Science and rationalization

In a comment on yesterday’s post, Jayman raises a very good question.

DD, I don’t see why additional information about ghosts is necessary to test my hypothesis. If we identified a ghost as a deceased person my hypothesis would be confirmed. It doesn’t matter whether you would still have additional questions about ghosts or souls or spirits.

Ok, so it’s not exactly phrased as a question, but the implication is there. Why isn’t the test, taken in isolation and without regard to other factors, sufficient to establish the hypothesis? It’s a good question and it points up an important principle that I neglected to cover in yesterday’s post.

Let’s say that I’m a little short on cash, and so I decide to go into the diet pill business. I make up a large batch of pills, and offer free samples to anyone who wants to lose weight. My pills, I tell people, don’t magically make fat disappear. Instead, they work with your body to multiply the effects of moderate exercise and a bit of portion control in your eating. I get about 100 people to try my free samples, and I predict that if my pills really work, I ought to see people losing weight when they take it.

So I check up on my free sample recipients and find that quite a lot of them experience some weight loss while taking my pill. In most cases it’s more a fluctuation than a steady decline, but at least part of the fluctuation is loss, right? And a smaller number actually do experience the steady decline, with a handful of soon-to-appear-in-my-advertisements people who experience dramatic weight loss. So my tests prove that my pills really work, right? Did I mention that they were just cornstarch and water, formed into tablets and baked until hard?

My experiment fails because I failed to control for other variables. I had a biased sample to begin with: people who wanted to lose weight. I created a context in which they were likely to employ other weight-loss methods (diet and exercise). And my test was designed to single out successful results while discounting the failures (“individual results vary”). Whether by intent or by accident, I created a “test” that produced the biased conclusion I wanted to reach, rather than arriving at the unbiased truth.

So the answer to Jayman’s implicit question is that we want to look at the situation from all angles, and make sure that we’re not just creating a pseudo-scientific excuse for jumping to a predetermined conclusion. Our goal, as skeptics and scientists, is not to try and find some way to confirm someone’s opinion, but rather to discover what the truth really is. That means we want to apply rigorous tests and not just informal assays.

Turn it around just a bit: if our goal is to have a solid, reasonable basis for our conclusions, why would we want to rule out the additional questions about spirits (to return to Jayman’s original hypothesis)? Why would we want to forbid certain questions from being asked? Why would we want to insist on drawing our conclusions before we find out whether the “spirits = ghosts” hypothesis is really consistent with itself and with the real world evidence? If it turns out that spirits don’t actually exist, shouldn’t that have a significant impact on how we interpret the results of our test?

Remember, our core principle is that truth is consistent with itself, and one of the implications of that principle is that when our beliefs are untrue, they’re going to conflict with the real world evidence. If we invent rationalizations to try and explain away the inconsistencies, we may succeed in creating an apparent reconciliation in one specific area, but since the rationalization is untrue, it’s going to create new inconsistencies in other areas. Thus, to know whether we are uncovering new truth, or merely covering up an untruth with a plausible (but untrue) rationalization, we need to explore these other implications of our premises.

My goal, as a Christian, was simple. I knew that different men said different things about God. All I wanted was a reliable means of determining which of those men, if any, were really telling the truth about Him. I didn’t want to simply put my faith in whatever men said was right, even if (especially if!) the man I was trusting was myself. I knew the folly of believing whatever seems right in one’s own eyes, and I eventually learned that this was no less an unreliable source if you transformed it slightly by turning it into “whatever interpretation of Scripture seems right in one’s own eyes.” I wanted to know the real truth, the truth that was not built out of the things men thought were right and wanted to believe. The truth that exists on its own, independently of the beliefs of men.

And yet, despite my good intentions, I deceived myself for decades. I made exceptions. I assumed that the men who wrote the Bible were necessarily telling the truth, and that the men who canonized the Scripture were necessarily correct. After all, God would not allow a false book to bear the name of “God’s Word,” right? I told myself I was being objective and verifying my beliefs when what I was actually doing was setting up isolated little self-contained assays designed to reinforce this or that preconceived idea I was having doubts about. I kept my attention focused on the small picture, so that I would not be troubled by the inconsistencies that arose when you try and put all the little pieces together in one big picture.

And it’s the big picture that gives Christianity problems. I once helped a Mormon lady deconvert from Mormonism by the same approach. Individually, the little pieces of her faith were not a problem, and she had a million and one little tests by which she knew that the LDS church was the One True Faith. When I exposed her to the big picture, though, she started to have some doubts. I showed her some of the contradictions in her faith, in front of her own Mormon elders (a couple 18-year-olds), and she began to realize that it didn’t really all fit together. And, ironically enough, my own faith suffered a similar fate starting a few years later.

If our goal is to merely reinforce our preconceived ideas and to insulate ourselves from real-world truth, then fine, it’s ok to wall off those other, potentially troublesome questions, and just limit ourselves to simple assays that will easily satisfy our desire to claim to have some real-world support for our dogmas. But if our goal is to challenge ourselves, and make reality the standard by which we measure our beliefs instead of vice versa, then we’ll be eager to explore all the questions, and to see whether or not our conclusions really are consistent with the real world, even in areas outside our “little tests.”

Truth is consistent with itself, both in the fact that it does not contradict itself and in the fact that each real world truth is interrelated with other real world truths, such that we can follow the connections to discover new truths on the basis of old ones. If we’re not exploiting these very useful properties of the truth, if we’re reluctant to even try to follow all of the ramifications, maybe we’re trying to tell ourselves something. Maybe we’re not really as fond of the truth as we’d like to think. But that’s a human frailty, and the cure is simple: embrace the truth anyway. In the long run, that’s by far the best approach.

 
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Posted in Science. 55 Comments »

55 Responses to “Science and rationalization”

  1. R. C. Moore Says:

    This brings to mind a story I have heard (it may be merely folklore, if someone knows, please correct me). Before Houdini’s mother died, they agreed on a secret word or phrase that would be used to confirm any communications after death. Houdini then began a long investigation of psychics to see if any could contact his dead mother. None apparently did, and Houdini’s skills as a magician revealed many to be outright fakes.

    But if a psychic had contacted Houdini’s mother, and she had spoken the secret word (why do I picture a duck dropping from above) would this be definitive proof of the afterlife?

    From a scientific standpoint, it would be evidence, but no proof. There are several other explanations available — the psychic got lucky and guessed the secret, Houdini let the secret word slip out and it got to the psychic, Houdini, aged and in grief, imagined in his own mind the secret word had been spoken, Houdini decided to cash in the psychic business and abetted a fraud.

    For a good experiment, all of these have to be controlled for. The the experiment repeated by others (to prove statistically they are being controlled for).

    Proving the extraordinary, or that which is not a natural extension of proven theory is very hard in practice. Simple methodologies just don’t cut it.

