficary won't have the evidence one way or the other but I will. The same goes for everybody as the last time I checked the death rate was 100%.

You could have simply stated "I have nothing relevant or useful to add to this conversation. Also, Pascal's Wager."

You haven't given any reason to believe one evidence-lacking position as opposed to any other. You've given no way of distinguishing unfalsifiable claims.

You've given no reason whatsoever to believe anything you say.


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Replies to this message:
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