  2. Jayman Says:

    DD, my statement assumed that we had ruled out other possible causes of a ghostly apparition. Also, I did not say we should not try and answer as many questions as we can or that we should not answer questions to begin with. I said that it is conceivable we could determine that ghosts exist without knowing other things about ghosts (e.g., how they move).

  3. ThatOtherGuy Says:

    @ Jayman:

    You’re making too many assumptions. You’re essentially going “say naturalism fails, then what?” when that isn’t really a situation we’re going to have to confront.

  4. pboyfloyd Says:

    I think that this ‘ghost-hunting’ thing and God-hunting are closely related.

    We(some of us) are taking historical definitions of God and ghosts and trying to point science at them.

    Notice how you, Jayman seem to think that the notion of ghosts holds water because you have ‘defined’ them.

    Once defined you get to do stuff like compare them to never-seen-before varieties of fish and such.

    I think that any evidence for ghosts is entirely anecdotal and there is no reason to believe that if there were such things they would be common-place.

    We bring many unspoken, taken for granted assumptions about ghosts to the table from fictional books and movies and myth which we really can’t separate from any scientific enquiries ‘about them’.

    In the end, it boils down to, ‘We cannot prove that ghosts don’t exist!’

    I really don’t see any reason for scientists and/or skeptics to suspend their disbelief, as if they are enjoying a story, when it comes to reality.

  5. pboyfloyd Says:

    How about this for a scientific test.

    We put people into scarey situations and see if ‘demons’ come to ‘haunt’ them!

    Do they see things that aren’t there?

    How do they react physically to strange noises and such?

  6. R. C. Moore Says:

    pboyfloyd said:

    “How about this for a scientific test.
    We put people into scarey situations and see if ‘demons’ come to ‘haunt’ them! ”

    Possibly entertaining, but not very scientific. :)

  7. Jayman Says:

    pboyfloyd:

    Notice how you, Jayman seem to think that the notion of ghosts holds water because you have ‘defined’ them.

    Not at all. It was a hypothetical example to determine how one would find out about new beings. Some definition had to be given to answer the question.

  8. Chayanov Says:

    “How about this for a scientific test.

    We put people into scarey situations and see if ‘demons’ come to ‘haunt’ them!

    Do they see things that aren’t there?

    How do they react physically to strange noises and such?”

    That’s the thing, isn’t it? If ghosts really are “the spirits of deceased humans that generally inhabit a location known to them when they were alive” (a definition that is, nevertheless, debatable) and these ghosts can be seen or detected by the living (and if not, then what’s the point?), then there should be ghosts literally everywhere.

    I’ve been in hospitals, where people have died. I’ve been in cemeteries, where their remains are kept. As an archaeologist, I’ve even handled some of those remains. I currently live in an ~80 year old apartment building, a location known to many people when they were still alive.

    And yet I’ve never had an encounter with a ghost or anything that might have been a ghost.

    “I think that this ‘ghost-hunting’ thing and God-hunting are closely related. ”

    If we have to wait for ghosts to show themselves to us, as we seem to have to wait for God to do the same, it appears we’ll have to spend a lot of time waiting around.

  9. R. C. Moore Says:

    Jayman –

    No one has taken the bait yet, but again I note: If one substitutes everywhere you say “ghosts” with the term “sentient alien lifeforms” (in the context of the SETI program), all of the objections disappear. For instance, pboyfloyd, from above:


    Notice how you, “SETI project” seem to think that the notion of “sentient alien lifeforms” holds water because you have ‘defined’ them.

    I think that any evidence for “sentient alien lifeforms” is entirely anecdotal and there is no reason to believe that if there were such things they would be common-place.

    We bring many unspoken, taken for granted assumptions about “sentient alien lifeforms” to the table from fictional books and movies and myth which we really can’t separate from any scientific enquiries ‘about them’.

    In the end, it boils down to, ‘We cannot prove that “sentient alien lifeforms”don’t exist!’

    This leaves me in a conundrum. I think in my bones that SETI is good science, and yet I cannot separate SETI from ghost hunting experiments (well not really try, but for unrelated reasons).

    What do you think?

  10. Jayman Says:

    Chayanov:

    That’s the thing, isn’t it? If ghosts really are “the spirits of deceased humans that generally inhabit a location known to them when they were alive” (a definition that is, nevertheless, debatable) and these ghosts can be seen or detected by the living (and if not, then what’s the point?), then there should be ghosts literally everywhere.

    Your conclusion does not follow from the definition. Nowhere in the definition does it state that every deceased person will become a ghost or that a ghost will always remain a ghost.

  11. Chayanov Says:

    I call shenanigans. If my conclusion doesn’t follow it’s because I can’t keep up with your goalpost changes. You said we should expect to find ghosts in places associated with people. I said I’ve been to such places and have never seen a ghost. You come back with, oh did I mention that not everyone becomes a ghost and they only stay ghosts until something better comes along? Every objection made to your scenario you rebut by making up something new. I could easily say everyone becomees a ghost forever and we both have equal amounts of evidence supporting our statements — that is, none.

    You’re just being intellectually dishonest and there’s little point in trying to have a discussion with someone like that.

  12. pboyfloyd Says:

    I don’t think that searching for ‘sentient alien lifeforms’ are, in any way, the equivalent of ghosts.

    We HAVE met ‘sentient alien lifeforms’. As it turned out they were just men.(American Indians and Australian aboriginies.

    The SETI program is looking for electro-magnetic communication of intelligent beings on other planets and we are using ourselves and our signals as a ‘template’.

    Ghost hunting only has, as far as we know fiction, that is, mysterious spiritual forces, for it’s ‘template’.

    So, there’s us and there could be others similar to us VERSUS, There are stories of ghosts, hey, they might be true!

  13. John Morales Says:

    pboyfloyd, a very good summary.

    One nitpick – there’s an important difference between thissentient and thissapient.

  14. Jayman Says:

    R. C. Moore, I don’t follow you when you say all of the objections disappear when we replace ghosts with sentient alien lifeforms. Objections to what? Whose objections?

    But I think I understand the conundrum you find yourself in. You feel there is a difference between SETI and ghost hunters yet you cannot put your finger on it. As far as I know, neither SETI researchers nor ghost hunters have any scientific theories so I would not call either science at this point in time. I would say both groups are making observations. In the future both groups could enter the realm of science.

    Some other thoughts on SETI:

    (1) There is a parallel between SETI and intelligent design in that both are trying to detect design without observing the designer in action. Is there any way to detect design without seeing the designer in action? For example, we know that a radio station is playing music because we have seen musicians create music. But what would an alien civilization conducting its own SETI project make of the noise? They might be able to surmise that it is an unknown sound but how can they link it to an intelligent lifeform?

    (2) The existence of aliens cannot be falsified. I have no problem with this as I think it is an inescapable fact that we cannot disprove the existence of any being (unless we define the being in a very narrow manner that conveniently contradicts other inescapable facts). We simply have to deal with the fact that we will either have some evidence for aliens or no evidence for aliens.

    (3) It is conceivable that we might intercept an alien communication and then never hear anything from that civilization again. Will skeptics object to the lack of reproducibility? Or will they claim these rare interceptions are hoaxes?

  15. Jayman Says:

    Chayanov, I am not being intellectually dishonest. You are reading things into my definition that are not there. Saying that ghosts haunt locations known to them in life does not entail everyone becomes a ghost. It simply entails that ghosts are more likely to appear in places where people have lived.

    Also, I was not arguing for the existence of ghosts. I brought up a hypothetical example to disucss how we would construct a theory about a new being. Evidence for or against ghosts is irrelevant.

  16. Chayanov Says:

    No, you are the one reading things into it. I never said everyone has to become a ghost forever. You pulled that out of nothing in an attempt to rebut my objection.

    Your hypothetical is useless because you have to keep coming up with more ad hoc conditions and arbitrary limits that have no bearing upon your original statement. You’re the one who brought up ghosts and then argued when people pointed out problems with it, and made up stuff to support your arguments, then when you get called on it, you say it’s all irrelevant.

    Indeed it is.

  17. Chayanov Says:

    I mean post hoc, not ad hoc. I think. I always get those confused.

  18. Jayman Says:

    pboyfloyd:

    I don’t think that searching for ’sentient alien lifeforms’ are, in any way, the equivalent of ghosts.

    We HAVE met ’sentient alien lifeforms’. As it turned out they were just men.(American Indians and Australian aboriginies.

    This is a fallacy of equivocation. SETI is searching for extraterrestrial intelligence while we have only met terrestrial intelligence. Unless of course you believe extraterrestrials have visited earth, in which case you would think studying these visitors would be more fruitful than SETI. Also, if we are going to be loose with definitions, ghosts could qualify as sentient alien lifeforms too.

    The SETI program is looking for electro-magnetic communication of intelligent beings on other planets and we are using ourselves and our signals as a ‘template’.

    Ghost hunting only has, as far as we know fiction, that is, mysterious spiritual forces, for it’s ‘template’.

    So, there’s us and there could be others similar to us VERSUS, There are stories of ghosts, hey, they might be true!

    SETI does not look much better than ghost hunting if you try to be the least bit fair. You could mention that the human form is a template for the ghostly form, that ghosts look and act like humans, and that far more people believe they have seen a ghost than believe they have received an electromagnetic message from an extraterrestrial.

  19. Jayman Says:

    Chayanov:

    No, you are the one reading things into it. I never said everyone has to become a ghost forever. You pulled that out of nothing in an attempt to rebut my objection.

    If you didn’t make some assumptions about how many people become ghosts and/or how long they stay ghosts I am at a loss for why you claimed that “there should be ghosts literally everywhere.”

    Your hypothetical is useless because you have to keep coming up with more ad hoc conditions and arbitrary limits that have no bearing upon your original statement.

    It is useful to the extent that it allows me to ask whether it is possible to have a theory about the supernatural/paranormal. Assumptions have to be made when posing a hypothetical question and limits can be helpful to keep things simple.

    You’re the one who brought up ghosts and then argued when people pointed out problems with it, and made up stuff to support your arguments, then when you get called on it, you say it’s all irrelevant.

    I was hoping people could focus on how a theory about a new being would be constructed rather than whether ghosts exist or not. At least we agree that such a theory could be testable.

  20. pboyfloyd Says:

    THis, “I brought up a hypothetical example to disucss how we would construct a theory about a new being. Evidence for or against ghosts is irrelevant.”, is a typical ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card, where now, anyone arguing the ‘no-ghost’ POV is warned that it doesn’t even ‘count’.

    Compare, “One may theorize that ghosts are the spirits of deceased humans “, to, “Evidence for or against ghosts is irrelevant.”

    (Doube-take.. WHAT?)

    So, Jayman, are you constraining us to take the EXISTENCE of ghosts for granted then?

    I guess you must be ‘rubber and we must be glue’?
    …………………………….

    You say, “This is a fallacy of equivocation.”

    That’s bullshit. Of course we found American Indians and Aboriginees before the SETI program, so what?

    There are other things wrong with my analogy. The explorers weren’t actually LOOKING FOR aliens AND I’m being kind of slack in my usage of ‘alien’.

    But the fact is that we found these intelligent beings that turned out to be human.

    I think that the SETI program is at least not defining what it is that they are looking for other than they would be some kind of being(s) that would be sending some kind of signals.(as opposed to random noise)

    I think that this is ‘worlds away’ from your hyopthesis about spirits of human beings perhaps visiting their old homes.

    How about the spirits of long gone dog poop ‘appearing’ on the sidewalk long after they’ve dried up and blown away?

    Have you stepped in spiritual dog poop lately?

    Oh well, that doesn’t prove it doesn’t exist, and by your own standards(above) you’re not even allowed to argue ‘evidence’.

  21. jim Says:

    Jayman:

    Pboyfloyd did not commit a fallacy of equivocation. His example of Indians and aborigines in relation to SETI’s search for ETs is meant to highlight the fundamental similarities i.e. we share the same laws of physics. We expect the same to hold true for other-earthly presences, regardless of where in the universe they come from; at least, until we’re faced with the confirmed existence of other modes of being. So far, science finds no convincing evidence that such things exist. That’s the difference between the two searches. On the one hand, we’re looking for life which may or may not exist, but existing within a confirmed physical framework. We expect to find at least partly understandable chemistry, biology, technology, etc. On the other, we’re looking for life existing within a context that we don’t even know to be possible. As far as accepted scientific evidence goes, incorporeality exists only within the imaginations of some people.

    See the difference? Alien life is a logical extrapolation of the known physical properties of this universe. Spirits, ghosts or what have you require another kind of universe entirely. Apples and oranges.

  22. John Morales Says:

    For reference: The mission of the SETI Institute is to explore, understand and explain the origin, nature and prevalence of life in the universe.

  23. John Morales Says:

    Chayanov

    I mean post hoc, not ad hoc. I think. I always get those confused.

    Indeed.
    ‘After this’ vs ‘to this’.

    The difference is the former is rationalisation and the latter is arbitrary. Something can be both, either or neither.

    i.e.: You’re right either way.

    </pedant>

  24. Chayanov Says:

    Thanks for that, John. I was describing an arbitrary rationalization, after all.

    Hypothesizing about a previously unknown type of being could be an interesting exercise in what we consider to be evidence and how to test for it. But make it completely new — call it a biowidget or something for which there are no existing assumptions.

    All Jayman has done is demonstrate how not to go about it. To ignore the evidence or lack of it, to complain when people come up with objections to the hypothesis, and to make statements about what those beings are or aren’t like without even establishing whether or not they even exist sounds more like theology than science.

  25. R. C. Moore Says:

    Jim said:

    “See the difference? Alien life is a logical extrapolation of the known physical properties of this universe. Spirits, ghosts or what have you require another kind of universe entirely.”

    You may make this assumption, but ghost hunters don’t. They use the exact same equipment (in a broad sense) that SETI does — EM detection. They are assuming ghosts are also a “logical extrapolation of known physical properties of this universe”

    So the question to be answered is: “Why has SETI made a good assumption, and the ghost hunters haven’t?”

    The answer seems to be that we exist, we are detectable by EM, so aliens are also. But many more assumptions are required for SETI — that aliens are also sending out EM into space, that the signal is in our direction, and the signal contains content recognizable by our intelligence.

    Ghost hunters make the exact same assumptions, for the exact same reasons.

    Where the psychics come into play, I am not sure. :)

  26. R. C. Moore Says:

    pboyfloyd said:

    “I think that the SETI program is at least not defining what it is that they are looking for other than they would be some kind of being(s) that would be sending some kind of signals.(as opposed to random noise)”

    No, download “SETI at Home” and run it. It is looking for a signal encoded in a specific way at a specific frequency spectrum. It has no choice, as the possibilities are very broad in scope.

    What assumptions does SETI make in the analysis it does. How much different is it from Jayman’s original hypothesis?

  27. pboyfloyd Says:

    Well, R.C., I’m not going to look up the SETI program.
    As I ‘see’ it, as far as ghosts are concerned, religion has been ‘telling’ us that this type of phenomena is their bread and butter, but they want us to take it on faith.

    I suppose we could do the same with E.T.s, but the quest is to find them as opposed to the the religious quest which seems to me to be mind control.

    If the church were serious about searching for the spiritual realm I, for one, would be very interested in it’s progress.

    But just LOOK at what they try to pawn us off with.

    Cold reading.
    Unexplained healing.
    A ‘feeling’ in your ‘heart’.
    Self-fulfilling prophecy.
    Anecdotes, anecdotes, anecdotes.
    Deliberate deceit.
    Bait and switch.(YOU CAN’T PROVE IT!(but neither can we, shhhhhhhhh!)
    Anti-science.(Challenging ‘science’ to disprove their religious POV)
    Redefined words.(e.g. truth = Jesus)
    Archtype allegories versus ‘just the facts’ story juggling.
    Philosophical word-play.

    To name a few.

  28. Jayman Says:

    pboyfloyd, just explain how you would construct a theory about a new being. If ghosts are not to your liking then you can choose extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) or something else. Explain how you would determine whether ETI exists, not whether ETI exists.

    Jim, there are differences between searching for ETI and searching for ghosts but there are also similarities. I think both groups are making observations and in both cases we try to make sense of those observations. I cannot agree that SETI’s observations are necessarily more scientific than a ghost hunter’s observations (or vice versa). Observations are observations. You don’t have to put down ghost-hunting in order to justify SETI (or vice versa). Making new observations is good in itself. Also, as R. C. Moore as pointed out, ghost hunting does not rely on totally different measurements. Apples and oranges aren’t the same thing, but they’re both fruits.

    Chayanov, R. C. Moore wondered how to measure for ghosts as opposed to trying to disprove ghosts. If he can try to answer the question there is nothing preventing anyone else from doing so. If ghosts are not to your liking you can choose any new being you like (e.g., ETI). I am not asking, “Is my theory true?” I am asking, “What would it take to make you believe that my theory is true?” As a parallel example, we can ask what it would take for us to believe ETI exists. The actual existence of ETI is irrelevant when trying to answer that question.

  29. R. C. Moore Says:

    Jayman said:

    “Observations are observations…”

    I of course do not agree with that. Observations that are made with tools proven to meet the criteria of the the observational protocol are better than observations made otherwise.

    This of course is the root of my SETI dilemma. I can’t see where the tools are an improvement over the ghost hunting tools. They both make weak assumptions about what is being measured, and if neither can produce guaranteed negative results.

    And yet, still, I consider SETI good science. On the same day I lecture ghost hunters on the uselessness of their endeavors, I use a computer that is running “SETI at Home”.

    For me this is a healthy paradox, that I will enjoy resolving. For those who dismiss it with some philosophical hand waving, or a claim it is too much work to investigate, I say you are missing out on some good clean fun! :)

  30. R. C. Moore Says:

    Jayman –

    Sorry I missed your earlier question to me:
    “I don’t follow you when you say all of the objections disappear when we replace ghosts with sentient alien lifeforms. Objections to what? Whose objections”

    By that I meant the objections raised by the others who object to the investigation of such subject as ghosts. The bias I see is that while they unable to explain the difference between a ghost investigation and SETI in terms of the observational protocols used, and why the expected result differ, they nonetheless embrace SETI and reject ghost hunting out of hand.

    I count myself among the biased, the difference is that I have a reason: I have deeply investigated ghost hunting, and have found all the methods used to be without merit. But see, I am claiming an scientific, empirical rejection, not a philosphical one, which is pronounced as the difference between philosophical deduction/induction and scientific deduction/induction.

    Many make the mistake of conflating these processes. And the difference, as it applies to the current discussion is this: I have to accept, as a scientist, that maybe I am using an inadequate protocol on the subject of ghosts. I consider very unlikely, but it remains a possibility. I believe I can reject the ghost hypothesis safely, with no ill side effects.

    And I can safely say that all ghost investigators to date have used inadequate protocols, in fact have used protocols that are complete nonsense. But if we are to allow SETI latitude in this area, can we really reject a well constructed ghost hunting hypothesis?

  31. Jayman Says:

    R. C. Moore:

    I of course do not agree with that. Observations that are made with tools proven to meet the criteria of the the observational protocol are better than observations made otherwise.

    I agree that not all observations are equal which is why I said SETI observations are not necessarily more scientific than a ghost hunter’s observation. I mean that an observation is not better solely because you are trying to observe ETI instead of ghosts.

    For me this is a healthy paradox, that I will enjoy resolving. For those who dismiss it with some philosophical hand waving, or a claim it is too much work to investigate, I say you are missing out on some good clean fun!

    What do you make of my suggestion that neither SETI nor ghost hunting is science at this point in time, that both are making observations and, with the right kind of observations, both may enter the realm of science? This would seem to resolve the paradox.

    But if we are to allow SETI latitude in this area, can we really reject a well constructed ghost hunting hypothesis?

    Only on pain of hypocrisy.

  32. ThatOtherGuy Says:

    “Only on pain of hypocrisy.”

    Absolutely not. As was said, scientists realized that on an interstellar level, the only indicator of the presence of intelligent life on our planet is electromagnetic waves containing broadcast signals. As such, the ONLY thing that it’s not a leap of faith to postulate the possible existence of are electromagnetic signals. We know that sentient life is, in at least one case, able to arrange for the broadcast of said signals. As such, the ONLY message it unequivocally makes sense for us to look for are these electromagnetic signals.

    Meanwhile, ghost hunters turn to electromagnetic signals as well, which there is no indication any disembodied entities can manifest. They turn to psychics, who are known to possess no more abilities to detect anything unusual than anyone else. They turn to EVPs, which are no more than exercises in pareidolia. You seriously think there’s an equivalency between searching for other examples of the types of signals we know sentient life may be capable of producing and shooting randomly based ENTIRELY on superstition?

  33. John Morales Says:

    Jayman:

    What do you make of my suggestion that neither SETI nor ghost hunting is science at this point in time, that both are making observations and, with the right kind of observations, both may enter the realm of science? This would seem to resolve the paradox.

    Butting in, may I note that science investigates falsifiable hypotheses.

    The hypotheses are:
    (1) SETI: We exist, do not such as us exist elsewhere?
    (2) Ghosts: We exist, do supernatural versions of our living selves remain after death?

    Hardly a fair comparison.

    There are criteria for determining a signal’s direction, and for which analysis of the signal could have no other than intelligent explanation.

    What are the equivalent criteria for ghosts? Others have asked,.

  34. R. C. Moore Says:

    John Morales said:


    Butting in, may I note that science investigates falsifiable hypotheses.

    The hypotheses are:
    (1) SETI: We exist, do not such as us exist elsewhere?
    (2) Ghosts: We exist, do supernatural versions of our living selves remain after death?

    I agree that falsifiability is necessary for a scientific hypothesis, but it is not sufficient for the scientific method, which is what we are discussing with the SETI /ghost problem. This issue is why SETI is science when no protocol to demonstrate falsifiability is at hand.

    In your hypothesis (1), SETI can prove it is true (others exist), but SETI cannot prove it is false. The same seems to hold for ghosts.

    However, as John has correctly pointed out, since we exist, and the processes leading to our existence are well understood, the expectation for alien life has a stronger justification than the justification for ghosts, which lack any known process for existence.

    I agree also that we can determine a signal’s direction, if the signal contains the right information, we can deduce it is from an intelligent source. But the question here is how SETI can claim it is looking in the right direction, and claim that the alien life forms have encoded the signal in a way we would recognize as intelligent. Are these claims scientific, or wishful thinking?

    Again, I go on record — all ghost hunting so far has definitely been wishful thinking. I can prove that.

    We can add to SETI another very popular area of “scientific” investigation — String Theory. Falsifiable yes, testable, no yet.

    I note also, that many, in the interest of strict naturalism, hold the opinion that if a hypothesis is not testable, it is not falsifiable, and I personally agree (because I am a strict naturalist!). Many use falsifiability in a philosophical sense, however, so I acknowledge it as a starting point, because science progresses.

  35. R. C. Moore Says:

    ThatOtherGuy said:


    We know that sentient life is, in at least one case, able to arrange for the broadcast of said signals. As such, the ONLY message it unequivocally makes sense for us to look for are these electromagnetic signals.

    Given only a hammer, everything must look like a nail. I don’t have anything better for SETI to look for. Ghost hunters have a similar limitation. This is excellent logic, but it is very bad science.


    You seriously think there’s an equivalency between searching for other examples of the types of signals we know sentient life may be capable of producing and shooting randomly based ENTIRELY on superstition?

    No I don’t, but you are turning the question at hand on its head, which is not fair to Jayman. He is asking why, if a ghost-existence hypothesis does not meet the strict standards of a scientific investigation, then why it is assumed SETI does, when both can be criticized for exactly the same reasons, that neither are falsifiable? In other words, he is not measuring the positive attributes of each, but the negative attributes of each.

    I think you are on the right track with the fact ghosts are based on superstition, but SETI is based on good science. But Jayman still has a good point to make, that as yet no one has answered sufficiently.

  36. ThatOtherGuy Says:

    “I don’t have anything better for SETI to look for. Ghost hunters have a similar limitation.”

    No, see, the problem is that SETI has an actual starting point to go from. Ghost hunters MAKE STUFF UP and try to pass it off as scientific investigation, which it most certainly is not.

    “He is asking why, if a ghost-existence hypothesis does not meet the strict standards of a scientific investigation, then why it is assumed SETI does, when both can be criticized for exactly the same reasons, that neither are falsifiable?”

    Because SETI makes sense while ghost hunting does not. SETI is scanning to see if there are modulated electromagnetic waves coming from any other area in the universe, because we know that from an interstellar perspective our planet emits EM waves of this type only because of our presence, and there is no other way these types of signals can come about. Pulsars and neutron stars emit other, easily recognizable patterns, but nothing containing things like television broadcasts. SETI is checking for those sorts of signals on the off-chance another form of life has made similar discoveries to ours, and that makes perfect sense. They’re not saying it will definitely work, they’re just hoping it will. The existence of other entities is not falsifiable BY THIS METHOD, but the methodology MAKES SENSE.

    Ghost hunters do not use any sort of well-reasoned approach to find “ghosts.” First of all, unlike Jayman with his goalpost-shifting, people have a clear-cut idea of what a ghost is, and what they expect to find. However, as there is no good evidence for ghosts, they have to turn to some absolutely bizarre methodology. They search for signs that are not unmistakably from anything, and that in fact originate from other perfectly mundane objects. They search for EM fields which are usually emitted from wiring, for no reason. There’s no indication that a disembodied human… whatever… would emit EM waves. They search for temperature changes which can be caused by drafts, when there’s no indication that a disembodied human whatever would cause temperature drops. They employ PSYCHICS, enough said.

    The comparison is ridiculous. You said “I can safely say that all ghost investigators to date have used inadequate protocols, in fact have used protocols that are complete nonsense. But if we are to allow SETI latitude in this area, can we really reject a well constructed ghost hunting hypothesis?” We are not allowing SETI any latitude in the area of protocols, because its methodology is not complete nonsense. It’s searching for something that would next-to-unequivocally prove the existence of some sort of broadcaster elsewhere in space. The falsifiability lies in the initial assumption: if it can be proven that sentient lifeforms can never engineer the broadcast of modulated electromagnetic waves, then SETI has nothing to go on. But humans HAVE engineered such a situation, so we know it’s at least possible.

  37. Jayman Says:

    R. C. Moore has answered the major objections from ThatOtherGuy and John Morales. But I would like to know how you can determine that a radio signal from an unknown source is from ETI and not something else.

  38. ThatOtherGuy Says:

    “But I would like to know how you can determine that a radio signal from an unknown source is from ETI and not something else.”

    If it contains something akin to a television program, it’s fairly safe to say it’s not natural.

  39. R. C. Moore Says:

    ThatOtherGuy –

    You stubbornly continue to rephrase the problem to your liking. I am not (Jayman can speak for himself) disputing any of your logic on ghost hunting. My advice to Jayman in fact was to drop ghost hunting in favor of SETI as an example.

    SETI has the same problem of falsifiability as ghost hunting, God, etc. And yet you and I consider it good science.

    Why? You are treating this the same was as theists treat the problem of evil. You hope your constant reiteration of circular logic will keep you above water.

    I constantly chastise theists for ignoring the Problem of Evil, I hope to hold myself to the same high standard.

    Jayman said: “But I would like to know how you can determine that a radio signal from an unknown source is from ETI and not something else.”

    And you correctly answered, but his question indicates he is not quite getting what I am aiming at — give me some data that meets the experimental protocol, and I can apply a test to reject or accept any hypothesis. But the problem of SETI is a) not getting any data, or b) getting data, but not knowing it because your protocol was wrong. And in the case of SETI, they do not know if their protocol is right. They will only know if they get the data they are looking for. They do know their protocol is not nonsense, like we know all proposed ghost hunting protocols proposed up until now are, so SETI is not ghost hunting.

    Criticism of the SETI program is not my invention. It is a fundamental argument within the scientific community, it formed the essential plot thread in the movie “Contact”, which was written by a rather distinguished astronomer. It ends with the exact paradox I have expressed. As far as I know, it is an unresolved issue at this point.

  40. pboyfloyd Says:

    “pboyfloyd, just explain how you would construct a theory about a new being.”

    Lady Sovereign
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-eYuiAJTgqA

    is obviously not from this planet.

  41. ThatOtherGuy Says:

    “Why? You are treating this the same was as theists treat the problem of evil. You hope your constant reiteration of circular logic will keep you above water.”

    I most certainly am not. Falsifiability does not affect SETI the same way as it does ghost hunting because SETI specifies specifically what it’s looking for: EM signals that could indicate intelligent extraterrestrial life forms. If there are signals being broadcast from an area, and they’re strong enough, and we check throughout a wide enough swath of the electromagnetic spectrum, we will find them. We know exactly what we’re looking for. We already know that life forms may not be sending out any signals, we already know that we’re not likely to find anything of that nature, but we DO know that intelligent life IS CAPABLE of producing these signals, because WE produce them. Falsifiability would enter into the picture at that stage. If scientists said “we cannot conceive of a way for intelligent life to produce these sorts of signals under any circumstances,” and yet they decided to look for them anyway, then you would have a case for SETI’s methodology being unfalsifiable and on par with that of ghost hunting, because they’d just be shooting in the dark just like ghost hunters. This, however, is not the case. There is no hypocrisy, no double standard. Ghost hunters are guilty of making stuff up completely out of nowhere and operating based on that, and as such can ALWAYS duck under the unfalsifiable “well ghosts don’t do that sort of thing” heading. SETI only deals with interstellar EM signals of the type we humans produce, and has already dealt with its unfalsifiability (we already DO know that intelligent life can, in some circumstances, produce EM waves that can be detected over great distances).

    Both methodologies DO suffer from the problem of “lack of evidence is not evidence of lack,” but that is the case with MANY scientific endeavors and does not imply unfalsifiability in the least.

  42. R. C. Moore Says:

    ThatOtherGuy said:

    “Falsifiability does not affect SETI the same way as it does ghost hunting because SETI specifies specifically what it’s looking for”

    This is not what falsifiability means. Wikipedia will give you background on the theories of Karl Popper.

    “but we DO know that intelligent life IS CAPABLE of producing these signals, because WE produce them”

    Bad syllogism and circular: We are intelligent. We produce certain signals. Therefore intelligent life is capable of producing signals.

    Proof: Dogs are a pet. My dog barks. Therefore, pets are capable of barking.

    “If scientists said “we cannot conceive of a way for intelligent life to produce these sorts of signals under any circumstances,” and yet they decided to look for them anyway, then you would have a case for SETI’s methodology being unfalsifiable and on par with that of ghost hunting, because they’d just be shooting in the dark just like ghost hunters”

    The bad logic of the previous syllogism defeats this logic, since it serves as the basis. In addition, you misuse the definition of falsifiability, as before.

    Also if you check the Wikipedia page on SETI, you will note the claim (not rebutted) that SETI is pseudoscience because of the falsifiability issue.

    I disagree that SETI is psuedoscience, but the falsifiability issue (the original topic of this discussion) still seems to me a major problem.

    That said, once again, I find the conflation of SETI with ghost hunting regrettable, as we have completely cluttered up the conversation and veered wildly off topic. Again, I suggested the complete replacement of SETI with ghost hunting in Jayman’s example, noting similarities. Unfortunately, we are now continually arguing the similarity issue, so I will give you the last word (or grant it to Jayman, since he kindly began the whole thing), and then we give up, being hopelessly off topic.

    DD has much richer territory for us to cover, I am sure.

  43. ThatOtherGuy Says:

    “This is not what falsifiability means.”

    I know that, I’m merely elucidating why I don’t think falsifiability affects SETI the same way as ghost hunting.

    “Bad syllogism and circular: We are intelligent. We produce certain signals. Therefore intelligent life is capable of producing signals.”

    Argh. The first time I get lazy because I think people are paying attention, they stop.

    Until that post I have continually specified that intelligent life is capable in some cases of producing these signals, not in all cases. I thought people had been reading what I’d been writing continuously, but I should have gone more for clarity.

    “Proof: Dogs are a pet. My dog barks. Therefore, pets are capable of barking.”

    Yes, but that’s the same as what SETI is doing. They never said that if there is ANY intelligent life out there, it WILL be producing radio waves and we WILL find it. They only think it MIGHT. It’s only looking for one form of signal, because it’s the only one we know of that can make it across distances. If I’m trying to tell if you have a pet from across the street, purring of a cat won’t be detectable, but dogs barking sure will.

    “The bad logic of the previous syllogism defeats this logic, since it serves as the basis. In addition, you misuse the definition of falsifiability, as before.”

    It doesn’t, if you read my correction. A proper summation of what I was saying is thus:

    There exists at least one form of intelligent life that is able to engineer the broadcast of electromagnetic waves across space. If there exists one such form of intelligent life, there may exist other such forms. If such forms exist, it is possible that we might discover them through their electromagnetic emissions.

    Also, again, I am maintaining that the falsifiability of this claim is addressed by my more precise summation. It is falsifiable, because we can fairly safely say that if we detect no electromagnetic signals coming from an area, no electromagnetic signals were emitted at a time that they would now be reaching us from that area. This does not presume to say that there is no intelligent life there of any kind, but that is not SETI’s hypothesis.

  44. cl Says:

    A few bumps in the road here and there, but what an interesting thread. And some great writing in the OP there, DD.

    Jayman,

    Is there any way to detect design without seeing the designer in action?

    I brought up something similar with Pevo in my rebuttal to DD’s post hoc reasoning charge. An essential aspect of my definition of miracle entails Consciousness. In order to accomplish anything meaningful while discussing miracle claims, we need a way to exclude events that require Consciousness from those that do not. Also, in discussions of alleged miracles, events that are best explained by Consciousness are more persuasive than those which are not.

    Also, I thought your comments to Chayanov held water. “Nowhere in the definition does it state that every deceased person will become a ghost or that a ghost will always remain a ghost.” This is not goalpost moving.

    You said we should expect to find ghosts in places associated with people. I said I’ve been to such places and have never seen a ghost. (Chayanov)

    This argument is nearly identical to DD’s so-called “Undeniable Fact” argument, and it’s flawed, people. Even if we can expect ghosts in places associated with people, that Chaynov has been to such places and not been conscious of a ghost doesn’t prove anything. It is faulty logic to say something does not exist because we’ve not experienced it.

    You’re just being intellectually dishonest and there’s little point in trying to have a discussion with someone like that.

    Man, are people reading from a script around here or what? Note: disagreement does not entail dishonesty folks, please stop conflating and assuming, it makes it look as though *you* are the one without the argument. DD just wrote a good post about this titled Respect and Coddling.

    R.C. Moore,

    You ask a good question:

    But if a psychic had contacted Houdini’s mother, and she had spoken the secret word would this be definitive proof of the afterlife?

    I don’t say it would be definitive proof of anything, as we talk about proof in science and courts of law and such. There are many other possible explanations, and in your affirmative example, all we’ve shown is that either the psychic, or some entity or energy the psychic had access to, accessed the information. On the other hand, it may have been Houdini’s mother. Regardless, none of this necessarily entails or precludes anything about the afterlife.

    From a scientific standpoint, it would be evidence, but no proof.

    Ha! This is exactly what I said about my re-captitation example, and I got hit with a full post from DD claiming I reasoned post hoc. AND, you should’ve seen all the grief Arthur came and gave me on my own blog for essentially saying what you just said. I can’t help but wonder if he’s seen your comment, and if either he or DD will hold you to the same standard as I’ve been held. DD? Arthur?

    ThatOtherGuy,

    Let’s just let everything from ThatOtherThread stay on ThatOtherThread, please.

    Ghost hunters are guilty of making stuff up completely out of nowhere and operating based on that,

    You’ve got some well-written paragraphs in this thread yourself, and I enjoyed reading what you wrote about SETI, but I think the above is just an exaggeration. Many “ghost hunters” I’ve been exposed to conduct quite a bit of research. It’s just like how DD looks at the Bible, then forms an idea of what he might expect in the real world were what he read in the Bible true. The ghost hunters do the same thing as DD in that respect.

    DD,

    Whether by intent or by accident, I created a “test” that produced the biased conclusion I wanted to reach, rather than arriving at the unbiased truth. (DD)

    That is analogous to what I said before: “My re-capitation example would certainly confront philosophical naturalism head-on, but in a strictly scientific context remains virtually useless, if nothing else mainly because of its anecdotal nature and ambiguity. One sample is rarely sufficient in science, and we have no discernible way of verifying who or what actually triggered the re-capitation. Simply put, there are too many confounders.” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If miracles are a product of Consciousness, no possible test we can devise can ever hope to produce reliable results. Period. Even if we could control for every single confounder on Earth. That’s why I can’t help but to chuckle whenever any atheist demands scientific proof for miracles. Doesn’t anyone realize the logically contradictory nature of the demand? It just seems destined to be one of those issues where the best we can hope for is less than the best.

    But I do have a bone to pick with you here, DD. I got my own post, but would you say R.C. Moore is also employing post hoc reasoning? Because his conclusion is the same as mine was with my re-capitation example. So, it seems either I should get an apology, R.C. Moore should get an entire post claiming he reasoned post hoc along with 23 occasionally-insulting lashings from Arthur, or, anyone can show how they feel my conclusion differs significantly from R.C. Moore’s :)

  45. ThatOtherGuy Says:

    “Many ‘ghost hunters’ I’ve been exposed to conduct quite a bit of research.”

    Yes, but what is the NATURE of that research? Biblical scholars constantly try to pass off deep intricacies and analyses, and some people used to even use things like the Bible Code, all the while attempting to make us forget that they’re STILL operating solely based on writings by members of a mystery cult who were scraping together a miserable, meager living (if you could even call it that) in the middle of a desert two-thousand years ago, long after the chinese had already figured out the water cycle, realized that moonlight was just reflected sunlight, established empire after empire, and BUILT THE GREAT WALL.

  46. cl Says:

    When you say, “What is the NATURE of that research,” why is nature capitalized? Are you trying to suggest something to me? Or asking something? Because I think you’re trying to suggest that you think the NATURE of their research is bunk. There are points on which we can probably agree and disagree there, however, it seems to me you’ve wandered away from your original comment, and the scope of my comment was not meant to address the ghost hunters’ overall methodology, as much as the “making stuff up completely out of nowhere” part of your comment, which I believe is false.

    Let’s take a closer look in full context:

    If scientists said “we cannot conceive of a way for intelligent life to produce these sorts of signals under any circumstances,” and yet they decided to look for them anyway, then you would have a case for SETI’s methodology being unfalsifiable and on par with that of ghost hunting, because they’d just be shooting in the dark just like ghost hunters. This, however, is not the case. There is no hypocrisy, no double standard. Ghost hunters are guilty of making stuff up completely out of nowhere and operating based on that, and as such can ALWAYS duck under the unfalsifiable “well ghosts don’t do that sort of thing” heading.

    Again, the “ghost hunters” I’ve been exposed to don’t “make stuff up completely out of nowhere.” Now, yes, I’d say the overwhelming majority of ghost cases are unfortunately irrevocably anecdotal, and there’s nothing we can do about that. But that doesn’t mean they just “make stuff up.” (Some of) these people have spent their entire lives cataloging people’s experiences around the globe, studying history, some of them have even had their own experiences. If I’ve ever experienced an incident with a ghost, it’s not something I’ve been conscious of. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. Anyway, they can go off the corroboration of each other’s findings against the personal anecdotes, and come up with general things associated with ghost events like coldness or loss of breath, for just two very obvious examples. Temperature variations are empirically testable. Mists and translucent apparitions are theoretically photograph-able. So no, I’d say the ghost hunters I’ve seen don’t live up to the caricature you offer.

    And everything after your first sentence consists of red herrings and rhetorical trickery entirely, I’m afraid.

  47. John Morales Says:
    “but we DO know that intelligent life IS CAPABLE of producing these signals, because WE produce them”

    Bad syllogism and circular: We are intelligent. We produce certain signals. Therefore intelligent life is capable of producing signals.

    I disagree.
    I consider it is a known fact and functions as a premise; nor is it a syllogism but a tautology. A known true premise.

    Let I = intelligent,
    let S = capable/willing/able to generate ‘certain signals’.

    The proposition given is ?x(Ix?Sx)

    The SETI conjecture is ?y(Iy?Sy)

  48. John Morales Says:

    Sigh. Try again.

    (empirical premise) ∃?x(Ix∧Sx)

    The SETI conjecture is ∃?y(Iy∧Sy)

  49. R. C. Moore Says:

    John Morales —

    We can’t use logical symbology very well, due to limitations of the medium, but you have incompletely stated the syllogism. What you said I agree with:

    There exists an X such that X is intelligent and X produces signals. (That is what you said by ??x(Ix?Sx))

    And yes that is a tautology, (what I meant by circular).

    But the complete statement is (now corrected/clarified by ThatOtherGuy is :

    For all X there exists an X such that X is intelligent and X produces signals (or if you prefer Vx(Ex(Ix^Sx)).

    This is the bad syllogism because of course there exists a Y that is intelligent, and Y does not produce signals (Ey(Iy^(~Sy)). If we attempt to substitute this last statement into to the general statement it invalidates it, proving the bad syllogism.

    Moot point of course, as ThatOtherGuy did not mean to imply such logic.

  50. R. C. Moore Says:

    cl said:

    “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If miracles are a product of Consciousness, no possible test we can devise can ever hope to produce reliable results. Period. Even if we could control for every single confounder on Earth. That’s why I can’t help but to chuckle whenever any atheist demands scientific proof for miracles. Doesn’t anyone realize the logically contradictory nature of the demand? It just seems destined to be one of those issues where the best we can hope for is less than the best.”

    Maybe the reason you have to keep repeating it is because it is a complete strawman argument. I accused ThatOtherGuy of constantly restating to fit his purposes, I will be consistent and do the same here.

    No one demands that an event be proved a miracle. That is impossible and logically contradictory. What one demands is that the event be proved not natural in origin.

    I do not ask that it be proven that a statue of the Virgin Mary did not weep. I ask that a priest putting drops of oil on the statue at night be ruled out. This is a test with a reliable result. I do not ask that it be proved that a girl prayed and was cured of her disease. I ask for proof it was not the numerous operations and the bodies natural healing processes. This is a test with a reliable result. And before I rule a communication from Houdini’s dead mother a miracle, I will still demand a ruling out of all the other possiblities. Again, these are all tests with reliable results.

    Anticipating your response: “but what if it is impossible to rule out the other possibilities? Is that not too high a standard to set for the miracle claimer?”. No, because the one with miracle is the one making the assertion. A scientist also lives with this standard when they make their assertions. That is the purpose of the scientific method — to converge upon a “workable” truth, provisional always, but powerful in application. Permanent objection is fundamental to the process.

    If I am completely missing your point, misunderstanding you, whatever, I apologize. I have already stated I understand very little of what you are trying to say.

  51. ThatOtherGuy Says:

    “But the complete statement is (now corrected/clarified by ThatOtherGuy is :

    For all X there exists an X such that X is intelligent and X produces signals (or if you prefer Vx(Ex(Ix^Sx)).”

    No no no, that’s not my statement at all. He got it right, what I’m trying to say is that we go from:

    There exists an X such that X is intelligent and X produces signals.

    This we know because humans are intelligent and produce signals. From there, we can arrive at

    There may therefore exist a Y such that Y is intelligent and Y produces signals. There also therefore may exist a Z such that Z is intelligent and Z does not produce signals.

    SETI is looking for Y, which they know they could at least theoretically find due to the existence of X. Their approach does not and cannot say anything about Z, which is also intelligent, but unfindable through this methodology.

    I don’t know why you’re having such a hard time grasping that this has been what I’ve been trying to explain to you all along, it should not a statement as a syllogism to make such a simple concept clear to you. I have not once “restated” or “reframed” anything, I’ve been consistently trying to explain this very thing to you, and you’re just not seeming to get what I’m going for here.

  52. cl Says:

    R.C. Moore,

    Maybe the reason you have to keep repeating it is because it is a complete strawman argument.

    The statement you critique above was not intended for you and had no bearing on the discussion between you and ThatOtherGuy. Further, I don’t think it is a strawman argument. You say,

    No one demands that an event be proved a miracle.

    Yet, such has been demanded of me, on this site.

    That is impossible and logically contradictory.

    So you agree with me then?

    I do not ask that it be proven that a statue of the Virgin Mary did not weep. I ask that a priest putting drops of oil on the statue at night be ruled out. This is a test with a reliable result. I do not ask that it be proved that a girl prayed and was cured of her disease. I ask for proof it was not the numerous operations and the bodies natural healing processes. This is a test with a reliable result. And before I rule a communication from Houdini’s dead mother a miracle, I will still demand a ruling out of all the other possiblities. Again, these are all tests with reliable results.

    If you think these tests have reliable results, I think you’re possibly misunderstanding the scientific method as much or more than you’ve accused ThatOtherGuy of.

    If I am completely missing your point, misunderstanding you, whatever, I apologize.

    No problem, you were, but you’ve put a lot of work into this thread so I can’t really hold it against you.

  53. R. C. Moore Says:

    cl –

    All your responses boil down to one statement, for which evidence is never given:

    “You don’t know what your are talking about”

    You say I am may be misunderstanding the scientific method? Then enlighten me, with concrete, clear examples. Why cannot I not reliably determine tears are really oil? That medicine cures disease?

    I have to admit, I have never seen you answer a straightforward question, in a clear, concise fashion. Each of your responses is another question, or dismissal based on some knowledge only you seem to possess. This has been a good thread, but your contribution seems to be merely bestowing your blessing on our attempts, and chuckling at our immature logic, or giving orders to DD about the content of his blog.

    I now await another tantrum on your part.

  54. R. C. Moore Says:

    ThatOtherGuy –

    Ok, ok. We are way past the syllogism issue. I acknowledged your clarification, my response to John was pointless, and bad formal logic to boot.

    We are moving on I hope. The last word is yours. (or Jayman, where have you gone?)

  55. cl Says:

    R.C.

    I just saw your latest response here while looking for something else, so I’ll address it as best as possible in three minutes or less.

    You say I am may be misunderstanding the scientific method? Then enlighten me, with concrete, clear examples. Why cannot I not reliably determine tears are really oil? That medicine cures disease?

    How might you rule out “all other possibilities?”